Positive and negative emotions underlie motivation for L2 learning

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Peter D. MacIntyre
Laszlo Vincze


The role of basic emotions in SLA has been underestimated in both research and pedagogy. The present article examines 10 positive emotions (joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe, and love) and 9 negative emotions (anger, contempt, disgust, embarrassment, guilt, hate, sadness, feeling scared, and being stressed). The emotions are correlated with core variables chosen from three well-known models of L2 motivation: Gardner’s integrative motive, Clément’s social-contextual model, and Dörnyei’s L2 self system. Respondents came from Italian secondary schools, and most participants were from monolingual Italian speaking homes. They described their motivation and emotion with respect to learning German in a region of Italy (South Tyrol) that features high levels of contact between Italians and Germans. Results show that positive emotions are consistently and strongly correlated with motivation-related variables. Correlations involving negative emotions are weaker and less consistently implicated in motivation. The positivity ratio, that is, the relative prevalence of positive over negative emotion, showed strong correlations with all of the motivation constructs. Regression analysis supports the conclusion that a variety of emotions, not just one or two key ones, are implicated in L2 motivation processes in this high-contact context.


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MacIntyre, P. D., & Vincze, L. (2017). Positive and negative emotions underlie motivation for L2 learning. Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching, 7(1), 61-88. https://doi.org/10.14746/ssllt.2017.7.1.4
Author Biographies

Peter D. MacIntyre, Cape Breton University, Sydney, Nova Scotia


Peter D. MacIntyre is a Professor of Psychology at Cape Breton University, Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada. His research areas include the psychology of language and communication. He has published numerous articles and chapters on language anxiety, willingness to communicate, motivation and other topics, and has co-authored or co-edited five books including Positive Psychology in SLA (2016, Multilingual Matters, with Tammy Gregersen and Sarah Mercer), Motivational Dynamics in Language Learning (2015, Multilingual Matters, with Zoltan Dörnyei and Alastair Henry), and Capitalizing on Language Learner Individuality (2014, Multilingual Matters, with Tammy Gregersen).

Laszlo Vincze, University of Helsinki


Laszlo Vincze is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Swedish School of Social Science at the University of Helsinki, Finland. The main focus of his research is on bilingualism and communication. His latest publications have appeared in Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, and Applied Linguistics Review.


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