Whether love, or pity: the meaning of words, expressing the same emotions are different in different languages

Some of the words used to describe emotions, are unique to each language.

for Example, the German word Sehnsucht, which means a vague longing for the unattainable ideal and perfect harmony of life and art. In other languages, there is no one specific word, which would have exactly the same value (for example, in Russian the closest in meaning translation is “vexation of spirit”).

Another example is the word awumbuk used by the people of baining from Papua-New Guinea to describe the feelings of lethargy experienced by the hosts after the guests had gone.

on the other hand, in every language there are words to describe the “universal” emotions. For example, the word “love” translated in English love, on the Turkish – sevgi, and the Hungarian – szerelem.

But whether these words have the same meaning for native speakers of these languages?

an international team of scientists decided to look into the semantics (the meaning) of words, which denote the “universal” of all human emotions (anger, fear, joy, surprise and so on) in different languages.

Experts have compared 2474 spoken language, which are carriers of different groups numbering from thousands to millions of people.

the Team relied on words that have more than one meaning, while native speakers perceive these values as conceptually similar. (For example, in the Russian language the word “hand” can be called the palm, wrist and the whole hand entirely.)

For the analysis the experts used a database of cross-linguistic koleksifoto (CLICS). This is an online system in which data collected by linguists and anthropologists. CLICS catalogservlet the relationship between the concepts and words that denote them, in 3156 languages of the world.

it is important that the CLICS includes words that denote more than one concept and words that describe the same concepts in all languages.

the largest of its kind analysis of the data, the researchers spent two years.

They started with 24 “universal” concepts, expressing emotions, and useovali several statistical methods to compare their relationship with different words on 2474 languages from 20 different language families. The more words United by a certain idea, the closer was their relationship in the constructed networks.

Combining all the data, the researchers built the network 21, one for each language family and one General.

the Examples of networks built by scientists.Illustration of T. H. Henry/translated “Conduct.Science”.

When the authors analyzed these networks, they found that the relation between emotional concepts in the language families are different. And the differences were much more noticeable than expected.

Curiosity experts repeated the same process with 13 concepts related to color, which are very specific to each culture (for example, in English the word blue means almost all the shades of blue, including blue). And found that emotional idea had three times more variability than color.

for Example, in the Persian language in a word nduh can Express grief and regret. But in the dargwa language, the word for the concept of grief, dard, also expressed no regret, and anxiety.

Another interesting example. The native language of Matlab (about two thousand) do not have a perfect equivalent to the word “love.” The closest match is the verb tam, which may in different contexts to Express sympathy, generosity and hospitality. It is a suitable term to Express love, say, to the neighbors. But the word is not used to refer to romantic love: this concept is expressed by another verb that means the need (“I need you”).

meanwhile, in the Austronesian languages, the concept of “surprise” is closely associated with “fear”, whereas in the tai-kadai languages “surprise” associated with the concepts of “hope” and “desire”.

a map of the distribution of languages in which the notion of “surprise” and “fear” expressed by the same word.Illustration J.-M. List.

in addition, in the Austronesian language family has been particularly strong connection between the concepts of “love” and “pity.”

the Concept of “anxiety” was closely associated with “anger” in Indo-European languages and with the “grief” and “regret”, in austroasiatic.

the Concept of “pride” is also correlated with both positive and negative emotions depending on culture.

in addition, the analysis showed that “geographically close” language families have more similar variations than remote. This suggests the existence of identified features of common cultural roots. And differences in similar language families, probably was historically due to trade, conquest, migration, and other factors.

However, the authors found common traits.

So, almost all languages distinguish between concepts, expressing pleasant and unpleasant feelings emotions. For example, very rarely there were cases when the concept of “happiness” and “regret” was expressed in a word or related.

Another criterion of differentiation was the level of physiological arousal. For example, few languages equate the emotions of sadness (expressing weak excitation) to the emotion of anger (expressing strong excitation).

This reinforces the idea that certain emotions, which can be called primary, integrated in the human brain. This “building blocks” of more complex emotions, and people for thousands of years was finding different words to Express them.

“We hope that in the future researchers will use this methodology and study the specific processes that create the cultural and geographical differences in how people understand and experience emotions,” says lead author Joshua Conrad Jackson (Joshua Jackson Conrad) from the University of North Carolina at chapel hill.

by the Way, experts believe that the identified differences will be of interest to those who studying foreign languages. New data suggests that simply to memorize words is not the same as to learn the language, after all, a key role is played context.

read More from this fascinating work can be found in an article published in the journal Science.

earlier, linguists have figured out how best to explain the direction of movement and which determines the complexity of the language.

Also “Conduct.Science” (nauka.vesti.ru) told me about the universal language, understandable to people of different cultures, and the “bird” language, which is perceived by both hemispheres of the brain.

Text: To.Science