The meaning of emotion semantics show geographical and cultural variation

Sreeya Raha Anveshan, Issue 4

Human beings have a large vocabulary for communicating emotions. Hundreds of words exist across the world for emotional states and concepts. But what about words that exist across many languages , example “love” or “happiness”? Does the meaning of such words is same across all the languages or do we experience emotions differently based on the cultures we are brought up in?

            In a study conducted by Joshua Conrad Jackson and colleagues from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill examined the meaning of emotion concepts (2439 distinct concepts)  from a sample of 2474 languages from 20 major language families. The similarities and differences between languages based on patterns of “colexification” : instances in which multiple concepts are expressed by the same word form was analysed by the researchers.

The study permitted the researchers to make network of concepts that appeared, for every language family, how intently different emotional conceptsrelatedto one another. These uncovered wide variety between language families. For example, in Tad-Kadai language, which can be found in Southeast Asia, southern China, and Northeast India, “anxiety” was identified with “dread”; in Austroasiatic language, anxiety was nearer to “sorrow” or “lament”. In Nakh Daghestanian language spoken mostly in parts of Russia, again, “anger” was identified with “envy”, however in Austronesian languages it was identified with “scorn”, “awful”, and “proud”.

            However, there were a few similarities. Words with a similar emotional valence — for example, that were positive or negative — would in general be connected uniquely with different expressions of a similar valence, in all language families over the world. Satisfaction, for instance, was connected to other positive feelings, regardless of whether the particular affiliations were marginally unique relying upon the language family. (This wasn’t generally the situation however: in some Austronesian languages, “pity” and “love” were related, proposing compassion might be more certain or love more negative than in different dialects). Correspondingly, low-arousal feelings like pity were likewise probably not going to be contrasted with high-excitement feelings like resentment.

Emotion semantics are associated with a language group’s geographical location. Language families that were within a geographical proximity tended to share similar associations than distinct groups.

            The research discovers that emotional concepts do change between languages to a limited extent, bringing up the issue of exactly how comparable apparently all universal experiences are. Obviously, it’s difficult to know precisely how another person is experiencing the world, and language can be woefully lacking with regards to communicating our inside life. And keeping in mind that the research proposes that those emotional experiences may differ in unobtrusive manners over the world, deep down it appears that we’re not at all way too divergent by any means.