Linguistics and the Experience of Emotions

This little excerpt has a couple of very important concepts.

First, it gives some insight into why some folks somatize their illnesses – because they don’t have a word that helps to define the experience so it falls back into the physical realm.

Second, it shows that individual emotions can be lumped together under less specific umbrella words. This makes a good argument for improving your vocabulary in preventing episodes triggered by external events.

“Anthropologists report enormous differences in the ways that different cultures categorize emotions. Some languages, in fact, do not even have a word for emotion.Other languages differ in the number of words they have to name emotions. While English has over 2,000 words to describe emotional categories, there are only 750 such descriptive words in Taiwanese Chinese. One tribal language has only seven words that could be translated into categories of emotion.
The words used to name or describe an emotion can influence what emotion is experienced. For example, Tahitians do not have a word directly equivalent to sadness. Instead, they treat sadness as something like a physical illness. This difference has an impact on how the emotion is experienced by Tahitians. For example, the sadness we feel over the departure of a close friend would be experienced by a Tahitian as exhaustion. Some cultures lack words for anxiety or depression or guilt. Samoans have one word encompassing love, sympathy, pity, and liking – which are very different emotions in our own culture.”
“Psychology – An Introduction” Ninth Edition By: Charles G. Morris, University of Michigan Prentice Hall, 1996


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