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How does language shape the way we express emotions?

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Alexander Wolfger

on 28 October 2013

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Transcript of How does language shape the way we express emotions?

What do we mean when we say "I love you."?
What is language?
Language is the arrangement of symbols we use to directly express thoughts to another-human being. These symbols are commonly accepted and therefore their meaning is clearly understandable. They usually correlate with objects or events in the physical world. For purposes of understanding, these symbols work in the framework of grammar. This enables us to change certain symbols in certain ways to give them a more specific meaning and to conect ideas.
Why do we communicate?
Non-verbal communication
In his book “The expression of the emotions in man and animals“ Charles Darwin stated that the expression of emotions is innate and universal in every human being.
Facial expressions are universal, but body language has different meanings in different cultures. In an experiment, researchers showed that social pressure, cultural influences and past experiences change the way we express emotions.

Words and emotions

Naming emotions is difficult. They mix together in a way that our perception does not. One can be sad and happy at the same time. Words for emotions are ambigous.

We learn the words to describe emotions as they are applied to behaviour and use it to describe invisible emotions. This creates behavioural expectations as in the case of love.

The ability of giving names to emotions indicates a common emotional life which is understood in terms of classification. But we do not feel other people's emotions...

Language and emotions
Hormones drive love, but the expression of love is determined by society and the individuals conception
Anthropolist research shows that love is universal
Zick Rubin: Intimacy, Attachment, Caring
Do we mean the same thing when we say I love you? What is the feeling of love without appropriate behaviour?
Emotions in our daily life
The word emotion, like the word motivation, is linguistically rooted in the Latin „movere“, which means: to direct, to move. Emotions are motivations for our actions.

Emotions influence our social relations and our perception of reality.
How do we know emotions?
Through direct subjective experience. This is called “intrapersonal intelligence“. Can one identify one's own feelings wrong?

Interpersonal intelligence describes the ability to understand the emotions of others. We understand these through language, sense perception and reason. We cannot directly perceive other people's happiness.

Emotions can be divided into three components: subjective experience, physiological reaction and an expressive response.
How does language change the way we express our emotions?
Symbolic Representation
Emotions are certain feelings we experience and express through our mind and our body. Examples for emotions are sadness and happiness. A happy person will usually think differently about events than a sad person. A happy person will usually laugh, will a sad person might cry.
Spoken and written down symbols convey meaning.

The meaning is derived from the connection we have learned between the symbol and an association.

Because of the move into symbolism, human beings have vast possibilities of thinking and communicating, even concerning things that are not existent in the present.

Denotation and connotation.

Grammar allows the expression of more complex ideas through the positioning and alternation of different words.

Communication Model
Theories for the explanation of emotions
The Neurological approach suggests, that brain activity causes the experience and expression of emotions.

The Physiological approach, supported by William James, assumes that physiological reactions on the stimulation of our sense organs cause the perception of emotions.

The Cognitive approach suggests that thoughts and other mental activity cause physical reactions and emotions.
Communication has served for evolutionary purposes and to help man survive in the wilderness. It has helped us to categorize the environment around us, including our fellow human beings.
The communication of emotion
Friedemann Schulz von Thun: Four-sides communication model
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