LINGUIST List 13.1128

Tue Apr 23 2002

Sum: Emotion Verbs

Editor for this issue: Marie Klopfenstein <>


  1. r.schiering, Re: Summary Emotion Verbs, Linguist List query 13.870

Message 1: Re: Summary Emotion Verbs, Linguist List query 13.870

Date: Mon, 22 Apr 2002 09:33:43 +0200 (MEST)
From: r.schiering <>
Subject: Re: Summary Emotion Verbs, Linguist List query 13.870

Re: Summary Emotion Verbs, Linguist List query 13.870

Please note: This summary has been edited by LINGUIST; the changes
have been approved by the author.

I) Introduction: In the Linguist List query 13.870 I asked you to send
me lists of positive emotion verbs in different languages. Some
linguists found my query offensive, male-oriented and macho. I already
answered them that I was the last one to promote machoism in
linguistics. I just brought a personal situation in to frame this
specific linguistic interest and used a non-scientific style to
communicate. If this was offensive to anyone, please take my
apologies. There was really no offence intended. 

Thanks to the many responses I got, I am able to present a vast body
of data from 9 languages and some suggested reading.

II) Data:
The following data was provided by the linguists responding to the query
mentioned above (you find a list of who provided which data in the

"lieben" (to love)
"m�gen" (to like)
"lieb haben" (to love, not as strong as 'lieben')
"gern haben" (to like, a little bit sronger than 'm�gen')
"anhimmeln" (to admire as if they were a god)
"verehren" (to worship or to honor)
"achten" (to respect as a self-sufficient human being)
"zaertlich ruehren" (to have ones emotions moved softly by the other
person), e.g. "Ihre Anwesenheit ruehrt mich zaertlich"
"herbeisehnen" (to long for the others presence here and now)
"schaetzen" (to treasure)
"sich verbunden fuehlen" (to feel connected with)
"sich hingezogen fuehlen" (to feel attracted to)
"faszinieren" (to fascinate)
"umwerben" (to persue actively someone's romantic interest)
"buhlen" (to persue actively someone's sexual interest)
"sich verlieben/verknallen/vergucken" (to fall in love)
"vergoettern" (to deify, to idolize, worship, adore as if a god)
"anbeten" (to adore, worship, idolize, lit. to pray to someone)
"leiden m�gen" (to like)
"zugeneigt sein" (to like, lit. to be leaning on someone)
"hochachten" (to respect, esteem)
"hochsch�tzen" (to esteem highly)
"auf H�nden tragen" (to treat someone with great consideration)
"angetan sein" (to be bewitched)

"aimer" for the whole range from "Je t'aime" (I love you) down to "Est-ce
que tu aimes les pommes de terre?" (Do you like potatoes?) or "J'aime pas
les pommes de terre" (I hate potatoes). They can also use "Je t'aime bien"
(paradoxically a weakened meaning: I like you) or "J'aime bien les pommes de
terre" (I like potatoes or I like them well). Note that 'aimer' can also mean
sexual intercourse as in Serge Gainsbourgh's 'Je t'aime, moi non plus'.
"adorer" (to adore and love (strong))
"ch�rir" (to cherish)
"avoir de l'affection" (to be fond of)
"�tre fou de" (to be crazy/wild/mad about)
"s'amouracher de" (to be infatuated with)
"avoir le b�guin de" (to be keen on)
"�tre �pris de" (to be enamoured of)
"aimer � la folle" (to dote on)
"avoir un petit faible pour" (to have a soft spot for)

"nravit'sja" (like)
"simpatizirovat'" (like, to be fond of)
"vljubit'sja/byt'vljublennym" (fall in love/be in love)
"ljubit'" (love, may refer to people, items, books, anything in principle)
"obozhat'" (adore, admire, may refer to pretty much anything)
"bogotvorit'" (worship, idolize, may refer to people in the sense of 'love
very much')

Modern Hebrew:
"le'ehod" (like, be fond of)
"lehit'ahev" (fall in love)
"le'xovev" (like, love, regard with affection)
"le'ehov" (love)
"leha'arits" (admire)

Ancient Greek:
"st�rgo:" (to love/take care for someone)
"agap�o:" (to love)
"phil�o:" (to love someone as a friend, philos=friend)
"er�omai" (to love someone as a lover (including sexuality), �ros=physical

"muna" (to love/desire)
"k'umtxa" (to love/where it is respect and affection, including, e.g. what
one feels for one's hometown)
"yuya" (to love/'the most sublime')
and a lot more

Yaghan (native South American language, aboriginally spoken in Tierra del
Far more terms dealing with negative emotions than with positive ones, as it
is a serializing language, all of them are potentially verbal.

Laadan (women language):
The best one in this respect, is said to have a term for "yes I loved him
once, and we had a relationship, but this is over and now we are good
friends" (M. J. Hardman)

An equilibrium of entries for "love" on the one hand and "hate/dislike" on
the other in Roget's Thesaurus (Jutta Muschard)

The list of German positive emotion verbs, though not exhaustive,
shows that German does have rather differentiated means (verbs and
phrases) to express positive emotions. Jutta Muschard looked up the
"Duden f�r sinn- und sachverwandte W�rter" and found that there are
more entries for "lieben" than for"hassen", what sort of verifies the
impression that it is rather rich in this respect. On the other hand,
according to Mel'chuk & Wanner 1996, the count is about two-three
negative terms to one positive in German. However, nothing seems to
hint at the fact that this should only be true for German. Jess Tauber
who found the same in Yaghan posted his theory why this could be. I
will quote him in full length, because this socio-pragmatic approach
seems to be valuable for me:

"My own guess is that positive emotions, being more prevalent within the
in-group, are somehow less marked than the negative emotions, and therefore
less likely to need to be expressed, being demonstrated more by continuing
positive actions of sharing, affection, etc. Negative emotions, on the other
hand, represent breaks, however deep, in intimacy, and physical violence or
rebuff having more negative consequences than words, words might be a valuable
substitute. Heck, it might be shown that vocal communication generally
involves such intimacy-related effects." (Jess Tauber)

However, as Serge Sharoff pointed out to me, the availability of
positive emotion verbs in the lexicon of a language is one side. The
frequency of their uses is the other side. Summarizing his studies
(not yet published) he presents the following results:

In English the frequency of words referring to positive emotions in the BNC
(British National Corpus) is 5322 ipm (=instances per per million words) for
positive vs. 1786 ipm for negative emotions. The figures for Russian are
similar (7432 vs. 2624). His studies of relative frequencies of words referring
to emotions show that English has the smallest number of references, Russian
the largest, while German is almost exactly in the middle. (Please also check
Serge Sharoff's review of Harkins & Wierzbicka (eds.) 2001, Linguist List

Furthermore, as Charley Rowe pointed out to me, verbs are really not
the only place to look at, because adjectives like "doof, frech, lieb,
wunderbar" and nouns like "Idiot, Dummkopf, Suesser, Liebhaber"
certainly reflect something of emotion on the part of the speaker, and
should therefore being taken into account. 

III) Bibliography

Athanasiadou, Angeliki & Elzbieta Tabakowska (eds.) 1998. Speaking of
Emotions: Conceptualisation and Expression. Berlin, New York: Mouton de

Averill, J. R. 1980. "On the paucity of positive emotions". In K.
Blankstein, P. Pliner & J. Polivy (eds.). Advances in the study of
communication and
affect: Vol. 6. Assessment and modification of emotional behaviour (pp.
7-45). New York: Plenum.

Harkins, Jean & Anna Wierzbicka (eds.) 2001. Emotions in Crosslinguistic
Perspective. Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

Mel'chuk, I. & L. Wanner 1996. "Lexical Functions and Lexical Inheritance
for Emotion Lexemes in German". In L. Wanner (ed.). Lexical Functions in
Lexicography and Natural Language Processing. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Wierzbicka, Anna 1999. Emotions across Languages and Cultures. Oxford:
Oxford University Press.

IV) Appendix

Last not least the list of linguists who responded to my query and without
whom this wouldn`t have been possible. THANKS A LOT!

Raija Solatie <>
Jess Tauber <> (Yaghan data, socio-pragmatic explanation)
Ivan A. Derzhanski <>
Ruth B. Shields <> (bibliographical hints)
John Mullen <> (French data)
R�my Viredaz <> (French data)
Nancy Salay <> & RCK <> (German data)
M. J. Hardman <> (Laadan hint, Jaqaru data)
Jutta Muschard <> (Duden and Thesaurus work on German
and English)
Charley Rowe <> (German data outside verbs)
Ilana Mezhevich (Russian & Modern Hebrew Data)
Claude le Flem <> & Christine Tessier (German
Martin B�hler (German and Ancient Greek data)
Serge Sharoff <> (not yet published study on
availability and frequency, bibliographical hints, Review of Harkins &
Wierzbicka (eds.) 2001, Linguist List 13.991)
Katarzyna Dziwirek <> (bibliographical hints)
Mascha Averintseva <> (Forward of Serge's Review
on Linguist List 13.991)

Ren� Schiering
Department of Linguistics, Cologne
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue