By Sari Pietikäinen, Alexandra Jaffe, Helen Kelly-Holmes, Nik Coupland
Sociolinguistics from the Periphery "presents a fascinating book about change: shifting political, economic and cultural conditions; ephemeral, sometimes even seasonal, multilingualism; and altered imaginaries for minority and indigenous languages and their users"
Harkins, Jean, and Anna Wierzbicka, ed. (2001) Emotions in Crosslinguistic Perspective. Mouton de Gruyter, vi+421pp, hardback ISBN 3-11-017064-7, Cognitive Linguistic Research 17 Announced in http://linguistlist.org/issues/12/12-3169.html
Serge Sharoff, Universitï¿½t Bielefeld
OVERVIEW The purpose of the book is defined in the introductory chapter written by the editors Anna Wierzbicka and Jean Harkins. The book is aimed at studying emotions from the perspective of different cultures and languages. The attitude contrasts with psychological and neurological studies on the same topic. Brain scanning studies require sophisticated equipment, so they are mostly conducted in English-speaking research environments. This is one of the reasons why neurological studies typically assume universality of basic emotions (like anger, fear or shame) following uses of respective words in English. As for psychological studies, an emotion, say, anger, significantly varies from person to person, from one situation to another one, while language gives a conceptual connection between two disparate emotion experiences by providing the same label for them. At the same time, the system of labels for emotional experiences is organized in different ways in different cultures and languages. Significant differences can be found even in closely related languages, as, for instance, differences in meanings of anger in English and ï¿½rger in German.
This is the main thread of argumentation offered in the introduction against the ethnocentric and in favor of the ethnographical approach to studying emotions, when emotion words are described without importing categories ''from outside'', but by means of the Natural Semantic Metalanguage (NSM), which describes meanings of words using semantic primes, like FEEL, BAD, I, YOU, SOMEONE, SOMETHING, which are allegedly available in all languages. Readers familiar with previous works by Wierzbicka will notice that the set of primes (about 60) is significantly expanded in comparison to her earlier works such as Lingua Mentalis (Wierzbicka, 1980) with just 13 primitives. The chapter also defines a methodology, which uses prototype scenarios for describing emotions. An explication basically consists of four parts: (1) an emotional formula: X felt something because X thought something; (2) a prototype scenario: something good happened, I wanted this to happen; (3) an evaluation: when this person (I) thinks this, this persons feels something good; (4) implications of the scenario for the person (X), which is different from ''I'' in the prototype scenario: X felt something like this, because X thought something like this.
The explication above stands for ''X was pleased''. The explication for ''X was delighted'', for instance, differs from it only in the scenario: ''I know now: something very good happened; I didn't know that this would happen'' and the evaluation: ''feels something very good''.
The introduction is followed by 11 chapters by various authors who apply the theoretical principles of the NSM approach to studying emotion words in various languages. The structure of many chapters in the book (not all) follows the pattern: an informal discussion of lexical item(s) to be considered is followed by their explications.
The chapter by Mengistu Amberber considers the applicability of semantic universals to describing emotion words in Amharic (a Semitic language). The paper tests 10 hypotheses from (Wierzbicka, 1999), e.g. ''All languages have a word for FEEL'', ''In all languages, feelings can be described as good or bad'', ''In all languages, people can describe feelings via observable bodily symptoms'', etc. The chapter considers not only strictly lexical, but also grammatical means for delivering emotions. For instance, the verb azzene is comparable to ''be sad'', but can be translated into English also as be disappointed or sympathize. The two meanings are distinguished by the syntactic frame: one preposition (le) is used for expressing compassion (i.e. sympathy), while another preposition (bb) for expressing disappointment. The two polysemous meanings are described by two explications.
The chapter by Robert Bugenhagen studies emotion words in Mbula, a language of Papua New Guinea, in particular, body image expressions in the Mbula culture. Unlike English, which uses a specialized vocabulary of abstract terms referring to emotional concepts (angry, offence, happy), the majority of expressions referring to emotions in Mbula are related to body parts, which localize the experience, e.g. eye, liver, stomach, etc. Mata (eye) is the most productive concept, which is used for many different purposes, for instance, Y mata-mben (eye night), be angry at Y who does not see things, as if it were night, or Y iur mata-pa Z (Y puts eye for Z), Y hopes for Z. However, many examples cited in the paper do not refer to emotions per se, e.g. awake, unconscious, to lose consciousness.
The chapter by Uwe Durst has an ironical title ''Why Germans don't feel anger'' and is devoted to studying different words referring to anger in German: ï¿½rger, Wut, Zorn and their derivatives (sich ï¿½rgern, wï¿½tend, zornig). The research is based on uses of respective words in the Mannheim Corpus, their translations into English and historical changes in their meanings. The chapter shows that the allegedly basic emotion expressed by the English word anger has ho direct counterpart in German, a language close to English both genetically and cuturally.
The chapter by N.J.Enfield studies facial expression descriptions in Lao. The chapter is indirectly related to the main topic of the book, both because it does not use the NSM-style explications and because of its subject: it contains a discussion of basic emotional expressions in Lao (without a reference to facial expressions) and facial expressions themselves, which are often, but not always used for attributing emotional states. However, the study mirrors the description of body image expressions in the chapter by Bugenhagen.
The chapter by Cliff Goddard is devoted to analysis of a single word in Malay: hati, which can be translated into English as ''heart'', the sensitive part of a person. First, various uses and collocations with hati are studied (hati is a productive source for various expressions of emotions). Then, the author considers possibilities for translating the set of the NSM primes into Malay, so that explications of respective concepts can be done directly in this language.
The chapter by Jean Harkins studies expressions referring to anger in Arrernte (a language of Central Australia), as well as in Aboriginal English, in which certain English words have also acquired new meanings, for instance, cheeky refers to a serious potential for violence or harm. She goes in depth about interpersonal dimensions important in Arrernte for expressing one's anger: the immediate intention to retaliate, the type of the offender, the desire/lack of it to communicate to the offender (cf. sulky in English), etc. The author also considers the possibilities for translating the NSM primes into Arrernte and uses explications written in Arrernte (unlike the previous chapter by Goddard, which explications are in English, even though he provides the set of semantic primes in Malay).
The chapter by Rie Hasada studies two groups of Japanese sound-symbolic words denoting surprise and restlessness (anxiety, fear, nervousness). Uses of such words as haQ, gyoQ and dokiQ (all roughly correspond to startled) are difficult to grasp for a language learner, yet the correct choice between them is very important for effective communication. Their explications offered by the author are: I know something because of this vs. I can't do anything now because of this vs. I could hear something like this: dokiQ in my heart (only the core of the explication is quoted). From the explications, it is clear that each word is used for communicating a specific meaning, which is not easily lexicalized in English.
The chapter by Pawel Kornacki considers the family of five basic words, which are used to express anger in Chinese: sheng/qi, nao(huo), fen and taoyan. Explications proposed by the author help to identify points of similarity and difference between these words and their possible translations into English, e.g. controlled vs. uncontrolled anger, the effect of surprise, manifestation of one's emotions, etc.
The chapter by Irina Levontina and Anna Zalizniak lists more than a dozen emotion concepts that have not received in-depth treatment in the already extensive literature on Russian emotions. Several topics are addressed: various feelings of pleasure, negative feelings (like toska, obida), interpersonal relationships (e.g. zhalost', rodnoj), as well as a group of feelings referring to departure from a person or place (razluka, soskuchit'sja, toska). The authors make an explicit claim that they do not distinguish in their discussion between words, concepts they incorporate and fragments of reality they refer to. It is seems that the attitude is shared by other contributors to the volume: objects of their descriptions are not clearly articulated (i.e. it is unclear whether their statements concern words, concepts or emotional states), cf. the Critical Evaluation section of the review below.
The chapter by Anna Wierzbicka is devoted to the Polish word przykro (it roughly corresponds to hurt, offended, sorry). The author tries to define an explication covering the invariant meaning behind various uses of the word, which refers to a bad feeling experienced by X; it can be caused either by someone else's apparent emotional rejection of X, or by X's own action which may appear to someone else to indicate X's rejection of them. The chapter also offers explications for the English words comparable with przykro and for the English idiom ''feel bad'', which is different in its meaning from ''feel something bad'', which is extensively used in explications.
The final chapter by Zhengdao Ye considers words referring to sadness in Chinese: bei, ai and chou, which are often translated as grief, sadness, sorrow. However, the three words encode significantly different meanings: sadness as an immediate response to a recent event in bei, sorrow and compassion prototypicaly caused by someone's death in ai, and the lasting feeling, when the experiencer lacks forces to change the situation, in chou. The author also demonstrates intertranslatability of the NSM primes by providing explication both in English and Chinese.
CRITICAL EVALUATION The introductory chapter refers to a statement made by Geeraerts (1999) concerning two methodological extremes of cognitive linguistics: empiricist vs. idealistic analysis. The NSM approach is a clear instance of the idealistic analysis: it claims that any word *has* an invariant meaning, which can be represented by means of a semantic metalanguage; the concept (idea) behind a word is primary with respect to its use in communication (empiricist analyses are more oriented towards communication: they assume that a word is *used* to realize certain intentions, so the attention of the researcher is aimed at studying patterns of uses, preferably based on a corpus, cf. two definitions of usage-based approaches in cognitive (Langacker, 1988) and systemic-functional linguistics (Halliday, Matthiessen, 1999)).
The stance determines both strong and weak points of the book. On the one hand, almost all contributions follow the NSM methodology by constructing explications out of the set of semantic primes defined in the introduction. Thus, the book provides an example study of how various phenomena referring to emotions in various cultures can be treated by decomposing words into semantic primes. On the other hand, the discussion says relatively little about the actual behavior of lexical items and about cases in which they are really used. A good explication reveals something essential for (culture-specific) concepts designated by lexical items, but it does not embrace the whole range of their (non-metaphorical) uses. For instance, the following example from LDOCE:
Tom was delighted at the sensation he was creating.
implies that Tom knew that he created the sensation and wanted to do it (in contrast to the scenario for delighted, as described in the introduction and quoted above). Another case is the typical polite expression:
Thanks for the invitation. I'd be delighted to come.
This implies neither that ''something very good happened'' (at most, this means that I'm pleased with the invitation) nor that ''I didn't know that this would happen''.
The dependence on intuition and the failure to distinguish between concepts and uses of words can also lead to factual errors. For instance, Levontina and Zalizniak study the difference between uses of two Russian words referring to enjoyment: naslazhdenie and udovolstvie. The authors claim that the first word belongs to the ''high'' sphere, while the second one to bodily pleasures, so the combination of udovolstvie with istinnyj (true, also a word from the ''high'' sphere) is impossible, unlike ''istinnoe naslazhdenie''; the claim is supported by selected examples from Dostoyevsky and Pushkin. However, the allegedly impossible collocation ''istinnoe udovolstvie'' is *more* frequent than ''istinnoe naslazhdenie'' (5725 vs. 5164 occurrences according to the Yandex count). I think that this does not undermine the validity of the claim that culture-specific *concepts* istinnyj and naslazhdenie belong to the ''high'' sphere, unlike udovolstvie. At the same time, respective words are used for many different purposes. I think that the difference between their uses can be summarized by means of the following general pattern: udovolstvie emphasizes transitory properties of enjoyment of something happening in the immediate perception, while naslazhdenie emphasizes more durative feelings. Both words can be used in the same situation. The choice between them depends on communicative intentions of the speaker (which aspect of the situation to be emohasized). The quality istinnyj can be also combined with both words with the purpose to express the high degree and quality of respective feeling (it provides a lexical realization of Bon in terms of Mel'chuk's Lexical Functions). Such errors caused by over-dependence on intuition can be reduced, only when the analysis is based on representative corpora. There is also a danger of taking examples from highly figurative speech, e.g. poetry or psychological novels, which may distort the picture of real uses of lexical items.
In short, there are theoretical problems with the description of word meanings by representing them in terms of semantic primes, for instance: are semantic formulae really meant when people communicate with each other? (e.g. all explications referring to anger include an assertion that something bad can happen to the angry person, but this does not necessarily correspond to the intention of the speaker). Other problems: how polysemous senses of, say, ''sad'' are represented (inlcuding sad stories, events, situations, being lonely); what happens in the case of misunderstanding (how can people fail to refer unanymously to the Platonic realm of explications?), etc, cf. the brilliant discussion in (Geeraerts, 1999).
Notwithstanding the theoretical problems, explications are very useful for practical purposes: as concise and rigorous tools for explicating the core meanings of certain culture-specific words, for instance, for explicating differences between uses of haQ, gyoQ and dokiQ in Japanese (cf. the chapter by Hasada). The explications were helpful for students of Japanese (as claimed by Hasada) and for me as the reviewer trying to grasp semantic differences in expressions referring to surpise in Japanese. Thus, the two approaches (idealistic vs. empiricist) are not mutually exclusive, but rather complementary both in terms of their aims and their outcomes.
A minor complaint concerns the choice of submissions for the book. The chapters vary in the range of phenomena covered in them. Five chapters are devoted to differences in uses of a group of lexical items, constituting a semantic subfield, e.g. referring to sadness, anger, surprise. Four chapters provide an overview of emotional lexicons in respective languages (Amharic, Lao, Mbula, Russian); while two chapters concentrate on specific words, which are salient in respective cultures (hati in Malay and przykro in Polish). When the complete set of lexical items referring to emotions (and often to cognitively-based feelings in general) is treated in a relatively small chapter, the discussion remains cursory: the window into another culture is too panoramic. When a single lexical item is treated in detail, one can grasp its meaning, but its relationship to other concepts in the culture remains obscure: the window into another culture is too narrow. Out of this reason, the most informative chapters (at least, for the reviewer) happened to be those devoted to a group of related lexical items. For instance, three chapters in the book are devoted to expressions related to anger in, respectivily, Arrernte, Chinese and German. The cross-cultural perspective offered in the three chapters provides a lot of information for a contrastive study. On the one hand, it is a difficult task for editors to level the analyses offered in papers by various contributors. On the other hand, if the editors had balanced the contributions, say, dealing with a semantic subfield, the book would become a classic reference source in the field of cross-linguistic study of emotional expressions.
Anyway, in spite of minor shortcomings, the book is a valuable contribution to understanding of emotions in different cultures, especially, for lesser studied languages.
REFERENCES Geeraerts, Dirk (1999). Idealistic and empiricist tendencies in cognitive semantics. In T.Jansen and G.Redeker (eds.), Cognitive Linguistics: Foundations, Scope and Methodology. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. 163-194.
Halliday, M.A.K., Matthiessen, C.M.I.M. (1999). Construing experience through meaning: a language-based approach to cognition. London: Cassell.
Langacker, R. (1988). A usage-based model. In Brygida Rudzka-Ostyn (ed.), Topics in cognitive linguistics. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, pp. 127-161.
Wierzbicka, Anna (1980). Lingua mentalis: the semantics of natural language. Sydney: Academic Press.
Wierzbicka, Anna (1999). Emotions across Languages and Cultures. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Serge Sharoff is an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow at the University of Bielefeld, Germany. His research interests are in the fields of corpus studies, cognitive science and computational linguistics. Currently he works on a corpus-based description of uses of several word classes (emotions, size adjectives, verbs of motion) in English, German and Russian. The background for the study is Halliday's systemic-functional linguistics.