Language and emotions are separate

Do we really need language to have emotions?

Given some thought it should be apparent that emotions – any sort of feeling – should not depend on language. Babies do not need to know the words ‘It hurts,’ to cry in pain. And we do not need the word ‘disgust’ to be disgusted.

The role of language is therefore first and foremost communication, not thinking. However, we do utilise words for thought. The probable reason for this is because language as an abstract tool is convenient for organizing our thoughts. Labelling things make them easier to manipulate. It could be as simple as that.

I have never been a fan of any innate language faculty that some linguists believe is responsible for our language ability. More likely is that language – a bunch sounds and symbols – is really just an abstraction we as humans are really really good at.

5 thoughts on “Language and emotions are separate

  1. An interesting off-shoot from this is that it has been suggested that the emotions we are able to perceive in music (again, a bunch of sounds that are not intrinsically emotional) is partly dependent on the emotions that we *hear* in language. For example, the intervals in the speech (or speech sounds, if not words) of a sad person are shared with the minor scale in Western tonality, which is perceived as sad too.

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    • I can understand that.

      Slightly different, every time I hear the national anthem of a country I can imagine or feel their personality as such. This I hear the Brazilian and Japanese anthems at the start of the world volleyball championships, and what a contrast they were. The Brazilian national anthem was so upbeat and lively, and the Japanese, so solemn and serious.

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    • Yes, I’m fascinated by nationality in music. Even with countries with the same musical traditions, such as Germany, Russia, England, and the Scandinavian countries, it’s very often clear where the music comes from. Some of this is due to the influence of the country’s folk music, though there’s more to it than that. I’ve been searching for something that properly analyses and reduces these feelings, as I’m sure this sense of nationality is buried within certain harmonic progressions and orchestrations and melodic shapes etc., but I’m yet to find something like it.

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