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Off topic: Translating the word "LOVE" for a research paper
Thread poster: Triston Goodwin

Triston Goodwin  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:20
Spanish to English
+ ...
Oct 30, 2012

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Hi, I'm working on a research project for one of my classes and would like to ask for your help. My thesis is that part of the problems found in the US with divorce rates, infidelity and the like are caused, in part, by a misunderstanding of what "love" is.

Specifically I'm comparing the ideas of romantic love and every day love. One of the points that I'm trying to make is that since we have very few words to define love, people mistakenly assign a certain level to what they're feeling that may not exactly be accurate.

So, here's what I would like to ask of all of you; I would like to know how to say "love" in all the languages represented here, their translations, and other synonyms. For example in Spanish there's Amar, Querer, Adorar, even Gustar and Encantar are often used/translated as love (I love pizza! I love puppies!). Also, if the word has any particular specific meaning or weight in those countries.

I think that this would make an interesting example to present, especially if I can locate information regarding marriage and divorce rates in those countries, as part of my thesis.

Thanks in advance! I love you guys! ^_^


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Dave Bindon  Identity Verified
Greece
Local time: 21:20
Member (2010)
Greek to English
Greek Oct 30, 2012

Hi Triston,

You'll find a lot of relevant information if you search on line for 'agape' and 'erotas' (the most common Latinized spellings of ancient Greek words which are still in use, unchanged, in modern Greek).

Modern Greek still has all sorts of levels of liking/loving, including things like 'storgi' which is usually used for things like maternal love, which are a far cry from 'erotas' (love with a sexual undertone) and 'agape' (love of friends or food) or 'latreia' (stong love, verging on worship...but often used to exaggerate 'agape')... and more...

However, using all the many Greek words for 'love' (which is what philosophers and sociologists have done for years) still doesn't provide any definitive answers.


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 02:20
Chinese to English
Chinese Oct 30, 2012

In Chinese there's a single character 爱 (ai - pronounced like the English word "eye"). It means love in a very general way, much like the English word.

It can be compounded with other characters to make up different types of love:

母爱 (mu'ai) maternal love
性爱 (xing'ai) sex
真爱 (zhen'ai) true love

There's another word, 情 (qing - pronounced "ching"), which can mean feelings more generally, but is also sometimes used for a type of love.

爱情 (aiqing) love
友情 (youqing) friendship
亲情 (qinqing) love between relatives

The two terms can be contrasted: 没爱有情 - no love (ai) but warmth (qing), can be used to describe a situation where the passion has gone from a marriage but there is still companionship.

Incidentally, I completely disagree with your thesis. It's possible that Americans are confused about love (they're confused about a lot of things...), but to blame it on English vocabulary items is just Sapir-Whorf gone mad. Use it as a hook for an interesting investigation, but I wouldn't invest too much in this as a theory.


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Triston Goodwin  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:20
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Understandable! Oct 31, 2012

Phil Hand wrote:

In Chinese there's a single character 爱 (ai - pronounced like the English word "eye"). It means love in a very general way, much like the English word.

It can be compounded with other characters to make up different types of love:

母爱 (mu'ai) maternal love
性爱 (xing'ai) sex
真爱 (zhen'ai) true love

There's another word, 情 (qing - pronounced "ching"), which can mean feelings more generally, but is also sometimes used for a type of love.

爱情 (aiqing) love
友情 (youqing) friendship
亲情 (qinqing) love between relatives

The two terms can be contrasted: 没爱有情 - no love (ai) but warmth (qing), can be used to describe a situation where the passion has gone from a marriage but there is still companionship.

Incidentally, I completely disagree with your thesis. It's possible that Americans are confused about love (they're confused about a lot of things...), but to blame it on English vocabulary items is just Sapir-Whorf gone mad. Use it as a hook for an interesting investigation, but I wouldn't invest too much in this as a theory.


Thanks for the information! I see your point, and agree. The idea is more specifically to compare romantic love with what could be described as an every day, normal life love. There are too many factors that effect the issue of divorce and I wouldn't want to try and explain that. However I do think that the words we use and hear effect our perceptions, and with love being as ambiguous as it is, it can surely lead to misunderstandings.

Either way, it's still under development. I appreciate the feed back though! I'd never heard of Sapir-Whorf before, I will take a closer look at that too!

[Edited at 2012-10-31 00:10 GMT]


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 20:20
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Spain Oct 31, 2012

Indeed this is an interesting topic. As you point out, English is terribly polysemic with "love" matters, whereas Spanish is a lot more specific. I will try to define your own examples in the context of Spain and add one more:

- "amar": Love for a human being you need to share all possible time with and with whom you have (or desire to have) sex.

- "querer": Mostly love for members of your family, good friends, or even a pet. An anomaly: It is true however that we say "te quiero" to your spouse or your boy/girlfriend much more frequently than you say "te amo" (saying "te amo" is probably more frequent in Latin America).

- "tener cariño": Same as querer, in a less intense degree or towards relatives you don't see often.

- "gustar": Attraction to another person, potentially leading to "amar" if all goes well, but mostly appreciation of objects, arts, food, or activities.

- "encantar": Interest and appreciation for another person whose presence you enjoy in an intellectual or aesthetic way, i.e. without a love interest.

- "adorar": Not used much in Spain; we mostly use this verb during Christmas when we refer to the adoration of child Christ by the three kings or the shepherds. It is however heard often in translated movies and TV shows.


As for divorce rates, according to our Instituto Nacional de Estadística, in 2011 there were 103,604 divorces. You will find a full, detailed report in Spanish here at the INE.

What is not mentioned in the report I think is the number of marriages, but you can obtain that from the INE as well and in 2011 there were 163,086 marriages, so there were 63% as many divorces as marriages. The result is quite appalling.

While there are many marriages that last a life long, on an average the duration of the marriage of divorced people in Spain lasted only 15 years, according to the INE.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 20:20
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Everybody --except me-- is confused Oct 31, 2012

Phil Hand wrote:
It's possible that Americans are confused about love (they're confused about a lot of things...)...

I think this sentence could apply if you replaced "Americans" with any nationality other than your own, or with any person other than yourself, for that matter. One fact about human beings is that we tend to think that most other people are alienated and confused.


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Oksana Weiss  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 20:20
Member (2011)
English to Ukrainian
+ ...
Love is Oct 31, 2012

In Russian there is only one world for love - любовь (lyubovj), in Ukrainian - любов (lyubov) and кохання (kokhannya). Not much difference between them, apart from the fact that the first one may be considered by some as a Russinized word.

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Shirley Lao  Identity Verified
Taiwan
Member (2007)
English to Chinese
+ ...
The Atlas of Affective Meanings Oct 31, 2012

A study has been performed on the differences in affective or connotative meanings of 500 concepts (such as love, death, etc.) among different cultures and languages (American English, Mexican Spanish, etc. included). This study is based on the principles of Osgood's semantic differential in three dimensions: evaluation ("good-bad"), potency ("strong-weak") and activity ("active-passive"). The results have been documented in the Atlas of Affective Meanings. You may have a look at how different language (American English versus Mexican Spanish) speakers conceptualize "love" on the basis of these three dimensions in this Atlas.

In actuality, you may also read Robert Sternberg's Triangular Theory of Love
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triangular_theory_of_love; http://www.hofstra.edu/pdf/community/slzctr/stdcsl/stdcsl_triangular.pdf). According to Sternberg, love should consist of three components: intimacy, passion and commitment. Consummate love is the perfect form of love in which all the three components of love (intimacy, passion and commitment) are found; conversely, in romantic love, only intimacy and passion are found and there is a lack of commitment. That is why a love relationship without commitment often leads to divorce.




[Edited at 2012-10-31 07:34 GMT]


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Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:20
Hebrew to English
Sapir Whorf - my thoughts exactly Oct 31, 2012

I agree with Phil, .... be mindful that Sapir-Whorf (i.e. that your language 'shapes' your reality, affects your worldview etc) may have some validity (I'm a fan of the theory myself), HOWEVER in its strong form (i.e. that you cannot conceive of a concept you don't have a word for in your language), it has been thoroughly discredited already.

Case in point - take the Greeks (sorry Dave!), even with all the shades of meaning they have with their words for "love", it doesn't seem to have filtered down to affect their fidelity (I've dated Greeks).
As for marriage and divorce, I think the Greek Orthodox Church and the higher level of stigma for divorce might have more to do with it (and other cultural and societal factors).

To answer your question though - Hebrew has one very generic word - אהבה (ahava), much like English. Arguably, there is also חיבב (xibev) but this means more "like, fond of", it isn't as strong as "love".

I wonder if there's a language out there with no word for "love"....



[Edited at 2012-10-31 07:37 GMT]


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esperantisto  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:20
Member (2006)
English to Russian
+ ...
There is/are Oct 31, 2012

Ty Kendall wrote:

I wonder if there's a language out there with no word for "love"....


I remember reading a magazine article about Papua New Guinea natives, which said, they had no concept of “love” between man and woman or anything similar. Unfortunately, it (reading) was long ago, I can’t remember the magazine/issue.


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esperantisto  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:20
Member (2006)
English to Russian
+ ...
You need to enhance your Russian Oct 31, 2012

Oksana Zoria wrote:

In Russian there is only one world for love - любовь (lyubovj)


At least two. There’s also обожание (obožanije) for a very strong love.


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Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:20
Hebrew to English
Strong Sapir-Whorf Oct 31, 2012

esperantisto wrote:

Ty Kendall wrote:

I wonder if there's a language out there with no word for "love"....


I remember reading a magazine article about Papua New Guinea natives, which said, they had no concept of “love” between man and woman or anything similar. Unfortunately, it (reading) was long ago, I can’t remember the magazine/issue.


I find it hard to believe they didn't have a concept of it, even if they didn't have a word.


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kmtext
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:20
English
+ ...
Scottish Gaelic has quite a few Oct 31, 2012

The main ones are gaol and gràdh, both of which can be used for romantic love and familial love, but some dialects lean more towards one or other. For instance, in my dialect, gaol can be used in most contexts, but gràdh tends to be used more for maternal love. In other dialects, their use can be reversed.

There are a number of other words which express varying degrees of affection, for people or things. For example, caomh, meas and toigh, which are similar to like, so, "I love pizza" would be "'S caomh leam pizza". They can be used fairly interchangeably, depending on context.

Then you move on to words like agh, which is often used in a spiritual sense, as it has connotations of joy and euphoria.

Annsa and annsachd tend to be used in a romantic context. "M' annsachd" is usually translated as "my beloved", but that doesn't go quite far enough. Annsachd is more like the sense of joy or happiness you feel when you catch sight of your lover for the first time after being apart.

Luaidh expresses maternal love.

Eudal is a complicated one. It's an intense love which has connotations of possessiveness to it and also jealousy. It can be used to express maternal love, but is more commonly used to describe a romantic relationship.

Rùn is another good one which has many shades of meaning. It's most commonly used in a sense of romantic love, a secret/forbidden/unrequited love.

There are number of others, but that's probably enough to be going on with.


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Shirley Lao  Identity Verified
Taiwan
Member (2007)
English to Chinese
+ ...
Love versus marriage Oct 31, 2012

[quote]Triston Goodwin wrote:

[quote]


... part of the problems found in the US with divorce rates, infidelity and the like are caused, in part, by a misunderstanding of what "love" is.


Allow me to refer to something that is not strictly from linguistics and languages.
http://theweek.com/article/index/228541/how-marriage-has-changed-over-centuries


... by a misunderstanding of what "love" is at the cognitive or conceptual level rather than at the lexical or linguistic level.


Love and marriage had long been considered incompatible with each other until the 17th and the 18th centuries. Since then, the notion of marriage for love instead of marriage for wealth or social status has been advocated. Thus, long before the Age of Enlightenment, traditional forms of marriage such as arranged marriage were common.


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allrock23
Philippines
Local time: 02:20
English to Tagalog
+ ...
Tagalog Oct 31, 2012

Love is 'pag-ibig' in Tagalog. It can also be 'pagmamahal,' but 'pag-ibig' is a much stronger term.

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