All You Need is Love

It is fascinating how equivalents in different languages like to overlap but are never exactly perfect equivalents. They are akin to templates that do not quite fit, like trying to pour two pints of water into a one litre jug.

Research shows that certain languages have a tendency to use particular semantic fields more often than other languages. For example, the German language may employ more words from the arts and crafts semantic field than English. Polish, on the other hand, may use more words connected with love than German.

Corpus evidence shows us that even two texts, one of which is a translation of another do not perfectly share identical semantic fields. Different languages use different lexical and semantic tools to deal with different linguistic problems which creates shifts in the semantic map of a text. Not only do translated texts have different semantic fingerprints but words also.

For example, let us look at different words for love, desire, have, want, need etc in German, French, Polish, English. The differences in these words may hinge on faint nuances between them but that does not change the fact that they are slightly different from one another.

We can talk of Liebe, amour, miłość and love. But do these all mean the same and are they always used in the same context? What about Wunsch, désir, pragnienie and desire? They may be dictionary equivalents but are they contextual equivalents?

Corpus evidence shows us that these words, though seemingly equivalent, are used in fractionally different semantic fields and used with a different frequency in each of the languages.

7 Responses to “All You Need is Love”

  1. Margola Says:

    Latin is even more interesting when it comes to love
    we have
    caritas-merciful love
    agape- God’s love to human
    amore-human love
    In Polish we refer to this simply as “love”

  2. transubstantiation Says:

    Does that mean that the Romans were more adept in love or that the Poles are less?

  3. Margola Says:

    I have never seen any true Roman apart from Educator but that doesn’t count, I suppose😉 Coming back to matter of words, they reflect complexity of embracing the “closest” environment. Eskimos have snow, Poles have many types of dumplings, Romans had love and … Catholic church which introduced different designates of love

  4. transubstantiation Says:

    Interesting comparison: love, snow and dumplings…

  5. Margola Says:

    It was meant to illustrate phenomenon of the closests designates not to compare love, snow and dumplings

  6. aggie Says:

    I think that French language has the richest and the most romantic collocations and idioms related to love such as “voir la lune”, “le petit mort” or “etre sur un petit nuage”…

  7. transubstantiation Says:

    Do you have any ‘real’ evidence for this?


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