How do I say I love someone?

When did you last say that you loved someone? How did you say this? When did you last say how you felt? In the article you will learn that these questions are not trivial.

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How do I express my love to another person? Just say "I love you" is one way to answer this question. Of course you can just say it. However, most of you reading this will know that this is not always easy. Many people find it difficult to talk about feelings in general. Not only about love, but also about anger, sadness, joy, ... It is not always easy to understand what one feels inside.

However, this is not a general discussion about how difficult it is to express feelings, although this is very exciting, since psychology, linguistics and cognitive science go hand in hand here. Rather, it is now about the fact that emotions cannot be expressed in the same way in every language. Especially since the sentence "I love you" is even more difficult to express in a language that is not the L1, if it is to convey the same warmth and emotionality.

Is love pity?

This question seems strange at first. At least if you speak an Indo-European language, because in this linguistic family, which includes German, English and French, for example, the concept of "love" is mostly coupled with "want" or "like". In Austronesian languages, on the other hand, that concept is more likely to be linked to "pity". These are the results of a study conducted by Joshua Conrad Jackson at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. 

This research team examined various concepts of feelings and emotions and came to the conclusion that people may experience the same things, but that there are no universal expressions of emotions. The fact that so many concepts cannot be translated shapes the culture within a language community. 

A challenge for translators

As already mentioned, this is once again a special challenge for all those who work in the field of translation. How do I translate when there is no real equivalent in the other language? Should I paraphrase? In these cases, humans are certainly more creative than an AI. Fortunately, at alugha we don't rely solely on the machine, but rely heavily on experienced humans. However, it is not only the human being as an individual, but also the understanding and empathy for other cultures and language communities that translators need to bring with them.

So how do I express my love?

"If music be the food of love", says a poem by Henry Heveningham, set to music by Henry Purcell. Perhaps music is the right means of expression. But that is perhaps more a case for musicology. 





Jackson, Joshua Conrad et al. (2019). Emotion semantics show both cultural variation and universal structure. Science, 366(6472), 1517-1522.

Schwarz-Friesel, Monika (2008). Sprache, Kognition und Emotion: Neue Wege in der Kognitionswissenschaft. In: Kämper, Heidrun/Eichinger, Ludwig M. (Hrsg.): Sprache - Kognition - Kultur. Sprache zwischen mentaler Struktur und kultureller Prägung. – Berlin, New York: de Gruyter, 2008. S. 277-301. (Institut für Deutsche Sprache. Jahrbuch 2007), (17.02.2022, 11:45) (17.02.2022, 11:45) (17.02.2022, 12:44)

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