Archive for February, 2009

Expressions showing anger (updated)

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

Today I will write a more complete version of the previous post about expressions for anger.

Although this may be wrong, I have recently been thinking that English has more expressions showing anger than Japanese. For instance, I found the following words and phrases: angry, rage, outrage, huff, rile, irate, irritate, indignant, upset, resent, wrath, bristle, take offense, fly off the handle, and climb the walls. On the other hand, I have now come up with the following words and phrases in Japanese: 怒る, 激怒する, 腹が立つ, いらいらする, 苛立つ, 憤慨する, 堪忍袋の緒が切れる, and キレる.

Also interestingly, I observed that the expressions meaning to make someone feel less angry and more calm have a similar tendency. English words are: mitigate, alleviate, assuage, allay, mollify, appease, pacify, placate, conciliate, and propitiate; Japanese words are: なだめる, 和らげる, あやす, and 鎮める.

I don’t usually read many English pure literature books or many Japanese ones, and so the number of those expressions might be revised if they are examined by some experts. Yet it seems to me that there are surely some differences at least. Of course, there are lots of differences in expressions between English and Japanese besides these, but they are more interesting to me because those differences seem particularly large in terms of the diversity of expressions, even excluding slang expressions.

Considering the fact that languages can be affected to some extent by the local history of the area, perhaps we can say that the histories of England and the United States have had some influence on this linguistic features of English. However, I am not so sure about that.

Another idea I have in mind is that a language is a symbol to represent concepts stored in our brains, and the number of words has something to do with the number of the concepts that we have. Thus, the English and Americans might have more concepts about anger. Yet I don’t know about that well, either.

From these points, let us consider how and why the differences have occurred. A concept has its own breadth. For example, the word “anger” (“怒り” in Japanese) is a general term, and corresponds to a broad concept for anger. The word “outrage” (“激怒” in Japanese) stands for extreme anger, and thus corresponds to a narrower concept for anger in terms of the degree of anger, which is therefore so-called a sub-concept for anger.

I have now thought of the degree of anger as an aspect to provide sub-concepts for anger. Besides the aspect, we can think of other aspects, such as how to get angry, how to express anger, and so forth. Thus, for some reason, every ethnic group with different languages has developed its own aspects and ways to separate a concept into its sub-concepts based on these aspects for every word differently, which ends up generating various words with subtle nuances that correspond to the specific sub-concepts. In particular, it seems to me that the concepts for feelings have a tendency to have more aspects and more ways for the separation.

Please don’t take this opinion of mine to mean that the English and Americans are more likely to get angry than the Japanese. I would never say such things. I am just curious about the differences in the expressions between English and Japanese that might exist, which I came across, but I am not a linguistic student, so I am not sure about the details. As for the above words and phrases in English, there must be some nuances among them, but now it is difficult for me to say them with a complete understanding of their differences.