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How does the language affect the emotion?

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August 4, 2016 by Nancy Jung

When I was hearing the sermon in the church, our reverend mentioned about the death of Karen Carpenter. Karen Carpenter was a famous singer during 1970s, but she died because of anorexia. Anorexia is an eating disorder characterized by a low weight, fear of gaining weight and distorted perception of self-image and body. What causes such disorder? She doesn’t have any health problem at first, but a short statement, such as “You become fatter”, causes her death. Then a knowledge question brings out from my mind — How does the language affect the emotion?

People can use language to convey certain ideas, and hence an emotional response can be created from the listener. Emotive languages can be expressed through novels, speeches and newspapers. The speech would affect one’s emotion most easily due to the tone and mood. A speech called “I Have a Dream” by Martin Luther King inspired a lot of people and deeply touch their heart. Hence the use of emotive language is used to have the impact on the feeling of listeners or readers.

However, the success of language being able to influence emotion could be limited. People can use reason to critically analyze language, so it is possible to make a conscious decision to separate emotion, and therefore people have the ability to ignore their emotions. For instance, when one is blaming S. Korea, I try to understand the one’s statement rather than to beat him. I was thinking of the original intent rather than relying on my emotional reaction.

On the other hand, in Karen Carpenter’s situation, the emotion is excessive. It is another “limitation” of language’s impact on emotion. This limitation is caused by the external factors, such as different perspectives of language and the nature of it. In the condition, the language is subjective. In front of the same language, different perspective can evoke to different emotion. Moreover, it is important to understand the context of language because context influence the emotion felt. Since most of our knowledge comes to through language, we need to be clear about the meanings of words. Karen Carpenter couldn’t clearly understand the content, and she cornered herself into a deadly situation. Similarly, the example of these two factors might be Hitler’s speech about driving the Jew out of Germany. At that time, Germans thought that the speech was uplifting, inspiring, and it motivated the support. However, today’s Germans think that the speech is disturbing and chilling. Past time’s and today’s German have different idea about this same context, racism.

In conclusion, our use of language can influence our emotions allowing us to sense the moods, tones and intentions of others. However, we can not only rely on emotion as a way of knowing as there are some factors to consider. When someone is trying to use language to cause an emotional response, he may or may not be successful depending on the audience’s (or listener’s) perspective. Thus reason is also needed when we are using language to gain language about the original intention of the language.


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