Monday, June 17, 2013

Etymology, cognition, emotion

Words describing emotions appear to evolve either from words describing physical phenomena associated with the emotion or from the thing that inspires the emotion. Regret literally means “to weep again,” from such words as Old English graetan and Proto-Germanic gretan; and worry originally mean “to choke or strangle,” a meaning that can be traced all the way back to the Indo-European wērgh. Astounded and astonished evolved from the Latin verb tonare, meaning “thunder;” and fear doesn't acquire its emotional dimension until 1280, before which the Old English (faer) simply meant “danger” or “peril.”

In the realm of thought, the evolution of consider can be followed back ... to the Latin considerare meaning “to examine or contemplate,” deriving from an earlier meaning “to examine the stars,” which grew out of its root elements con (with) + sidus (star/constellation). Ponder can be traced to the...marketplace via Old French ponderer (to weigh or balance in a scale)...

The ancient Chinese mind underwent the same process of metaphoric self-creation as [the Western one], but its empirical origins remain apparent, for the ten thousand things are still visible in the pictographic nature of characters. Mind, for instance, is simply a picture of the heart in classical Chinese, because the thinking mind is not distinguished from the feeling heart...

To feel [in classical Chinese] is constructed of the character for “heart-mind” and the one for “the blue-green color of landscape”, a remarkable concept of color that includes both the green of plants and trees and nearby mountains, and the blue of distant mountains and sky. Hence, the “heart-mind in the presence of landscape-color” or “the landscape-color of heart-mind.” 
-- from Hunger Mountain by David Hinton

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