Beware semantics lecturers, they know what you mean

It seems my misgivings were somewhat misplaced as far as Prof. Anna’s artice on “Happy”. Once the Semantics class got to that point of the lecture, our lecturer immediately observed that there is a clear difference between “Happy” and “Happy with X”, which was a point I thought was completely ignored in the article. (See yesterday’s Linguistics post.)

The ensuing discussion, and the 45-minute conversation with my lecturer (it would have gone much harder if a dear friend of mine hadn’t already made me consider the nature of happiness and my relationship to it) highlighted that semantics is _hard_, and emotions is a hard facet of semantics. A psychologist is sadly not much help with this, as their approach to emotion generally involves trying to remove the language component and get at the thoughts, which semantics as we’re studying it teaches that language and emotion are terribly intertwined. And this was highlighted in the ensuing discussion of facial expressions, and the difference between Anglo and Chinese expressions thereof. (Interestingly, the issue isn’t a difference of meaning, but a difference in description. A Chinese person will describe someone’s facial expression by the parts that make it up, while an Anglo person will describe it by the emotion it represents. I also got to show the lecturer horizontal smilies eg. ^_^)

Anyway, the definition of “happiness” my classmates came up with (or rather, “happy” as it relates to “happiness” rather than as it relates to “satisfaction”) was something like: (Look, NSM in a blog! -_-)

Something good happened
Because of this, I feel something good
I don’t want anything more/else

OK, it’s not NSM, but the idea’s clear.

On the other hand, my own interpretation of “happiness” is something like

I want some things
I have (achieved) some of these things
I am trying to (have/achieve) others of these things
I am able to (have/achieve) all of these things
Becaue of this, I feel something good.

It was an interesting discussion with my lecturer. A point I made was that I manage my own happiness by maintaining the list of things I want seperately from the things I’d like. When I realised that Computer Science (B.SEng) wasn’t making me happy, I evaluated my wants, discovered that a second language, and academia, had crept up my list, and was unhappy until I changed into my current degree, and discovered linguistics. ^_^

Happiness isn’t something you aim for, it’s the journey you take to get there.

(Emotional enough? You know who you are. ^_^)

Oh, and I’ve started a wiki for information storage. (As opposed to this. If I do any _good_ explications in NSM for example, that’ll go there.) The only thing there is the start of the documentation of my wireless setup, but I’m sure it’ll grow. The WinNY stuff will appear there, as will… I dunno, whatever else shows up. Translations maybe.


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