le mot juste du jour: Sprachgefühl

I’m working in the direction of a posting on books about American English, but along the way I encounter all manner of things that divert and inform and goad and send me haring off into wanton serendipities. The Language Log blog is dependable that way, and today’s post on Ancient Chinese mottos is a case in point. It has to do with a text from ca. 700 BCE, and ends with this deliciousness:

To do this kind of high level translation requires hard work going through old annotations and commentaries. To make the English felicitous demands inspired creativity and a high level of Sprachgefühl.

Yeah, I know that word, but was hazier than I might have been:

intuitive feeling for the natural idiom of a language.
“it’s not genes or culture but Sprachgefühl that sets the French apart from the Finns, and the Russians from the Romanians”

the essential character of a language.
“each language has its own personality, or Sprachgefühl, which limits its speakers to a certain mode of thought”
(https://www.lexico.com/definition/sprachgefuhl)

And, just because I can, I looked it up in the German Wikipedia:

Als Sprachgefühl bezeichnet man das intuitive, unreflektierte und unbewusste Erkennen dessen, was sprachlich als korrekt (in Wortwahl und Grammatik) bzw. als (situativ und kontextuell) angemessen oder aber als falsch bzw. unangemessen empfunden wird. Geprägt wird es insbesondere im Zuge des Erwerbs der Muttersprache, wobei Herkunft, soziales Umfeld und Bildung und die entsprechenden sprachlichen Erfahrungen des Kindes eine maßgebliche Rolle spielen. Durch intensive sprachliche Erfahrungen in der alltäglichen (auch medialen) Kommunikation, wozu auch literarische und andere Leseerfahrungen gehören, kann das Sprachgefühl aber auch in späteren Jahren trainiert und modifiziert werden.

The problem with the American English books is that there are so many, and they are so various: descriptive, evaluative, jocular, narrow, broad, thick, thin… each has something to add, and I’m still wrestling with a typology. And I’m so damned Sprachgefühl re: American English. So I’ll be back to that subject.

2 thoughts on “le mot juste du jour: Sprachgefühl

  1. AvatarEllie Kesselman

    Is this true in according to modern linguistics?

    “each language has its own personality, or Sprachgefühl, which limits its speakers to a certain mode of thought”

    Yes, I did a preliminary Google search before bothering you here. I vaguely remember something about Sapir-Whorf indicating that particular languages actually shaped thought (i think). I don’t recall if that was disproven ages ago. I’m just asking you instead of digging around more, if you happen to know.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *