Fernweh as a Cultural Key Word. A Cross-Cultural Linguistic Analysis Using the Natural Semantic Metalanguage (NSM)


Seminar Paper, 2015
11 Pages, Grade: High Distinction, 92%, 1,0

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Fernweh as a Cultural Key Word A Cross-Cultural Linguistic Analysis Using the Natural Semantic Metalanguage (NSM)

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Fernweh as a Cultural Key Word A Cross-Cultural Linguistic Analysis Using the Natural Semantic Metalanguage (NSM)

Work and travel, au pair, semester abroad: more and more young Germans leave their home country to spend up to one year abroad. The more remote a destination, the more appealing the trip. This often leaves the older generations speechless. The young people's urge to travel can be best described with the key word Fernweh, a feeling which lacks an adequate English translation. According to Christiane Kraft Alsop, the English word wanderlust that can be found in dictionaries fails to account for the complete scope of the feeling of Fernweh as it emphasises that the longing to travel is only a temporary one (2002, p.5). Furthermore, the root lust suggests a strongly positive feeling. Fernweh, in contrast, not only can be triggered and answered in many different ways but also encompasses a high diversity of things someone might be longing for and a high range of feelings connected to this longing.

To begin with, Fernweh can be caused by many different things. These might be material objects one can see, hear, smell or taste, as in examples (1), (2) and (4), [1.a] or narratives about distant places, as in examples (3) and (5) [1.b]. In addition, Fernweh is often connected to what the FernUniversität Hagen calls "Unbehagen im Hier und Jetzt" (2014, p.2), meaning that someone is unhappy with his or her current life [1.c]. This cause for Fernweh is confirmed in examples (6) to (8). The person feeling Fernweh might feel a longing for faraway places in general, such as the people in examples (8), (12) and (13), or might have a particular place in mind [1.d]. This can be a place the person has been to, such as in example (3), or something completely new and unknown (examples (10) and (14)) [1.e]. All in all the causes for Fernweh can be described as follows:

1. Someone feels Fernweh

Someone feels like this because someone thinks of another place

Someone can think of another place

a) because someone sees something

because someone hears something

because someone smells something

because someone tastes something

b) because this someone says something about this place

because someone hears other people say something about this place

c) Someone is in one place now

Someone can also feel Fernweh

because someone does not feel something good in this place

because someone does not know what to do in this place

because someone does not feel like someone can do many things in this place

because there are many people in this place and someone does not like this

d) Sometimes someone does not think of one place

Sometimes someone thinks of many places

e) Sometimes someone does not know this other place

Fernweh is commonly described as a longing for distant places ("Verlangen nach Ferne", FernUniversität Hagen 2014, p.1) or "for the afar" (Carriere 2013, p.89) [2.a]. What exactly people desire to find in those distant places, however, varies greatly. As examples (10) and (14) show, some want to see and get to know formerly unknown places and cultures [2.b]. This might not always be without danger. Thus, Fernweh is also connected to a love of adventures, as in example (9) [2.c]. Especially for young people and those feeling restricted in their everyday lives (FernUniversität Hagen 2014, p.2), the wish to travel might also correlate with a desire to feel independent from others and free to do whatever they want (example (13)) [2.d]. Others, in contrast, might be looking for a place where they can settle down and feel at home, such as Carina in example (11) [2.e]. Using semantic primes these desires can be formulated as follows:

2. Someone feels Fernweh

Someone feels like this because this someone wants to

a) be far from the place where someone is now

b) see many things

these things are not like the things in the place where someone is now

sometimes someone does not know these things

be in many places

these places are not like the place where someone is now

sometimes someone does not know these places

be with other people

these people are not like the people in the place where someone is now

they do other things

sometimes someone does not know these things

c) do many things

someone does not know these things

sometimes these things are not good for someone

sometimes someone does not feel good when someone does these things

but someone feels something good after that

d) feel like someone can live where there are no other people

feel like someone can do much

and no other someone will say no

feel like someone can do things at all moments

and no other someone will say no

e) move to a place where someone feels something good

In contrast to wanderlust, Fernweh can refer not only to a positive but also to a negative feeling. On the one hand, Fernweh is associated with melancholy and an inner-most pain, such as in Grönemeyer's song (example (8)), [3.a] as well as with discontent and boredom, such as in example (19) [3.b]. On the other hand, it provides the person with energy, excitement and the wish to move, as the symptoms in example (19) show [3.c]. It is something that is driving people forwards (example (14)) [3.d]. The feeling can seize somebody suddenly, as in example (15) or stay with this person for a very long time like a companion (example (18)) [3.e]. In either case there is hardly any possibility to get away from it, as example (16) describes. Especially if Fernweh lasts long, it is likely to shape the person's identity, as suggested in example (14) [3.f]. The fact that examples (19) to (22) refer to Fernweh with terms normally used for diseases emphasises the negative connotation it has. It has symptoms, can be chronic, can infect people and rack them [3.g]. Nevertheless, it is important to highlight that, like with wanderlust, there are "different levels" (Shields 2011, p.369) of Fernweh and some people, like the woman in example (23), do not feel it at all [3.h]. Thus, what a person feels when he or she has Fernweh can be described as follows:

3. If someone feels Fernweh

someone can feel something bad inside because

a) someone wants something

maybe this something happened before

maybe this something did not happen before

b) someone does not know what to do now

someone does nothing now

someone does not feel something good now

c) someone can feel something good because

someone wants to do many things now

someone feels like someone can do many things now

someone feels like someone wants to move now because of it

d) someone feels like someone must move now because of it

e) what someone feels can be there for a short time

what someone feels can be with someone for a very long time

f) because of this

someone does not think like before

someone does not feel like before

someone does not do things like before

g) sometimes what someone feels can be like something that is not good for someone

sometimes someone does not like that someone feels like this

h) not all people feel the same

some people do not feel like this

All the above-mentioned aspects show that Fernweh is a very complex word which cannot easily be translated without losing some of its meanings and connotations. It is a very personal feeling which depends on the circumstances under which it occurs, on people's desires and other feelings to which a person might be prone.

[...]

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Details

Title
Fernweh as a Cultural Key Word. A Cross-Cultural Linguistic Analysis Using the Natural Semantic Metalanguage (NSM)
College
University of Newcastle  (Faculty of Education and Arts)
Course
Cross-Cultural Linguistics
Grade
High Distinction, 92%, 1,0
Author
Year
2015
Pages
11
Catalog Number
V336516
ISBN (eBook)
9783668264595
ISBN (Book)
9783668264601
File size
924 KB
Language
English
Series
Aus der Reihe: e-fellows.net stipendiaten-wissen
Tags
Fernweh, Natural Semantic Metalanguage, NSM, Cultural Keyword
Quote paper
Lisa Eisold (Author), 2015, Fernweh as a Cultural Key Word. A Cross-Cultural Linguistic Analysis Using the Natural Semantic Metalanguage (NSM), Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/336516

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