AlamogordoTownNews.com From Couy Griffin to The Hague Language Matters, Let’s Understand Gratitude

From Couy Griffin to a comunique from The Hague, the understanding of words matter, and there is no better place to start understanding the interpretation of words then via “Gratitude.”

Gratitude, you know it when you see it or feel it but what does it mean? Does it mean the same thing to you as to an Italian, a Russian or a citizen of China?

Spanish speakers say “gracias” to express their gratitude. Italians show appreciation with a “grazie.” Both of these words come from the Latin root “gratia,” which denotes grace, graciousness, and gratefulness. For those who speak Spanish and Italian, their way of saying “thank you” has purely positive connotations.

The French “merci,” on the other hand, derives from the Old French “mercit” and the Latin “mercedem.” Both of these words denote forgiveness and pity, which are tinged with guilt along with gratitude.

Pan east across the globe and you’ll find other translations of gratitude that aren’t only positive in association. In Japan and Korea, gratitude is often expressed by saying “I’m sorry” and the terms for gratitude and indebtedness are used almost interchangeably.

These linguistic differences only scratch the surface of both the problem and the potential of studying gratitude, which is this: gratitude manifests in distinct ways across different societies. It follows that research should should capture the diversity of these expressions. But while the past two decades have seen an explosion in gratitude research, studies remain extremely narrow in scope.

Up to this point, the majority of research on gratitude has been conducted on people from Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic nations.

What we know about gratitude comes mostly from findings in Western and Northern Europe, North America, Australia, and New Zealand. Even though research on the subject is booming, the sample size represents only a sliver of humanity and the 7 Billion occupants.

Researchers have conducted studies across Latin America, from Mexico to Guatemala to Chile, though they’ve focused largely on university students and have skipped Caribbean countries altogether. Several Eastern European countries are represented in studies, including Russia and Romania, as well as in certain Middle Eastern countries like Jordan and Turkey. Some research has focused on China, Japan, and India, as well as most countries in Southeast Asia, but Central Asia is missing from the literature. African societies are sparsely investigated, with only a few gratitude-related studies completed in Ghana and Cape Verde, and research on Pacific Island societies is virtually nonexistent.

It’s not just large swaths of the globe that go unexamined. Studies comparing multiple societies help uncover the cultural specifics and universals of gratitude—yet only a handful of research papers are explicitly cross-cultural. And even these cross-cultural studies are limited in scope.

Why is this important and why is understanding gratitude across multiple cultures important? As we become an even more interconnected world words matter and how those words are interpreted in some circles can make the difference in a business deal closing or not or in a political crises being solved or not or worse a war being waged or not. Understanding linguistics is a key element to enlightenment and moving a society forward. Gratitude studies is a good first step in understanding human reactions to words.

Words matter, locally we see how words have mattered in politics.

The use of words to instill fear and ignite a base of people has been the hallmark of Couy Griffin, those words interpreted and followed by his actions put his character and intention completely under scrutiny.

Had he chosen his words differently, he might have been interpreted differently, for what is really in his heart, verses what is perceived. Hearing of words and seeing his words, one wonders what is really in his heart?

Actions matter but so do words and understanding the meaning and context of those words are key to a civil society.

Thus university studies on gratitude are a great starting point locally and on the international stage.  When it comes to cross-cultural studies on gratitude, most researchers have focused their investigations on how people express thanks. The goal has been to distinguish the feeling of gratitude from its linguistic practice. In the United States, saying “thank you” to someone may indicate that one feels gratitude toward that person, or at least for their actions. But this isn’t necessarily the case in non-English speaking societies, where verbal expression and emotion can be less intertwined.

The approach of asking participants about the extent to which they currently feel “grateful,” “thankful,” and “appreciative” carries obvious limitations. Many languages don’t have identical translations to map the nuanced distinctions between these words. Beyond linguistic variations in people’s conceptions and expressions of gratitude, major social and even religious differences exist across cultures.

Thus a study is being conducted and led by Michael McCullough at the University of California, San Diego, and in collaboration with the Psychological Science Accelerator, the team plans to study how to measure gratitude and its effects in at least fifty countries around the world. “We believe that crossing the next scientific frontier of gratitude research will require researchers to cross their own cultural and geographic frontiers to explore the shared and unique terrains of gratitude,” writes McCullough. The team hopes to increase standardization of gratitude measures across cultures and facilitate future research by bringing together current multi-cultural data on gratitude into a single, open-access database. Ultimately, the project will transform gratitude research by setting a new roadmap for future scholars wanting to investigate questions around the universality of gratitude.

From the linguistic phrases of Couy Griffin locally to the use of “thank you” in over 50 countries this study like most on linguistics is important to human development and enlightenment in Otero County as well as in The Hague. 

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