Linguists net lovers' pillow talk

January 26, 2001

Linguistic scientists at Münster University in Germany have found a shrewd way of gathering research material into the secret language of lovers.

Students who wanted to join a seminar on the subject had to bring anonymous emails between lovers. Jan Claas Freienstein, a PhD student who organised the seminar, said: "By doing this, as well as putting out a request on the internet, we obtained about 100 examples."

Until now, language scientists have been hindered in their quest to discover a language of love because couples tend not to allow them to listen in on pillow talk.

Love letters by email go some way to overcoming this problem. "Although emails are written rather than spoken, users of this new medium write the way they speak," he said. Emails thus create a language close to an intimate conversation between lovers.

The seminar group compared its data to modern theories of communication between lovers and found that Ernst Leisi's theory that lovers create their own private language corresponded best to their research.

"Many of the emails were unintelligible because lovers used private codes," Mr Freienstein said.

But they also found that virtual love affairs are no substitute for old-fashioned intimacy. In crises, lovers reverted to meetings or telephone calls.

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