Apparently, there are really fifty Eskimo words for snow, for example “matsaaruti” for wet snow that can be used to ice a sleigh’s runners, and “pukak,” for the crystalline powder snow that looks like salt.
If "languages evolve to suit the ideas and needs that are most crucial to the lives of their speakers," as David Robson points out in his article (link above,) then why do we have such improverished vocabulary for love? Is this the legacy of modernism's reductionary tendency for the grand narrative? Or is it a result of postmodern skepticism towards the grand narrative?
The reason for this inquiry is related to the experience of a friend who was recently asked what she thought of love; to her surprise, her classic notion of agape, eros and philia was swept aside as narrow and inadequate. Should she have known about storge (family love) and xenia (hospitality)? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love Should she have mentioned intimacy and goodwill as synonyms for love and expounded on the topics of attachment theory, mirror neurons, oxytocin, and empathy? Should she have mentioned the courtly love of the Middle Ages? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Courtly_love
As she seemed truly upset by the idea of her newfound inadequacy to satisfy someone who asked a simple question, I thought to myself that she was stumped by a deceptively simple question.
Perhaps she could have looked for a loophole and said that it is an ineffable quasi-mystical experience that engages one's whole being in ways that cannot be described by words. Then, she could have quoted applicable passages from The Little Prince.
Or, perhaps, we need to move towards a post-postmodern definition for love.
If I may offer a tentative definition, here's a broad one:
Love is a positive regard for someone (fellow human or an animal) or something (concrete or abstract) that has a profound multi-dimensional (physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual) and heartfelt effect which allows one to voluntarily make space for them within one's sphere of existence. (True love would be sincere, lasting, and based on respect.)
Incidentally, I've always liked M. Scott Peck's definition of love for another person: "The will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth" (Peck, 1978/1992,p85). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M._Scott_Peck