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Body-part metaphors as a window to cognition: A cross-linguistic study of object and landscape terms

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Tjuka, A. (2019). Body-part metaphors as a window to cognition: A cross-linguistic study of object and landscape terms. Master Thesis, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlin.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0009-02FD-8
Thus far, the cognitive foundation of lexicalized terms for object and landscape properties which are retrieved from the body domain have not been fully explored. Ullmann (1963) states: “Since metaphor is based on the perception of similarities, [...] when an analogy is obvious, it should give rise to the same metaphor in various languages; hence the wide currency of expressions like the ‘foot of a hill’ or the ‘leg of a table’.” Studies which investigate this claim show that the dimensions of shape, spatial alignment, and function play a crucial role in this process (Levinson 1994; Ibarretxe- Antuñano 2012; Tilbe 2017). For my MA thesis, I conducted the first systematic typological study that investigates the following questions: 1. How productively do languages use body-part terms to express parts of objects and landscapes? 2. Of the three dimensions (shape, spatial alignment, function) is one used more productively than the others? 3. How much variation do we find between languages with respect to 1) and 2)? The elicitation study consisted of 92 body-part metaphors and corresponding pictures. 13 speakers of the following languages participated in my study: Czech, Marathi, Persian, Greek, Vietnamese, Wolof, Mandarin Chinese, Khoekhoe, Hungarian, Japanese, Hebrew, Turkish, and Bahasa Indonesia. The cross-linguistic comparison shows that the languages Wolof, Mandarin Chinese, and Vietnamese use more body-part metaphors from the seed list compared to Japanese and Marathi. However, the occurrence of particular metaphors differs throughout the entire set of languages. The metaphors “leg of the chair/table” appear in all languages whereas “heart of the apple” is not expressed in any of the investigated languages.