The metaphoric representation of time: a cognitive linguistic perspective

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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It has long been observed that speakers systematically employ language from concrete and perceptually rich domains to talk about abstract concepts. One of the paradigm examples of this is the way in which the abstract domain TIME is metaphorically conceptualised in terms of the concrete domain SPACE in a wide range of languages throughout the world. In English, there are various types of spatial metaphors for time, including ‘deictic’ metaphors, which situate events in relation to the ego, ‘sequential’ metaphors, which position events in relation to one another, as part of a sequence and ‘extrinsic’ metaphors, which fix events in relation to the forward-moving flow of time. Of these, particular attention has been paid to two deictic space-time metaphors: the Moving Ego metaphor, which conceptualises the self as moving towards events in time, e.g. We’re approaching Christmas and the Moving Time metaphor, which conceptualises events in time moving relative to the self, e.g. Christmas is approaching. In addition to linguistic evidence, a body of research has provided evidence for the psychological reality of these two metaphors, demonstrating that thinking about spatial motion under various circumstances can prime different construals of time. While research investigating abstract thinking about time has been primarily focused on examining the effects of spatial priming on temporal reasoning, recent research has extended beyond this, providing preliminary evidence that personality differences, emotional experiences and the valence of an event (positive or negative) may also influence people’s perspectives on the movement of events in time. By building upon and extending these findings, the overall aim of this thesis is to shed light on the mechanisms at work during the interpretation of language in context, providing a more fully explanatory framework for the metaphoric representation of time. To do this, a series of studies were conducted to examine further the range of factors that may influence how people reason about events in time, focusing specifically on previously unexplored personality differences, lifestyle differences and behavioural differences (Studies 1 to 8). Next, the focus of the investigation turned to the interpretation and usage of metaphorical expressions about time in prescribed contexts (Studies 9 to 14). The findings of these studies are reported and discussed in terms of the theoretical, methodological and practical issues they raise for the language sciences.
Original languageEnglish
  • Dabrowska, Ewa, Supervisor
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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