Metaphoric structuring: understanding time through spatial metaphors

. Cognition 75 (1): 1--28 (April 2000)


The present paper evaluates the claim that abstract conceptual domains are structured through metaphorical mappings from domains grounded directly in experience. In particular, the paper asks whether the abstract domain of time gets its relational structure from the more concrete domain of space. Relational similarities between space and time are outlined along with several explanations of how these similarities may have arisen. Three experiments designed to distinguish between these explanations are described. The results indicate that (1) the domains of space and time do share conceptual structure, (2) spatial relational information is just as useful for thinking about time as temporal information, and (3) with frequent use, mappings between space and time come to be stored in the domain of time and so thinking about time does not necessarily require access to spatial schemas. These findings provide some of the first empirical evidence for Metaphoric Structuring. It appears that abstract domains such as time are indeed shaped by metaphorical mappings from more concrete and experiential domains such as space.


Linguistic relativism

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