Metaphor and subjective experience

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The concepts (or “domains”) of motion and emotion are closely related in both language and experience. This is shown by the presence of many metaphorical expressions (e.g. ‘my heart dropped’) across languages denoting affective processes on the basis of expressions originally denoting physical motion. We address the question why this is the case, and distinguish between three kinds of theoretical proposals: (a) (embodied) conceptual universalism, (b) (strong) language/culture dependence and (c) consciousness-language interactionism. After an “eidetic” analysis of motion informed by phenomenology, and to a more limited extent - emotion(s), we describe an empirical study in which 115 motion-emotion metaphors in English, Swedish, Bulgarian and Thai were systematically analyzed and compared. The findings show considerable differences, especially between the Thai metaphors and those in three other languages, but also significant similarities. The results are interpreted as supporting a dialectical, interactionist relationship between language and consciousness, on the one hand, and between motion and emotion, on the other. Keywords: consciousness; cross-linguistic analysis; culture; ‘inner’ vs. ‘outer’ motion; phenomenology; ‘private language argument’; translocation; Husserl; Wittgenstein


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