Metaphor has a double life. It can be described as a directional process in which a stable, familiar base domain provides inferential structure to a less clearly specified target. But metaphor is also described as a process of finding commonalities, an inherently symmetric process. In this second view, both concepts may be altered by the metaphorical comparison. Whereas most theories of metaphor capture one of these aspects, we offer a model based on structure-mapping that captures both sides of metaphor processing. (...) This predicts (a) an initial processing stage of symmetric alignment; and (b) a later directional phase in which inferences are projected to the target. To test these claims, we collected comprehensibility judgments for forward (e.g., “A rumor is a virus”) and reversed (“A virus is a rumor”) metaphors at early and late stages of processing, using a deadline procedure. We found an advantage for the forward direction late in processing, but no directional preference early in processing. Implications for metaphor theory are discussed. (shrink)
The study of word meanings promises important insights into the nature of the human mind by revealing what people find to be most cognitively significant in their experience. However, as we learn more about the semantics of various languages, we are faced with an interesting problem. Different languages seem to be telling us different stories about the mind. For example, important distinctions made in one language are not necessarily made in others. What are we to make of these cross-linguistic differences? (...) How do they arise? Are they created by purely linguistic processes operating over the course of language evolution? Or do they reflect fundamental differences in thought? In this sea of differences, are there any semantic universals? Which categories might be given by the genes, which by culture, and which by language? And what might the cross-linguistic similarities and differences contribute to our understanding of conceptual and linguistic development? The kinds of mapping principles, structures, and processes that link language and non-linguistic knowledge must accommodate not just one language but the rich diversity that has been uncovered. The integration of knowledge and methodologies necessary for real progress in answering these questions has happened only recently, as experimental approaches have been applied to the cross-linguistic study of word meaning. In Words and the Mind, Barbara Malt and Phillip Wolff present evidence from the leading researchers who are carrying out this empirical work on topics as diverse as spatial relations, events, emotion terms, motion events, objects, body-part terms, causation, color categories, and relational categories. By bringing them together, Malt and Wolff highlight some of the most exciting cross-linguistic and cross-cultural work on the language-thought interface, from a broad array of fields including linguistics, anthropology, cognitive and developmental psychology, and cognitive neuropsychology. Their results provide some answers to these questions and new perspectives on the issues surrounding them. (shrink)
Recent research investigating the language–thought interface in the spatial domain points to representations of the horizontal and vertical dimensions that closely resemble those posited by Jeffery et al. However, the findings suggest that such representations, rather than being tied to navigation, may instead reflect more general properties of the perception of space.