Metaphor and metonymy in the conception of emotion in different cultures

Seminar Paper, 2004

12 Pages, Grade: 2+ (B)


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Metaphor and metonymy in emotions
2.1 Metaphor and its meaning in emotions
2.2 Metonymy and its meaning in emotions

3. Culture-specification of emotion concepts
3.1 Culture-limitation of emotion concepts
3.2 Universality of emotion concepts

4. Conclusion


1. Introduction

Every time we talk about our emotions, we use images, especially metaphors and metonymies. The phenomena of these two kinds of image seem to have always been essential for the human conceptualization of emotions, as Gábor Györi claims: “[…] emotions have always invited the human mind to metaphorise about them” (1998: 117). Thus, the quality of timelessness stresses the importance of this way of reference to emotions. It would be useful to find out if they are also universal regarding culture.

If emotions were conceptualized in the same images in cultures that completely differ from each other, there would be an evidence for the universality of metaphors and metonymies in the conceptualization of human emotions. The question of culture-specification includes, additionally to the question if the images in which basic emotions are referred to are universal, also the question whether something like basic emotions exists in general, and is discussed intensively.

Except of the meaning of metaphor and metonymy in general and in reference to human emotions, the question of culture-specification will be discussed in this paper. We will have a look at the opponents and supporters of the theory of universality of emotions and emotion images and find out whether they really exclude each other or if one can find a hypothesis that considers both points of view.

2. Metaphor and metonymy in emotions

Agnieszka Mikolajczuk writes that “[…] metaphor and metonymy are not stylistic vehicles which are used to build texts […]” (1998: 154). In contrast to the conscious use of metaphor and metonymy in literature and rhetoric, the process of referring to our emotions in images is a completely unconscious one. Friedrich Ungerer even tells us “[…] that metaphors and metonymies are used to structure our emotions categories” (1997: 317), that means that the way of conceptualizing emotions in images seems to be the natural way our mind perceives emotions.

George Lakoff assumes a link between these images and human physiology, what consequently means non-arbitrariness and therefore universality of emotion metaphors and metonymies in all languages (Mikolajczuk 1998: 158). The question of this universality will be observed after finding out the general meaning of metaphor and metonymy, also in emotions.

2.1 Metaphor and its meaning in emotions

Friedrich Ungerer and Hans-Jörg Schmid define the phenomenon of metaphor as “[…] based on the notions ‘similarity’ or ‘comparison’ between the literal and the figurative meaning of an expression” (2000: 115). They continue by calling metaphorizing “[…] a way of thinking about things” (2000: 118), illustrated by the example +TIME IS MONEY+, that shows very clearly how similar TIME and MONEY are conceptualized when recognizing that TIME is always referred to as something worthy that is only limited available and can be invested. While Ungerer/Schmid call this a “conceptual phenomenon” (2000: 118), René Dirven and Marjolijn Verspoor directly use the term “conceptual metaphor” (1998: 47) that distances it from the rhetorical metaphor.

Although the conceptual metaphor appears frequently in present day language, it is most of the time not recognized as figurative by the speaker (Györi 1998: 117). The reason for that is that the regular use over years through the history of a language integrates a specific metaphor into standard vocabulary. As Lucia Omondi claims, “[…] a metaphor such as ‘Time is money’ is as much part of the English language as the word boy” (1997: 88). Such metaphors are called conventional or lexicalized metaphors.

Thus, a metaphor is “[…] a multiple categorization on the entities in the world”, as Ungerer/Schmid refer to Lipka: “one word refers to several categories” (2000: 118). But between those categories a word refers to, that means between the literal and the figurative meaning, is no objective link (Dirven/Verspoor 34). The process of taking a word and giving it a completely new sense is well illustrated by the model of source and target domain.


Excerpt out of 12 pages


Metaphor and metonymy in the conception of emotion in different cultures
University of Cologne  (Institute for Anglistics)
Congitive Linguistics
2+ (B)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
446 KB
Metaphor, Congitive, Linguistics
Quote paper
Marion Schenkelberg (Author), 2004, Metaphor and metonymy in the conception of emotion in different cultures, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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