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I'm currently studying Spanish which has made me think quite a lot about the structure of language and how we use words to convey ideas - in particular how we use metaphor...

Are Words Us?

 

 George Lakoff and Mark Johnson in their classic book, Metaphors We Live By argue that our words reveal that many concepts we use to understand and experience the world are  based on metaphors.

 

For example, we think of argument as physical conflict. We attack the opponent’s position and defend our own. We talk about shooting down our opponent’s argument and fear that if we have a weak argument it may be demolished.

 

Spatial metaphors are linked to notions of good and bad.  Up is good and down is bad.  Heaven is up and Hell is down. I’m feeling up (good) or I’m feeling down (bad). Upwards and onwards…down and out

 

Research has shown that people of all nationalities and cultures use space as a metaphor for time. People in the West think of the past as being down or behind us and future time as being up or ahead of us.The tendency seems to be increasing – for example instead of saying ‘in future’ it has become fashionable to say 'moving forward’.

 

 Research by Lynden Miles at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland has found that English speakers unconsciously sway their bodies forward when thinking about the future, and back when thinking about the past.

 

Conversely the Aymara Indians of the South American Andes think of the past as being ahead of them and the future behind and their body language matches their way of talking. The Aymara point in front of them when talking about the past and behind them when discussing the future.

 

Food for thought!