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The Metaphor TIME AS SPACE across Languages

Radden, Günter (2023)
The Metaphor TIME AS SPACE across Languages.
In: Zeitschrift für Interkulturellen Fremdsprachenunterricht : ZIF, 2003, 8 (2/3)
doi: 10.26083/tuprints-00012432
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Item Type: Article
Type of entry: Secondary publication
Title: The Metaphor TIME AS SPACE across Languages
Language: English
Date: 2023
Place of Publication: Darmstadt
Year of primary publication: 2003
Publisher: Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Darmstadt
Journal or Publication Title: Zeitschrift für Interkulturellen Fremdsprachenunterricht : ZIF
Volume of the journal: 8
Issue Number: 2/3
DOI: 10.26083/tuprints-00012432
Corresponding Links:
Origin: Secondary publication from TUjournals

The impact of spatial orientation on human thought and, in particular, our understanding of time has often been noted.1 Lakoff (1993: 218) assumes that our metaphorical understanding of time in terms of space is biologically determined: “In our visual systems, we have detectors for motion and detectors for objects/locations. We do not have detectors for time (whatever that could mean). Thus, it makes good biological sense that time should be understood in terms of things and motion.” This explanation is not fully convincing because there is empirical evidence that humans directly perceive and “feel” the passage of time (see Evans, in print). Our direct experience of time is subjective and may, therefore, be strikingly different from objective time. Thus, a given duration of time is experienced as lasting longer or shorter depending on our state of awareness and the amount of information registered. For example, the duration of time in situations of heightened awareness and high information processing such as during times of suffering or danger is experienced as passing more slowly, while in situations of low information processing, such as during routine activities, time appears to pass more quickly. Evans convincingly argues that our experience of time results from internal, subjective responses to external sensory stimuli and that by imparting spatio-physical “image content” to a subjective response concept we are able to “objectify” our temporal experience. According to this view of time, our spatial understanding of time is not determined by biological needs, but by intersubjective, or communicative, needs. We need spatio-physical metaphors to speak about time in the same way that we need concrete metaphors to speak about other internal states such as emotions or thoughts. We may, however, consider a third reason why the metaphor TIME AS SPACE is so pervasive. In Metaphors We Live by, Lakoff and Johnson (1980: Ch. 21) draw attention to the power of metaphor to create new meaning. Our veridical experience of time is restricted to only a few of its aspects: simultaneity and duration, and the awareness of the present as the time experienced at each moment, the past as the time related to remembered events, and the future as time related to predicted events. In metaphorizing time as space, these notions are typically seen with respect to a one-dimensional line, the time axis. But the “cognitive topology” of space has more to offer than a straight, one-dimensional line. Space is, in the first place, three-dimensional. Secondly, orientation in three-dimensional, earth-based space requires three axes: a longitudinal axis, a vertical axis, and left-to-right axis. Thirdly, objects in space may come in any shape. Fourthly, reference to space may be absolute or relative, and relative space may be relative with respect to things in the world or the observing EGO. Fifthly, things in space may be stationary or in motion. Sixthly, space is populated with things in the widest sense, which may serve as figures or reference points and are associated with certain properties and typical behaviors. In conceptualizing time as space, we may take advantage of the conceptual richness inherent in the spatial domain as a whole and, in mapping its structural elements onto time, impart new meanings onto temporal notions. For example, we may think of time as moving up or down, which we do, or as staggering from left to right, which, under normal circumstances, we do not. It is to be expected that those aspects of space which best conform to our everyday experience in the spatial world are preferentially made use of and typically found across languages. But, in lexicalizing notions of time, different languages may also exploit the cognitive topology of space in different ways. This paper will be concerned with the ways different cultures and their languages conventionally make use of the pool of spatial meanings in conceptualizing and expressing notions of time. We will look at the following dimensions of space and their metaphorical mappings on time: dimensionality of time (Section 2), orientation of the time-line (Section 3), shape of the time-line (Section 4), position of times relative to the observer (Section 5), sequences of time units (Section 6), and time as motion (Section 7).

Status: Publisher's Version
URN: urn:nbn:de:tuda-tuprints-124324
Classification DDC: 400 Language > 400 Language, linguistics
Divisions: 02 Department of History and Social Science > Institut für Sprach- und Literaturwissenschaft > Sprachwissenschaft - Mehrsprachigkeit
Date Deposited: 24 May 2023 17:03
Last Modified: 24 May 2023 17:11
URI: https://tuprints.ulb.tu-darmstadt.de/id/eprint/12432
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