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Conceptual Metaphors of the Human Senses in English and Vietnamese

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Published: 9th Dec 2019

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Tagged: International Studies


To better comprehend metaphor, the necessary linguistic concepts are expanded upon in this chapter, namely cognitive linguistics, conceptual metaphors and concepts of human senses. This chapter subsequently summarizes the history of metaphor researches for a relevant and viable basement. In other words, this chapter covers the researches in English and Vietnamese related to metaphors. The concepts of metaphors from traditional views to more recent, cognitive perspectives are then presented, including concepts and definitions drawn from cognitive linguistics and conceptual metaphor frameworks such as source domain, target domain, mapping, and conceptualization. The chapter ends with discussion of concepts of human senses.

The review of the literature on metaphor according to Aristotelian perspective significantly affected later views on metaphor. Hallidayan perspectives on metaphors are presented and they can transfer into the cognitive view on metaphor. Along with the popular background for the related theory, this chapter also suggests a framework for remarked definitions in the cognitive perspectives on metaphor.


We begin with a historical overview of approaches to metaphorical language. One of the earliest writers on this topic is Aristotle, and the influence of Aristotelian perspectives is still clear today. We then examine a different perspective, that of grammatical metaphor espoused by Hallidayan linguists, among others, to investigate how metaphor develops in language as well as in literature. We go on to describe a certain number of problems with these two approaches to the study of metaphor and show how a cognitive approach based on conceptual metaphors may offer a useful alternative by cognitive linguists such as Kovecses (2002, 2005, 2006, 2010); Lakoff and Johnson (1980, 2003), etc. This cognitive perspective will form the basis of the theoretical framework adopted in the present study. We begin with Aristotelian views of metaphor, drawing substantively on the work of Kirby (1997), Garrett (2007) and Driscoll (2012) who have written extensively on metaphor, especially rhetorical and poetic theory from an Aristotelian perspective.

2.1.1. Aristotelian perspective on metaphor

Aristotle (384-322 BC) is credited with the first discussions of metaphor. Aristotle was among the first to interest himself in the differences between language used in a literal sense and language used figuratively. Poetics and Rhetoric are two major works which emphasise tragedy and persuasive speeches, although only fragments survive today. We will examine some conclusions drawn from analysis of arguments advanced about metaphor in these two collections drawing on Kirby (1997) and Driscoll (2012). According to Aristotle “metaphor, like foreign terms and unusual word forms, is a kind of “alien” term-used to achieve “impressiveness” (Kirby, 1997, p.534). For the reader, a good metaphor “depends upon being able to perceive likenesses – presumably likenesses in things that seem dissimilar, or at least likenesses that might not initially suggest themselves” (Kirby, 1997, p.536). Examples of metaphors proposed by Aristotle include transfer from genus to species, from species to genus, and from one species to another (Kirky, 1997, p.533) as shown in the table 2.1.

Table 2.1: Examples of Aristotelian metaphor

Here stands my ship. from genus to species Riding at anchor is a species of standing.
Indeed ten thousand noble things from species to genus “I,” for ten thousand, which is species of many, is here used


Odysseus did instead of the word “many”
Drawing off his life with the bronze” “Severing worth the tireless bronze from one species to another ‘drawing off’ is used for ‘severing’ and ‘severing’ for ‘drawing off’, both being species of ‘removing’

According to Aristotle, any word can be used with its everyday referential meaning, or as a metaphor. In other words, metaphorical use of language involves transformation. Metaphor, in this view, is rarely innocent, but often used with the intention of causing an impact on the listener (Kirby, 1997).

In what follows we outline the Aristotelian perspectives on the definition of metaphors, their functions, and conditions for creation and use. Then we will offer a brief evaluation of the contribution of this perspective to the study of conceptual metaphor in general.

Aristotle suggests that metaphor serves as an ornate and emotive instrument in linguistic expression, and furthermore can be considered as playing a subversive role. In the Poetics 22, Aristotle provides the following definition “Metaphor, like the “regular” word… and the ornamental term…, is especially suited to iambic verse, because the iambus… is metrically the closest to the prosodic patterns of ordinary speech, and expressions like metaphor are those best suited to ordinary speech,” (Kirby, 1997, p.534). His purpose is to explain how metaphor highlights an awareness of relations between the objects and concepts that make up our universe. Aristotle classified words into ordinary words and “strange” words, and he considered metaphors as strange words. According to Aristotle, a noun must always be either an ordinary word for the thing, or a strange word, which he defines as either a metaphor, an “ornamental” word, or a “coined” word, or a word which has been lengthened, shortened or otherwise changed in form (Kirby, 1997). We will examine each in turn. By an ordinary use of a word, Aristotle means the general, everyday meaning of the word. By a strange word, he means a use that is somehow unusual. Thus, the same word may obviously be at once strange and ordinary, though not in reference to the same people.

Later, with a new research method, after Aristotle, scholars researched metaphors from different perspectives, using different research methods with different definitions of metaphors. However, before 1980 when Lakoff and Johnson revolutionised our conception of metaphor in Metaphors we live by, Aristotle’s definitions of metaphor were still topical and reasonable. For Aristotle it was important to specify the nature of metaphors, which is a creative use of language, whereby an object is referred to using the name of a second object, with which it shares common features.

In conclusion, Aristotle focused on the artistic dimension of the creation of metaphors. The distance between the original object and the metaphorical comparison is bridged by identifying a feature which is common or similar in the two objects or ideas compared.

In the following section, we review another approach to the study of metaphor, the Hallidayan perspective.

2.1.2. Hallidayan perspective on metaphor

It can be said that M.A.K Halliday’s work has had a very strong influence on functional linguists. On metaphors, Halliday also has theory of grammatical metaphor which has attracted the attention of both functional linguists and cognitive linguists (Halliday, 1985; Halliday & Martin, 1993; Halliday & Matthiessen, 2004). According to Halliday (1985, 1994), metaphor is a verbal transference; a variation in the expression of meanings which involves a non-literal use of words.

In Halliday’s work “language is regarded as a semiotic system which comprises three different strata (discourse-semantics, lexicogrammar, and phonology) related to each other by means of subsequent realizations” (Sáenz, 2000, p.498). Further, “each realization involves making meaningful choices within the different systems which make up each stratum” (Sáenz, 2000, p.498). Within this general framework, “grammatical metaphor is a variation in the grammatical forms through which a semantic cholee is typically realized in the lexicogrammar” (Sáenz, 2000, p.498). The concept of grammatical metaphor depends on the idea that there are direct links from form to meaning to experience (Halliday 1985, p.xix). Halliday provides the following examples in table 2.2, as discussed in Taverniers (2006):

Table 2.2: Examples of Hallidayan metaphor

(1) a. Mary came upon a wonderful sight. b. A wonderful sight met Mary’s eyes. Mary saw something wonderful.
(2) Advances in technology are speeding up the writing of business programs. Technology is getting better.

For Halliday, “what (1) and (2), as examples of grammatical metaphor, share, is the fact that a process meaning is rendered in a nominal type of construction” (Taverniers, 2006, p.322).

Taverniers (2006) claims that “metaphor in general is intrinsically a ‘second- order’ phenomenon in language: a linguistic expression can only be labelled ‘metaphorical’ by virtue of there being a comparable non-metaphorical expression” (p.326). In other words “a metaphor can only be recognized as such precisely because of its contrast with non-metaphorical expressions” (Taverniers, 2006, p.326).

Halliday (1985) makes a distinction between two main types of grammatical metaphor: interpersonal metaphors (or metaphors of mood) and ideational metaphors (or metaphors of transitivity) (Sáenz, 2000, p.498).

Interpersonal metaphors are “propositions/proposals which combine to form patterns of exchange involving two or more interactants” (Halliday & Matthiessen, 2004, p.589). This type of metaphor is a starting point for Hallidayan analysis, and then alternative construals of this meaning are distinguished. Also according to Taverniers (2006), metaphors of mood are based on the use of certain types of moods (especially the interrogative mood) to convey a meaning which is not regarded as the default meaning. “The interpersonal function has to do with the clause as exchange and the textual function with the organisation of the message” (Sáenz, 2000, p.499).

Turning to ideational metaphors (Halliday & Matthiessen, 2004, p.589), ideational metaphors are “figures which combine to form sequences; and these in turn may combine to form episodic patterns, as in narratives and other chronologically organized texts or chronological passages within other kinds of text.” The ideational function is closely tied to the transitivity system, which enables us to construe the world through a limited set of process types (material, mental, relational, behavioural, verbal, and existential; Sáenz, 2000). In ideational metaphors, lexico-grammatical features constitute alternative ways of constructing a picture of reality. Such an approach, however, seems to assume an objectivist view of reality which clearly contradicts current findings in the cognitive sciences.

The foregoing section establishes the basic foundation for the analysis of conceptual metaphors which was later built on by Lakoff and other cognitive linguists. In the following section, we will now focus on this cognitive perspective.

2.1.3. Cognitive perspective on metaphor

Cognitive linguistics has recently gained a good deal of visibility in metaphor research. However, due to space limitations, we will choose only a certain number of key authors to review: Lakoff, Johnson, Turner, Sweetser, Gibb, Evans, Green, Kövecses and Ibarretxe-Antuñano.

In 1980, Lakoff and Johnson first published their seminal book Metaphors we live by (revised 2003) which has been applied to the study of many different languages. In this work, Lakoff and Johnson give a new perspective on metaphor. They take the position that metaphor is a part of language usage and is therefore part of cognition. Further, metaphor is not merely cognitive; it is also a linguistic, sociocultural, neural, and bodily phenomenon (Lakoff & Johnson 1980, 2003). This view is shared by other scholars (Gibb, 1998; Kövecses, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2010; Charteris Black, 2002; Picken, 2007). The difference with previous approaches is that, in the CL perspective, metaphor is defined as understanding one conceptual domain in terms of another. According to Lakoff and Johnson (2003), metaphor constitutes one of the basic strands of CL, and one which is mentioned in most CL studies in CL. It is different from previous approaches to metaphor in that it suggests that metaphor is defined on conceptual grounds. Metaphors are understood in association with a system of many other metaphors: together, they form what is called a conceptual metaphor (Lakoff & Johnson, 2003).

According to Gibbs (1998), cognitive linguistics has stressed the vital importance of conceptual metaphors as one of two fundamental types of cognitive models in which people comprehend abstract concepts. In fact, conceptual metaphors are considered as means of viewing one concept in terms of another concept, of finding coherence across unrelated events, and of providing conceptual schemata through which humans can understand the objective world (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980).

Conceptual metaphor has been investigated in a number of specific domains. In economics texts, Johnson (1987) argued in The Body in the Mind: The “bodily basis of meaning, imagination, and reason. In literature, Lakoff and Turner (1989) showed the relevance of the ordinary language metaphoric system for the interpretation of literature. Lakoff (1993) studied the applicability of conceptual metaphor to dream analysis in the psychological domain.

Ibarretxe-Antuñano (1999c) conducted her doctoral thesis with the study “Polysemy and metaphor in perception verbs: a cross-linguistic study”. She studied on polysemy from a cognitive semantic perspective of perception verbs in English, Basque and Spanish. She paid attention to its semantic field. She emphasized the reason and the way people experience and understand of the senses. This work shows the various their extensions of meaning. Besides, she focuses on the ways that contain the polysemy in them. Finally, she clears the locations of these perception verbs, which the elements it effects in complementing them in a sentence. However, this work only focuses on perception verbs in English, Basque and Spanish.

Conceptual metaphor has also been the focus of crosslinguistic study. Kövecses (2003) examined the same figurative meaning in English and Hungarian. Assuming that different word forms are utilized in different languages to express roughly equivalent meanings, the literal meaning of an expression with a figurative meaning may be either the same or different in the two languages. Kövecses highlights three cognitive devices: conceptual metaphor, conceptual metonymy, and a combination of the two. Each may be either the same or different in the two languages. Kövecses’ work clarifies the relation between metaphorical language and the all-important notion of culture in its many forms. He analyzes in some detail one of the best-known conceptual metaphors in the cognitive linguistic literature: LOVE IS A JOURNEY using the American English examples given by Lakoff and Johnson, and Hungarian counterparts. He shows that most of the American English examples translate into Hungarian in a straightforward way. In English, the LOVE IS A JOURNEY metaphor has agents involved in an internal way (mentally, conceptually) in making decisions. In Hungarian, conversely, the metaphor leans on agents who are, from the outside, forced to make decisions about their relationship. In general, Kovecses (2006) argues that “perhaps all this can be related to a more fatalistic attitude to life in the case of Hungarians, a further difference in culturally entrenched outlook on love relationships and it may be related to a distinction between a more success-oriented and a less success-oriented attitude to problematic situations in life.” (p.176). He also emphasizes distinction concerning “the naturalness with which the people in the relationship evaluate ‘from the outside,’ as it were, the progress they have made” (p.176). For this author, “the American explicitness concerning one’s success or difficulties in love relationships reflects a degree of extroversion that is not found in many other cultures, including Hungarian and British cultures” (Kovecses 2005, p.160). He concludes that “two languages or varieties may have the same conceptual metaphor but the linguistic expression of the conceptual metaphor may be influenced or shaped by differences in cultural-ideological traits and assumptions characterizing different cultures” (Kovecses 2006, p.177).

Other work on metaphor by applied linguistics has extended Kövecses’ crosslinguistic comparison to other languages (Boers, 2003a). Boers presents the importance of metaphor and metaphor awareness from the point of view of conceptual metaphor theory (CMT; Boers, 2003b). He shows “three types of cross- cultural variation in metaphor usage” (Boers, 2003a, p.232), they are “(a) differences with regard to the particular source-target mappings; (b) differences with regard to value-judgments; and (c) differences with regard to the degree of pervasiveness of metaphor.” (Boers, 2003a, p.232). He concludes, “The cross- cultural differences in metaphor usage that are explored in this special issue will eventually be eroded. Alternatively, one may argue that globalisation involves increased cross-cultural contact, and thus increased opportunities for cross-cultural communication.” (Boers, 2003a, p.236). This is, in fact, a general study on conceptual metaphors through cross-cultural differences.

In this present study, our goal is to analyse the bilingual corpus of English and Vietnamese conceptual metaphors of the human senses through the mapping model by using Lakoff and Johnson’s concepts (1980, revised 2003), and the theory of source-to-target mappings suggested by Kövecses (2010). It is also necessary to examine previous researches on cognitive linguistics and conceptual metaphors in Vietnamese.

2.1.4. Cognitive linguistics and conceptual metaphors researches in Vietnamese

There are some scholars of Vietnamese also share the general approach to defining metaphor in conceptualizing. Cơ (2007) examines metaphor from a cognitive linguistics perspective and states that metaphor is used to help understand abstract concepts, and that we normally understand metaphors based on non- metaphorical expressions. Others who have taken a CL approach to the study of metaphor include: as Tồn (2002) with “Studying on specific characteristics of culture and people of language and thought”; Thắng (2005) with “Cognitive Linguistics – From general theory to practical in Vietnamese”; Cơ (2007) with “Cognitive Metaphor”, “Treatise of Cognitive Metaphor” (2009), “Cognitive Linguistics Contrastive dictionary” (2011), etc. Recently, there have been some other researches focusing on cognitive linguistics and conceptual metaphor as follows:

Perhaps the study that is closest to our own centre of interest is the doctoral dissertation by Nguyễn Văn Trào (2009). He studied idioms related to seven basic emotional concepts in English and Vietnamese: ‘HAPPINESS, DISGUST, FEAR, ANGER, SADNESS, LOVE’ and ‘DESIRE’ as they appear in standard monolingual and bilingual dictionaries. He compared English and Vietnamese idioms in terms of formal structure and meaning in order to highlight patterns and regularities in the two languages. His study proposes lexicogrammatical frames for canonical forms, and shows patterns in variation across idioms. The idioms in his corpus correspond to a number of different construction types: nominal, prepositional, verbal, adjectival and sentential. With respect to semantic features, his study uses Lakoff and Johnson’s (1980) conceptual metaphor theory and metonymy. However, since Nguyễn Văn Trào’s (2009) corpus is drawn exclusively from dictionary sources, the range of variation in the idioms he examined is relatively narrow. It would be preferable to include idioms drawn from both written and oral sources in a richer cultural context in order to more closely reflect the way in which English and Vietnamese speakers refer to emotions. Moreover, this study only includes the idioms related to seven basic emotions, which is another restriction on the generalisability of its findings. However, his study all focuses on idioms of emotions.

Another doctoral study by Trịnh Thị Thanh Huệ (2011) examines the relation between cognitive metaphors and language, culture, and thought on the basis that a better understanding of the mechanism of metaphor creation will contribute to more general research on cognitive functioning. This study examines variation and universality in cognitive metaphors in Vietnamese and Chinese.

Another English-Vietnamese comparative study by Nguyễn Lưu Quỳnh Như (2013) looked at the EMOTION-IS-LIQUID metaphor Lakoff’s CMT (1980). This research shows that English and Vietnamese share the conceptual metaphor EMOTION IS LIQUID and identifies the 7 mappings, for example ‘The Physical State Of Liquid Is The Physical State Of Emotion’, ‘The Change of Physical State Of Liquid Is The Change of Physical State Of Emotion’, ‘The Consumer/Container Of The Liquid Is The Consumer/Container Of The Emotion’, ‘The Act To Take The Liquid Into The Body Is The Act To Take The Emotion Into The Bod’, etc. She used the notation conventions of Lakoff and Johnson (1980, 2003). The limitation of this investigation is of course the fact that other emotional metaphors were not included.

More recent work by Nguyễn Thị Quyết (2015) shows both many similarities and many differences in metaphors in modern lyric poems in both English and Vietnamese. Through her analysis and interpretation, the author shows variation in the conceptualization of metaphors in language which appear to be rooted in different beliefs, living conditions, and philosophies of life in the two cultures.

Similarly, Huỳnh Ngọc Mai Kha (2015) highlights different cultural characteristics in the same two languages in their mappings for the conceptual metaphors of ‘WATER’ and ‘FIRE’ in English and Vietnamese.

It is noteworthy that comparative studies on conceptual metaphor involving Vietnamese and another language are both relatively rare and relatively recent. This area has not been studied much by scholars of Vietnamese and our own cognitive study of metaphors of the human senses in English compared to Vietnamese represents a relatively new field of study.


We now turn from different theories for studying conceptual metaphors to the theoretical frameworks which inform the cognitive approach. This section covers cognitive linguistics, conceptual metaphor, mapping, source domain, target domain, and human senses.

2.2.1. Cognitive Linguistics

According to Evans and Green (2004), “cognitive linguistics is described as a ‘movement’ or an ‘enterprise’ because it is not a specific theory. Instead, it is an approach that has adopted a common set of guiding principles, assumptions and perspectives which have led to a diverse range of complementary, overlapping (and sometimes competing) theories” (p. 3). Nesset (2008) suggests that “cognitive linguistics is a family of broadly compatible theoretical approaches sharing the fundamental assumption that language is an integral part of cognition” (p. 9). The relationship between language and thought, of course, has been addressed by many scholars. Cognitive linguistics, however, strongly emphasizes specific features of this relation. Evans (2007) identified a number of central aspects, such as “the role of meaning, conceptual processes and embodied experience in the study of language and the mind and the way in which they intersect.” (p. 22). This point distinguishes cognitive linguistics different from other approaches to the study of language. According to Evans (2007) that “language is assumed to reflect certain fundamental properties and design features of the human mind.” (p.5). Geeraerts (1997) claimed that “the analysis of the conceptual and experiential basis of linguistic categories is of primary importance within cognitive linguistics,” (p.7). He places “all approaches in which natural language is studied as a mental phenomenon” (Geeraerts, 2006, p.3) under the umbrella of cognitive linguistic theory. To make clear what is contained in CL, Evans and Green (2006) claimed: CL is “the study of language in a way that is compatible with what is known about the human mind, treating language as reflecting and revealing the mind” (p.71).

According to Lakoff and Johnson (1999) there are two commitments of CL: The first one is the generalization commitment, which shows its interest in exploring general principles applied to all aspects of language use. The second commitment is the cognitive commitment, which represents a commitment to providing a summary of the general guidelines for language in agreement with what is known about the mind and brain from other areas of language use. This is what makes this branch of language studies cognitive and, therefore, interdisciplinary in nature. In fact, CL contributes to extending the limitation of conceptual phenomena generated by cognitive scientists. It could be the mappings in Conceptual Metaphor, Mental Space, and Conceptual Blending Theory which argue that language reveals the systematic processes working in the human mind, distinguishing itself by a focus on the human mind and the non-autonomy of language. CL and Halliday’s Funtional Grammar both emphasize this concept against Chomsky’s viewpoint that language is autonomous. In the next part, we focus on the main ideas of cognitive linguistics.

2.2.2. Main ideas in Cognitive Linguistics

According to Gibbs and Steen (1999), “the most fundamental tenet in this model is embodiment.” (p.29). In Barcelona’s work (1997), he defines “the design features of languages and our ability to learn and use them are accounted for by general cognitive abilities, kinaesthetic abilities, our visual and sensimotor skills and our human categorisation strategies, together with our cultural, contextual and functional parameters” (p.8). It is the result of what Lakoff (1993) calls “the cognitive commitment” (p.40). Gemma and Jiménez-López (2009) express that “mental and linguistic categories are not abstract, disembodied and human independent categories; we create them on the basis of our concrete experiences and under the constraints imposed by our bodies” (p.6). Johnson (1992) defines that ‘They are motivated and grounded more or less directly in experience, in our bodily, physical, social and cultural experiences, because after all, “we are beings of the flesh.” (p.347).

Cognitive linguistic is the linguistic meaning theory. According to Barcelona (1997) “all linguistic forms do not have inherent form in themselves, they act as clues activating the meanings that reside in our minds and brains. This activation of meaning is not necessarily entirely the same in every person, because meaning is based on individual experience as well as collective experience” (p.9). Moreover, according to Johnson (1987); Lakoff and Johnson (2003); and Kövecses (2005), one of the main tenets of the cognitive linguistics approach is human cognition. In Pathak’s (2013) work, he shows “human cognition is independent of language: linguistic expressions of cross-domain mappings are merely surface manifestations of deeper cognitive structures that have an important spatial or analogue component” (p.66). In short, CL mainly refers to mappings concerned with the most dramatic form called conceptual metaphor which we present in the next part.

2.2.3. Conceptual Metaphor Theory

As we see above, the cognitive approach to metaphor basically focuses on two points: first, metaphor is not a product merely associated with literary language but a product of human cognition, it is found everywhere in language and is a background which helps people understand what is named novel metaphorical expressions in distinction from conventional metaphors. Another focus of this approach is that, in conceptual metaphor, different domains in human mind interact with each other through the mapping mechanism. The following part presents the the concepts of conceptual metaphor and related definitions on it.

a. The definition of conceptual metaphor

The idea of conceptual metaphor (CM) is indebted to a seminar article by Lakoff and Johnson (1980, 2003) which states that metaphor, in nature, is a cognitive phenomenon, and what strikes us on the surface is called linguistic metaphor. Their idea is strikingly surprising to scholars as when it is elaborated, it shows the motivation of metaphor, and it also proves that metaphor is connected in a system, those can be considered two new points that the previous theories have not mentioned about. In Lakoff and Johnson’s study (2003), they initially realize that bodily experience is the grounding for metaphorical conceptualization, later, with the contribution of many other researchers in the field, they acknowledge that metaphor may arise from the physiology of itself as in the case of anger “Initially we had only guessed that conceptual metaphors were grounded in bodily experience. They realize the system of metaphors for anger arose, across languages and cultures, from the physiology of anger itself” (Lakoff & Johnson, 2003, p.250).

However, to make clear what CM is, let us go through another definitions. Several scholars, such as Littlemore and Low (2006), “They are not linguistic expressions, but rather relationships” (p.12), or “The main assumption underlying the conceptual metaphor approach is that metaphor is not primarily a phenomenon of language, but rather a phenomenon of thought” Tendahl (2009, p. 4). For Lakoff and Johnson (2003), conceptual metaphor is a “natural part of human thought.” (p.247). To make it clear of what shape it is, Kövecses (2010) described it as having two conceptual domains and between those two domains, one (the target) is understood in terms of another (the source). Although they are the two seemingly different ways, of giving definition, their ideas summit in the point that conceptual metaphor is distinguished from linguistic metaphor and we are indebted to them for multi-dimensional understanding of conceptual metaphor that we draw out from their definition. The source of conceptual metaphor, according to Lakoff and Johnson (2003, p.154-155), is “grounded in correlations within our experience. These experiential correlations may be of two types: experiential co-occurrence and experiential similarity.” The classical source and target domains in English such as LOVE IS A JOURNEY, LIFE IS A JOURNEY etc. were generated by Lakoff and Johnson (2003). They are manifested through many metaphorical expressions. From them, it is seen that the relationship between linguistic metaphors is created by conceptual ones. Let us look at the examples of linguistic metaphors revealing the conceptualization LOVE IS A JOURNEY from Lakoff and Johnson Metaphors we live by (cited in Kövecses, 2010, p.6) below:

Look how far we’ve comeWe’re at the crossroadsWe’ll just have to go our separate waysWe can’t turn back nowI don’t think this relationship is going anywhere

Where are we?

In short, it can be seen that CM is understood from its grounding, its structure and meaning as follows: It is the hidden statement or thought underlying one or several linguistic metaphors; it is structured through two domains, the target domain (what is being described) and the source domain (what is borrowed to describe); it expresses human thought and is manifested through the form A IS B. (Lakoff and Johnson, 2003).

b. Related definitions

Aiming to support to the study, we examine some related concepts like conceptual domain (CD), source domain (SD), target domain (TD), mappings, and conceptualization respectively.

– Conceptual domain

According to Kövecses (2010), “A CD is our conceptual representation, or knowledge, of any coherent segment of experience” (p.324). In other words, “A CD can be any coherent organization of human experience. The regularity with which different languages employ the same metaphors, which often appear to be perceptually based, has led to the hypothesis that the mapping between conceptual domains corresponds to neural mappings in the brain” (Polenova & Klikushina, 2014, p.250). Also according to Kövecses (2010), “This knowledge involves both the knowledge of basic elements that constitute a domain and knowledge that is rich in detail. This detailed rich knowledge about a domain is often made use of in metaphorical entailments”. (p.324). In the view of Lakoff and Johnson (1980), it refers to such a set of entailments the evidence of the coherence of a single metaphor. For example, the metaphor ‘AN ARGUMENT IS A JOURNEY’ from Lakoff and Johnson (1980/2003).

AN ARGUMENT IS A JOURNEY (We have set out to prove bats are birds)
A JOURNEY DEFINES A PATH (He strayed from the path)
Then, we have ‘AN ARGUMENT DEFINES A PATH’ (He strayed from the line of argument).

Later, Lakoff and Johnson expanded on it as a way to lay out the source-to- target mappings.

– Source domain

SD is focused much in the works of many linguists as Hatch & Brown (1995), Kövecses (1991, 2005, 2006, 2008), Kövecses & Szabo (1996), Lakoff (1993), Lascaratou (2007), Lee (2001), McGlone (2007). We intend to introduce the concepts from Lakoff and Johnson (1980) and Kövecses (2006). According to Lakoff and Johnson (1980), they show that a more concrete, well-delineated (described), or a more highly structured one is called SD which is typically not as abstract or complex as TD. According to Kövecses (2006), the SD is more familiar to the speakers than the TD. In addition, the source concept is accessible via direct experience, since, as said above, the source concept is really embodied: i.e., given in a direct body-based experience Kövecses (2006).

– Target domain

A relatively abstract, less well-delineated, less familiar, or inherently unstructured concept, called TD (Kövecses, 2006; Lakoff, 1993). They emphasize that the TD, a CD should be understood in terms of the SD structure based on a set of conceptual correspondences between their elements. Then, in the LIFE IS A JOURNEY conceptual metaphor, the ‘life’ conceptual domain is typically considered as not being more complex or abstract than the ‘journey’ conceptual domain (Lakoff & Johnson 1980/2003). The abstractconcept of LIFE, is mysterious. Much in our lives is beyond our control, despite our attempts. Our own direct experience of life often comprises a collection of events, which appear unpredictable and unrelated to each other.

– Mappings

According to Kövecses (2006, p.371), “conceptual metaphors are characterized by a set of conceptual correspondences between elements of the source and target domains. Such correspondences can also be found within a domain between two mental spaces. These correspondences are technically called mappings.” In other words, the systematic identification of the SD and TD is termed metaphorical mapping. A mapping is the systematic set of correspondences which exist between constituent elements of the SD and TD. For Charteris-Black (2004), mapping involves a set of relations of which a lot of attributes are activated, but not just one, and between these properties, there should exist the interrelationships, a certain property should not be mapped independently, but in relations with other attributes. The mapping links the two domains in the sense that aspects of the source are made to correspond with the target (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980; Lakoff & Turner, 1989; Lakoff, 1993). In the mapping LIFE IS A JOURNEY which is clarified in the table 2.3 below, there is a tight mapping according to which entities in the domain of LIFE (e.g., the people, their life goals, the obstacles) correspond systematically to entities in the source domain of a JOURNEY (e.g., the traveller, the destinations, the difficulties in life). According to Lakoff, (1993, “the systematicity indicates a fixed pattern of ontological correspondences across the two conceptual domains” (p.208). However, not every aspect of A JOURNEY or LIFE, but only select aspects of the domains, participates in metaphor (Kövecses, 2006). We can consider this metaphor with the following mapping (drawn from Kövecses, 2006, p.116):

Table 2.3: Mappings for the LIFE IS A JOURNEY metaphor (Kövecses, 2006)JOURNEY LIFE

journey/ motion (toward a destination)
obstacles (in the way of motion) distance covered
path/ way of the journey choices about the path

→ person leading a life
→ leading a life (with a purpose)

→ purpose of life
→ difficulties (in life)
→ progress made
→ the manner/ way of living → choices in life

Notably, it is the conceptual correspondence between the source and target domain “in a sense that constituent conceptual elements of B correspond to constituent elements of A” (Lakoff, 1986, p. 7). Understanding clearly about mapping can help us interpret metaphor, we can base on the mapping to reconstruct the source, the target, and what is activated in the mapping between them, in creating a metaphor, people try to code it under the mechanism of conceptualization, through the channel of mapping, therefore, in decoding it, one needs to realize the process and what is involved in that process to get the meaning, the thought behind that mapping. Kövecses (2006) also suggested metaphorical highlighting and hiding to indicate that only certain aspects of the TD participate in metaphor and metaphorical utilization, to indicate that only certain aspects of the SD participate in metaphor. Thank to domain mapping, conceptual metaphors can highlight this aspect; hide the other one that most polictians usually use.

In short, “a metaphorical mapping for which there is an independent and direct experiential basis and independent linguistic evidence” (Tendahl, 2009, p.124).

– Conceptualization

According to Evans (2007), conceptualization is a process, which is “the process of meaning construction to which language contributes. It does so by providing access to rich encyclopaedic knowledge and by prompting for complex processes of conceptual integration” (p.38). In other words, conceptualization is the process of which thought patterns operate in reflecting the world in human language associated with the flexible and dynamic nature of human thought. Consequently, it may embrace many linguistic metaphors as well as attributes of the SD and TD.

In short, in this part we introduce some related definitions on conceptual metaphor to support a background for the thesis. The theoretical basis presented above on CM is used to describe and analyze conceptual metaphors of the human senses in English and Vietnamese in the chapter 4. The concepts of the human senses are then presented to approach the exact objectives we concern in.

2.2.4. Concepts of the human senses

According to Sekuler and Blake (1994), the senses collect information and transfer to the brain and then the human perception perceives descriptions of objects and events. There are the five classical senses considered as channels providing information about the external world namely vision, hearing, touch, smell and taste. Classen (1993) defines them as “different modalities for conveying information about the physical world” (p4). However, they do that in different ways. Ibarretxe- Antuñano (1999c) expresses “culturally, human beings rely more on some senses than on others” (p.210). She also defines that vision is the most reliable of Western societies. However, the senses of the world are considered to be made from the senses of smell, hearing and touch in Western history, and other contemporary cultures.

In short, in this chapter, we focus on determining the theoretical fundamental bases expressed in the works of scholars. For the initial ideas of conceptualization and conceptual metaphors as well as related definitions, we use cognitive linguists’ viewpoints which are key basements for our study on conceptual metaphors of the five human senses in English and Vietnamese.


As presented above, this thesis draws on a framework of conceptual metaphor by Lakoff and Johnson (2003) and Kövecses (2010) to conduct a comparison between conceptual metaphors of the human senses in English and Vietnamese. This chapter presents the methodology of the study to create the corpus in English and Vietnamese and analyse this body of work.

The data selected for this study are real life examples of language written by the writers in a particular social context: different bestseller novels published in the English language in the US, and a set of novels in Vietnamese by authors recognized by the Vietnamese Writers’ Society. We have the list of works as follows:

In English, they are six novels including:

  •   1)  The Drop, Michael Connelly(2011)
  •   2)  The Broker, John Grisham (2005)
  •   3)  Live by night, Dennis Lehane (2012)
  •   4)  The Mark of Athena, Rick Riordan (2012)
  •   5)  Spinward Fringe Broadcast 0: Origins, Randolph Lalonde (2008)
  •   6)  Reversible Errors, Scott Turow (2003)

In Vietnamese, they are 15 novels including:

  •   1)  Gió bãi trăng ngàn, Bùi Quang Huy (2008)
  •   2)  Hoa Cúc nâu, Đặng Huy Hải Lâm (2010)
  •   3)  Săn Cá thần, Đặng Thiều Quang (2013)
  •   4)  Rừng khát, Nguyễn Hường Thanh (2009)
  •   5)  Cánh đồng bất tận, Nguyễn Ngọc Tư (2010)
  •   6)  Hương rượu cẩm, Nguyễn Tiến Hải (2005)
  •   7)  Chim én bay, Nguyễn Trí Huân (2011)
  •   8)  Con ve sầu, Nguyễn Tường Hùng (2005)
  •   9)  Truyện ngắn hay 2010, Nguyễn Văn Thọ (2010)
  • 10) Truyện ngắn hay 2002 – 2003, Hồ Thị Hải Âu, et al. (2003)
  • 11) Truyện ngắn hay chọn lọc 2003, Nguyễn Bản, et al. (2003)
  • 12) Truyện ngắn hay 2004, Nguyễn Thu Phương, et al. (2004)
  • 13) Truyện ngắn hay 2009, Trần Hà Anh, et al. (2009)
  • 14)Truyện ngắn đặc sắc 2011, Quang Trinh (2009)
  • 15)Truyện ngắn hay 2007, Sương Nguyệt Minh (2007)

We choose these novels for two main reasons. First, we have a great interest in literature, especially novels in the recent period. They bring in them life language which we can evidence people use daily, in that way we can find many particularly noteworthy conceptual metaphors. The original metaphors in literature correspond to certain unfamiliar experiences and arouse readers’ imagination and inference, both mental processes which are required for the interpretation of conventional metaphors. Therefore, we can discuss the creativity of metaphors in literature within the conceptual framework if we explore the image and concept embedded in original metaphors and combine the literary experience with real-life human experience via textual analysis. According to Kövecses (2010), “one of the startling discoveries of work on poetic language by cognitive linguists is the recognition that most poetic language is based on conventional, ordinary conceptual metaphors” (p.50). Second, these are the best novels by famous authors with a large English and Vietnamese readership, so they both reflect and influence current usage of the language.

Using this corpus, the study examines 1000 metaphorical expressions for each language. The similar number for both English and Vietnamese allows more convenient comparison.


We use the descriptive method for describing the corpus collected to set up a foundation for analysis in clarifying the role of a certain lexeme in the frequency found, the way to convey the meanings of conceptual metaphors of the human senses in one language. This method is also integrated with analytic and synthetic methods that help to consider conceptual metaphors of the human senses from the expressions covered, and to explain the mappings for the conceptual metaphors in each language. Because of a qualitative study, after conceptual metaphors of the human senses are explored, meanings are interpreted, mappings with the source and target domains are defined. The qualitative research is also used in dealing with metaphors extracted from 1000 metaphorical expressions of the human senses in each language, which vary in length but are selectively chosen. With this method, the number of metaphorical expressions of the human senses, the frequency of lexical items in the source and target domains defined are brought together, and in turn, support an exhaustive description and consensus comments given on the values of human senses in expressing conceptual metaphors.

As presented in the previous sections, a conceptual metaphor is created by a change in the conceptual system. The foundation of this change comes from the psychological association between the reference of a linguistic expression in its source context and the reference in the target context. According to Kövecses (2010, p.4), “in order to be able to suggest the existence of conceptual metaphors, we need to know which linguistic metaphors point to their existence”. Following the Pragglejaz Group (MIP), cited in Kövecses (2010, p.5) the procedure adopted is as follows:

1. Read the entire text-discourse to establish a general understanding of the meaning.
2. Determine the lexical units in the text-discourse:
3. (a) For each lexical unit in the text, establish its meaning in context, that is, how it applies to an entity, relation, or attribute in the situation evoked by the text (contextual meaning). Take into account what comes before and after the lexical unit.

(b) For each lexical unit, determine if it has a more basic contemporary meaning in other contexts than the one in the given context. For our purposes, basic meanings tend to be;

• More concrete (what they evoke is easier to imagine, see, hear, feel, smell, and taste)

• Related to bodily action
• More precise (as opposed to vague)
• Historically older.
Basic meanings are not necessarily the most frequent meanings of the lexical unit.
(c) If the lexical unit has a more basic current-contemporary meaning in

other contexts than the given context, decide whether the contextual meaning contrasts with the basic meaning but can be understood in comparison with it.
4. If yes, mark the lexical unit as metaphorical.

The procedure is useful for realizing a metaphor as well as providing the basement to define a metaphor in general. However, from cognitive perspective, in a particular case of conceptual metaphor, one needs to use knowledge from different perspectives in dealing with it. It is essential for us to combine the criteria as linguistic and cognitive together to bear in mind in pointing out and best understanding a metaphor in the view of CL. Because this thesis follows the concepts of Kövecses (2010), we decide to choose the procedure which Pragglejaz Group (2007) gives and is used by Kövecses (2010).

The procedure thus involves the following principles.

(1) Focus on the context by reading the whole text surrounding the linguistic expressions related to the senses;

(2) Determine which meanings are concrete and which are abstract;

(3) Decide whether the contextual meaning contrasts with the basic meaning but can be understood in comparison with it.

Because the study is mainly aiming at comparing and contrasting conceptual metaphors of the human senses in English and Vietnamese from a cognitive perspective , the contrastive method is considered as a principle method applied on this study in order to point out possible factors determining the similarities and differences between the conceptualizations through metaphorical expressions of the human senses in both languages after they are gathered and grouped into the conceptual metaphors. Since then, the respects of sharing the conceptual metaphors, employing them in contradictory ways, using metaphors which are related to one another, or which interact are pointed out to emphasize combination of the human senses in expressing conceptual metaphors.

Based on the presented concepts, after interpreting their meanings of metaphorical expressions of the human senses, the source and target are defined for setting up the mappings for conceptual metaphors in English and Vietnamese through a qualitative and quantities study. After building the mappings for the conceptual metaphors, then we explain them in each language. From that analysis, we give the implications for teaching, learning and translating English in the view of CL.

For the conventions, because of agreement with cognitive analysis, we use following conventions employed throughout the thesis: The investigated concepts of human senses are labeled in small capitals, e.g., VISION, HEARING, TOUCH, TASTE, and SMELL; conceptual metaphors of the human senses are written in normal capital letters and in double marks; e.g., “AN INTELLECTUAL ACTIVITY IS VISION”; examples for the investigation, we use the italics form for full conceptual metaphors of the human senses and bold metaphorical meanings of human senses and in double marks, e.g., “Irv met his eyes and there was a great shame there”; their explanations for meanings are inside single inverted commas: e.g., ‘shy emotion’.

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