Kawai Chui explains:
“In Lakoff and Johnson’s (1980, 1999) theory of metaphor, “[c]onceptual metaphor is a natural part of human thought… [and] which metaphors we have and what they mean depend on the nature of our bodies, our interactions in the physical environment, and our social and cultural practices” (Lakoff and Johnson 1980: 247). Such embodied view of conceptual metaphors has been supported by a large amount of evidence from linguistic expressions in different [-p.438] languages. Despite the fact that metaphors in language are ubiquitous, Murphy (1996, 1997) and Glucksberg (2001) remain skeptical about the psychological reality of conceptual metaphors. They argued that using linguistic metaphors does not necessarily mean people do think metaphorically. Conventional metaphors in particular may have already been lexicalized without requiring the use of cross-domain cognitive mappings when people use them. Different sources of evidence were then proposed to refute the criticisms of circularity and lexicalization, among which evidence from psychological and neurobiological research was found to show that people do use sensorimotor experiences to understand metaphorical language and abstract concepts (Gibbs 2006, 2008). That linguistic metaphors shape thoughts can also be substantiated by Boroditsky’s (2000, 2001) priming experiments which found that since Mandarin speakers talk about time in terms of a vertical spatial orientation and English speakers do so in terms of a vertical spatial orientation and English speakers do so in terms of a horizontal spatial orientation, they also think differently about time. Not only did Mandarin speakers perform faster after vertical spatial primes than after horizontal spatial primes, but English speakers’ performance was similar to that of Mandarin subjects after English subjects had been trained to use vertical metaphors. To the English subjects, the novel vertical metaphors influenced their conventional thought. Nonetheless, whether this new way of thinking about time will become the subjects’ habitual conceptualization rests upon whether people repeatedly think about time vertically. In neuroscience, connections between the relevant sensorimotor areas of the brain and abstract conceptualization were also observed (Boroditsky 2000, 2001; Boroditsky and Ramscar 2002; Gallese and Lakoff 2005).
In gesture studies, “[e]xamination of real-time gestural production… is particularly useful in cases where the data are ethnographic rather than experimental; gesture is always there, and visibly present in the videotaped data” (Núñez and Sweetser 2006: 3). The specific manifestation of a metaphor in the use of the hands thus provides independent visible evidence of metaphorical thinking, and supports the embodied nature of this pervasive cognitive phenomenon in communication (Cienki 1998; Cienki and Muller 2008; Gibbs 2008).” (pp.437-438)
“Psycholinguistic studies of linguistic metaphors have already found that people’s bodily experiences in action affect their performance in the imagination and understanding of metaphorical actions (Gibbs 2006)….” (p.454)
Ref: Kawai Chui (2011) Conceptual metaphors in gesture Cognitive Linguistics 22(3), 437-458
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