Metaphors of Metaphors: Reflections on the Use of Conceptual Metaphor Theory in Premodern Chinese Texts

Abstract

In this essay, I challenge the use of Conceptual Metaphor Theory (CMT) in the premodern Chinese setting. The dominant, implicit assumption in the literature is that conclusions reached by CMT on the ways in which cognition operates can be applied in toto and without qualification onto the makers of classical Chinese texts. I want to challenge this assumption and argue that textual evidence from premodern Chinese points to a different cognitive process. Differences in the use and conceptualization of image-based thinking as well as differences in the understanding of the relationship between words, images, and the world reveal a different cognitive process. However, I do not wish to argue for a total abandonment of the insights of CMT. Rather, I call for the need to properly qualify its findings in light of premodern Chinese use and conceptions of image-based language.

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Correspondence to Stefano Gandolfo.

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Gandolfo, S. Metaphors of Metaphors: Reflections on the Use of Conceptual Metaphor Theory in Premodern Chinese Texts. Dao 18, 323–345 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11712-019-09669-0

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Keywords

  • Conceptual metaphor
  • Image-based language
  • Classical Chinese