Temporality and Metaphor

  • John A. Michon


Time has been discussed mostly in spatial terms. The use of expressions like »we left this period behind us« or »there is a difficult time ahead of us« may be no mere incident. It could well indicate the existence of »a thoroughly spatial metaphor, a complex cognitive system that space and time expressions have in common« as was suggested by H.H. Clark (1973; p. 62). Physics has also ›spatialized‹ time, as is pointed out in Park (1985, chapter 3 of the present volume). Conceptually time tends to be represented in common speech as a straight line, passing through the body of the speaker (the present) from behind (past) towards the front (future). It will be clear, however, that this conceptualization does in no way pay sufficient tribute to the richness of temporal expressions that most languages appear to have. More is needed. Psycholinguistically a considerable step forward was made by Miller & Johnson-Laird (1976) in their account of procedural semantics. They too favor a quasi-spatial linear representation of time, but in addition they attribute the complexity of temporal expressions, of ›time talk‹, to the conceptual difficulties people encounter when they try to project their thoughts and experiences on that linear representation of time.


Ratio Scale Scale Type Interval Scale Absolute Scale Nominal Scale 
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© Springer-Verlag Berlin · Heidelberg 1985

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  • John A. Michon

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