"Bodily Action and Metaphorical Meaning"

by Raymond W. Gibbs, Jr., and Nicole L. Wilson

included in

"Cognitive Approaches to Figurative Language"

a special issue of Style 36:3 (2002)


Our purpose in this article is to explore the role that bodily action has in motivating different aspects of metaphorical meaning. We present findings from different linguistic and psychological studies showing that people's intuitive sense of pervasive bodily actions constrains their understanding of many types of metaphorical language. More specifically, the precise metaphorical meanings associated with many conventionalized utterances can be explained by an examination of the ways people move and experience their bodies. This diverse set of research findings illustrates the linkages between phenomenological experience, concrete and abstract concepts, and both conventional and poetic uses of language. [R.W.G. & N.L.W.]