Scholarly article on topic 'Colours in Everyday Metaphoric Language of Persian Speakers'

Colours in Everyday Metaphoric Language of Persian Speakers Academic research paper on "Psychology"

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Metaphoric expressions / Conceptual Metaphor Theory / Metaphoric mapping / Containers

Abstract of research paper on Psychology, author of scientific article — Banafsheh Ghafel, Akbar Mirzaie

Abstract Metaphors are ubiquitous in language and integrated in different aspects of human life, involving thought, language and action (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980). Accordingly, metaphorical expressions have a key role in people's daily thinking and language use. Having interaction with things and people surrounding us, we have encyclopaedic knowledge embedded in our conceptual system (Kovecses, 2002). Metaphor and metonymy, two fundamental strategies of conceptualization, affect the way we perceive reality. In this respect, colour words strengthen language influence and have a significant role in convention of metaphorical and, particularly, metonymic expressions in our lives and everyday communications. Considering a cognitive approach and Conceptual Metaphor Theory (Lakoff & Johnson 1980, Lakoff 2006, Kovecses 2010) into account, this paper aims to investigate the underlying conceptual meaning involved in the construction of Persian colour-based metaphors of emotion and body parts on one hand; and to survey the interplay of linguistic expressions and cultural knowledge on the other. To do so, we collected Persian instances from some Persian dictionaries. The working hypothesis is that although THE BODY IS A CONTAINER conceptual metaphor exists in all languages, the metaphoric expressions that fill the conceptual metaphor may be understood culturally.

Academic research paper on topic "Colours in Everyday Metaphoric Language of Persian Speakers"

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Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 136 (2014) 133 - 143

LINELT 2013

Colours in Everyday Metaphoric Language of Persian Speakers

Banafsheh Ghafel a*, Akbar Mirzaie b

a English Lecturer, Amin Higher Education Institution ,Isfahan, Iran b English Lecturer Amin Higher Education Institution, Isfahan, Iran

Abstract

Metaphors are ubiquitous in language and integrated in different aspects of human life, involving thought, language and action (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980). Accordingly, metaphorical expressions have a key role in people's daily thinking and language use. Having interaction with things and people surrounding us, we have encyclopaedic knowledge embedded in our conceptual system (Kovecses, 2002). Metaphor and metonymy, two fundamental strategies of conceptualization, affect the way we perceive reality. In this respect, colour words strengthen language influence and have a significant role in convention of metaphorical and, particularly, metonymic expressions in our lives and everyday communications. Considering a cognitive approach and Conceptual Metaphor Theory ( Lakoff & Johnson 1980, Lakoff 2006, Kovecses 2010) into account, this paper aims to investigate the underlying conceptual meaning involved in the construction of Persian colour-based metaphors of emotion and body parts on one hand; and to survey the interplay of linguistic expressions and cultural knowledge on the other. To do so, we collected Persian instances from some Persian dictionaries. The working hypothesis is that although THE BODY IS A CONTAINER conceptual metaphor exists in all languages, the metaphoric expressions that fill the conceptual metaphor may be understood culturally.

© 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Selection and peer-review under responsibilityoftheOrganizingCommitteeof LINELT2013. Keywords: Metaphoric expressions, Conceptual Metaphor Theory, Metaphoric mapping, Containers

1. Introduction

Being a natural phenomenon, colour terms play a significant part in describing things, expressing words' meaning and rich in cultural attributions. Viewed metaphorically, they can convey their associative meanings (Wang, 2007). Colours are widely used as a set of metaphorical and metonymic expressions such as '^z ^s^banij^t b^nf sod'(he

Corresponding author: Banafsheh Ghafel, Tel: +098-913-235-0547 E-mail address: Banafshehghafel@yahoo.ca

1877-0428 © 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of the Organizing Committee of LINELT 2013. doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.05.303

turns purple because of anger; used for a person who is so angry), 'zsrd ksrdffin'(to turn yellow; used for a coward), 'sijah del' (black-heart; used for a bad and dishonest person), and 'cesm sefid' (white eye; used for an impudent person). In these examples, the colours have lost their surface meaning; in fact, they have to be understood non-literally.

Generally speaking, metaphoricity is an essential part of thought, language and culture (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980). Sometimes metaphorical thinking and understanding can not be avoided, and then the close relation between metaphor ,culture and thought would also fall into a trio.

Despite abundant research on metaphorical expressions, it seems that metaphorical expressions of colours (hereafter MECs) have been left unexplored in many languages, including Persian. The present study is thus an attempt to investigate the underlying conceptual mappings that MECs emerged from. Put differently, the current study is an attempt to identify the extent of interplay of linguistic expressions and cultural knowledge.

2. Some Notes on Metaphoricity of Language

The only way human beings can truly convey and express themselves and their conceptions are through metaphoric language (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980). In fact, it penetrates in all languages and without metaphoric traits languages are non-existent. Metaphor and metonymy, two basic mental strategies of conceptualization, have been expressed to be noticeable in daily linguistic usage (Goalty, 1977, p.1). All the time there is a cross-domain mapping between source and target domain in metaphoric and metonymic conceptualization. Metaphorical mappings prove to have a great deal of potential. Li (2007) stated that metaphors, as part of language, are closely associated with nation's history, culture and customs. That is, metaphorical expressions can serve as indicator of culture and good resources for investigating the cultural beliefs expressed in language in one hand; and show the mental ethnicity of language speakers on the other.

In this study, culture is defined as a set of shared assumptions, meanings and understandings that exist in a given speech community. Metaphorical expressions of colours, as a kind of common language, show some of these cultural assumptions.

3. Methodology and data

The present study is a qualitative endeavor in that data have been examined in the light of Lakoff and Johnson's Cognitive Model.

In order to collect a substantial body of data, the following Persian dictionaries were examined: Loghatnaamey-e-Dehkhoda; Amsal-o-Hekam-e-Dehkhoda (Dehkhoda, 1999); Farhang-e-Estelehat-e-Adabi (Hoseini, 2008); and Zarb-al-Masalhaay-e-Mashur-e-Farsi (Azarli, 1989).

During the first phase of the study, the MEC's in the aforementioned dictionaries and research studies were picked out manually. Native speakers' intuitions were sought in Persian to increase the validity of interpretations and the data was categorized based on emotions; and body parts both externally and internally.

Next, the data were examined in Lakoff and Johnson's Cognitive Model to highlight the points in Persian MECs. Each Persian metaphoric expression with its English phonetic transcription and its English literal translation were put in order.

3.2. Procedure: examining the data according to Lakoff and Johnson's Model

According to Lakoff and Johnson (1980), human conceptual system is metaphorically constructed. To wit, metaphors are cultural, conceptual tools. They are, therefore, a clue to the way we perceive the world and to the way we think. A metaphor is defined as cross-domain mapping between the source and the target domain. The tenet of Conceptual Metaphor Theory (Lakoff and Johnson, 1980) is that metaphors are experientially motivated (Gibbs, 2008) and a great number of metaphors are experientially grounded on metonymy (Radden, 2000). Conceptual metaphors and metonymies are also known as cognitive metaphors; they have two parts: a source domain (SD) and the target domain (TD). In both of them we can find a mapping process, either from SD TO TD or from TD to SD. The meaning of TD is understood via SD. TD is a linguistic proposition that speakers would like to address. In most cases, TD is an abstract idea. To make an abstract idea easily conceptualized, we need a concrete object. This

concrete object is SD, which functions to help us better understand TD. Metaphorical mapping is the similarity between TD and SD. The relation between is in form of TARGET DOMAIN IS SOURCE DOMAIN. To wit look at the ways Kovecses (See Ruiz (2007) interprets metaphorical and metonymical relationships as follow in the Figure 1 and 2:

Metaphorical Relationship

Figure1: The way Kovecses interprets metaphor (cited from Ruiz, 2007)

Metonymical Relationship Target Domain (TD)

Source Domain (SD)

Figure 2: Source-in-target metonymy (cited from Ruiz, 2007)

In fact, the only distinguishing criterion between metaphor and metonymy is that metonymic mappings are internal, while domain external mappings are proper to metaphor. Nevertheless, no significant relationship blossoms between SD and TD without underlying cultural assumption (Lakoff and Johnson, 1980). Table 1 tentatively shows how this model may be employed to explain MECs.

3.3. Analysis

Metaphorical expressions are the particular ways of thinking. In what follows, an attempt is made to tabulate the data and explain conceptual mappings of some of the most interesting MECs in Persian.

3.3.1. BODY IS A CONTAINER 3.3.1.1. Emotions

Emotion is one of the most central and pervasive aspects of human experience. In our daily speech, we frequently make use of colours in order to increase our expressiveness by invoking different emotions.

Considering emotion, Kovecses (1990) claims that the container metaphor is a significant concept in the field of feelings and emotions and it works in two ways (cf. Berger & Jakel, 2009). Conceptualizing of the emotions can be either as a FLUID IN THE CONTAINER, which the container in most cases supplied by human body, or just a CONTAINER itself. Figure 2 depicts the concept of BODY AS A CONTAINER clearly:

Figure 3: HUMAN BODY AS A CONTAINER (cited from Valenzuela and Soriano, 2006)

rang o ru zffird sod^n (to go yellow in complexion) Metaphoric Meaning: To be ill

Having yellowish-green colour of bile in mind, yellow assigns to choleric personality (cf.Phillip, 2006). The attributive connection between green, yellow and bile make a set of metonymic expressions in English and other languages like Persian in this study. Both of these colours correspond to the colour of bile, but selection between the two is a cultural preferences. Metaphoric expressions that are constructed around yellow have associative meanings to illness, stagnation and death in Persian. Consequently this metonymical connection gives rise to an expression such as 'rang o rut zard sode' (you go yellow in complexion; used for a person who is ill) in Persian. While most of these emotional manifestations are related to physiological state of vomiting, Persian prefers yellow as the colour of illness, because when people are seriously sick their skin takes on yellow/green ting. Table 1 shows the underlying conceptual mappings.

Table 1: The conceptual keys for ' rang o rujat zard sodan'

_Conceptual Keys_

THE BODY IS THE CONTAINER FOR ILLNESS_

CAUSE FOR EFFECTS_

THE PHYSIOLOGICAL EFFECT OF BECOMING YELLOW STANDS FOR ILLNESS_

INCREASE IN BILE PRESSURE STANDS FOR ILNESS_

BECOMING YELLOW IN FACE STANDS FOR ILNESS_

BECOMING ILL IS BEING YELLOW IN COMPLEXION_

ILLNESS IS YELLOW

zard kardan (to turn yellow') Metaphoric Meaning: To be cowardice

Considering emotions, certain light colours posses a negative cultural connotation. Yellow colour cannot signify a positive emotion in Persian, even though it is a light colour (Ghafel & Eslamirasekh, 2011). In 'cera zard kardi?' (Why did you turn yellow?), the metonymical connection of bile and liver is responsible for meaning of yellow, though the focus is different. The so-called fight or flight hormone is secreted from adrenal glands, with cowardice relating to the latter. In the case of cowardice/fear the fluid is bile. Given that the expression was coined at a time when the liver was believed to be the seat of courage (Allan, 2009), the conceptual key that underlies this Persian ME is THE BODY IS THE CONTAINER FOR EMOTION metaphor. Table 2 shows the conceptual mappings that this metaphoric expression emerged from:

Table 2: The conceptual keys for zard kardan (i.e., to turn yellow) _Conceptual Keys_

THE BODY IS THE CONTAINER FOR EMOTION_

THE BODY IS A CONTAINER FOR FRIGHT_

BECOMING YELLOW IN COMPLEXION STANDS FOR BEING COWRAD_

INCREASE IN BILE PRESSURE STANDS FOR FRIGHT_

FRIGHT IS BEING YELLOW IN COMPLEXION_

FEELING IS COLOR

FRIGHT IS YELLOW

ffiz ffisffibanij^t b^n^fs sod^n (to go purple because of anger) Metaphoric Meaning: to be angry

_Table 3: The conceptual keys for tez lesiebanijiet btentefs sodwn

_Conceptual Keys_

THE BODY IS A CONTAINER FOR EMOTION_

EMOTION IS A HOT FLUID IN THE CONTAINER_

THE FACE IS A CONTAINER FOR ANGER_

TURNING PURPLE IN COMPLEXION STANDS FOR ANGER_

COLOR FOR EMOTION(Ruiz, 2007)_

PURPLE FOR ANGER_

ffiz xejal^t sorx sod^n (to go red because of shame) MM: to be ashamed

Table 4: The conceptual keys for №z xejalwt sorx sodwn

_Conceptual Keys_

THE BODY IS A CONTAINER FOR EMOTIQN(Kovecses,2002)_

THE BODY IS A CONTAINER FOR SHAME_

EMOTION IS A HOT FLUID IN THE CONTAINER_

THE FACE IS A CONTAINER FOR SHAME_

TURNING RED IN COMPLEXION STANDS FOR SHAME_

COLOR FOR EMOTION_

RED FOR SHAME_

Mesle gffic sefid sod^n (to go white as like as plaster) Metaphoric Meaning: to be frightened

Table 5: The conceptual keys for mesle gac sefid sodwn

_Conceptual Keys_

THE BODY IS A CONTAINER FOR EMOTION_

THE FACE IS A CONTAINER FOR EMOTION_

EMOTION IS A FORCE IN THE CONTAINER_

CAUSE FOR EFFECT_

DECREASE IN BLOOD PRESSURE STANDS FOR FEAR_

TURNING WHITE IN COMPLEXION STANDS FOR FEAR

COLOR FOR EMOTION WHITE FOR FRIGHT

Ta bana gus sorx sodan (to go red behind his ears) Metaphoric Meaning: to be ashamed

Table 6: The conceptual keys for Ta bana gus sorx sodan

_Conceptual Keys

THE BODY IS A CONTAINER FOR EMOTION_

THE FACE IS A CONTAINER FOR EMOTION_

EMOTION IS A FORCE IN THE CONTAINER_

INCREASE IN BLOOD PRESSURE STANDS FOR SHAME TURNING RED IN COMPLEXION STANDS FOR SHAME

COLOR FOR EMOTION_

RED FOR SHAME

3.4. BODY PART AS A WHOLE PERSON 3.4.1. External Body Parts

ris sefid/ gis sefid (white bread (for male ones) / white hair (for female ones) MM: To be experienced man/ lady

Positive connotations and values can be linked to light and whiteness in Persian. According to Ferdowsi's1 great epic book, Shaahnameh2, in ancient Iran, especially in Persian mythology, white is the symbol of superiority, spirituality and virtue (Ghafel & Eslamirasekh, 2011). Additionally, knowledge ability of elderly people and their life experiences are referred to as white in Persian. Therefore, 'ris sefid' (i.e., white bread, used for experienced person) for male ones and 'gis sefid' (i.e., white hair, used for experienced person) for female ones use metaphorically in Persian. People get old, and their hair, beard and moustache turn to be white because of their age. An old person has experienced the ups and downs of life more than others and therefore is a good counsellor for the younger ones. In the Persian culture, such people are considered as wise and experienced. Therefore, younger ones, as being or having green hand(s), (green itself implies the unripe fruits) refer to them and consult them to find a solution for their problems. 'ris sefid' (for male ones) and 'gis sefid' (for female ones) is used for an old man or lady, metaphorically. It is a kind of metonymy because the colour of hair or bread stands for the whole person. The whiteness of the hair (as a part of the body) or bread is mapped for experienced person (as the whole person). The conceptual keys that underlie this MEC may be as follows:

_Table 7: The conceptual keys for ris sefid/ gis sefid_

_Conceptual Keys_

THE BODY PART STANDS FOR THE PERSON_

THE BREAD/HAIR STAND FOR THE PERSON

WHITE COLOR OF THE HAIR/BEARD STANDS FOR WHOLE PERSON

OLDNESS IS BECOMING WHITE IN HAIR AND BREAD_

OLDNESS STANDS FOR BEING WISE/KNOWLEDGEABLE_

BEING WHITE IN HAIR/BEARD STANDS FOR BEING WISE/KNOWLEDGEABLE WISEDOM IS WHITE

cesm sefid(white eye)

MM: a person who is impudent

Direct access to concepts is restricted because they are abstract phenomena. Hence to grasp the underlying representation, metaphoric expressions are considered and examined. Yet, their meanings already show diversity and evoke numerous conceptual domains. I this respect, the concept of the eye used frequently in metaphors and metonymies. Therefore "cesm sefid" (white eye) is used to conceptualize an impudent person in Persian. In this vein BODY PART is not explicitly evoked by any of the meanings; instead the conceptual aspect SEAT OF EMOTION is highlighted in the constructions because of the intrinsic abstractness of the concept.

_Table 8: The conceptual keys for cesm sefid_

_Conceptual Keys_

THE BODY PART STANDS FOR THE PERSON_

THE EYE STANDS FOR THE PERSON_

THE EYE IS SEAT OF EMOTION FOR PERSON_

THE EYE IS SEAT OF IMPUDENCE FOR PERSON_

EMOTION IS A BARRIER TO VISION_

IMPUDENT IS A BARRIER TO VISION_

ru sefid (white-faced)

MM: a successful person in an undertaking/ a person who everybody proud of him/her

Table 9: The conceptual keys for ru sefid

_Conceptual Keys_

THE BODY PART STANDS FOR THE PERSON_

THE FACE STAND FOR THE PERSON_

THE FACE IS A SEAT OF EMOTION_

FEELING IS COLOR(Apresjan,1997)_

SUCCSSES IS WHITE

ru sijah (black-faced)

MM: an ashamed person/failure

Table 10: The conceptual keys for ru sijäh

_Conceptual Keys

THE BODY PART STANDS FOR THE PERSON_

THE FACE STAND FOR THE PERSON_

THE FACE IS A SEAT OF EMOTION_

FEELING IS COLOR_

FAILURE IS BLACK

3.4.2. Internal Body Parts sffiq sijah (black-palated)

Metaphoric Meaning: someone whose imprecation caught others

In ancient Persian, black is the symbol of Ahriman (evil). It is bad and the symbol of wicked spirit. In addition, in the Holy Koran (cf. Ayatolahi, 1998) the heart and the face of bad people is black (Zoakhraf, 17; Naml, 58; Al omran, 106; Joseph, 27). Black is a cue for evil and mischief (Bahar, 1997, Ghafel & Eslamirasekh, 2011). The Holy Koran teaches that they who desire to dwell in the presence of God, to experience His blessing, are those who will live righteously and who will not badmouth. Imprecation is not accepted according to the Persian culture and their religious believes because this evil manner poisons the tongue (Ghafel & Eslamirasekh, 2011). Here the concept SEAT OF EMOTION is based on physiological relations between the body part and the verbal behaviour linked to specific personality traits.

Koveceses (2008) showed in his study that 'honey-tongued' is a metaphorical expression that emerged from MANNER IS TASTE. Consequently MANNER may be Colour and MANNER IS COLOR February can be another conceptual metaphor in Persian. In this vein the following table shows the mappings:

Table 11: The conceptual keys for saq sijah (black palatal)

_Conceptual Keys

THE BODY PART STANDS FOR PERSON_

THE MOUTH (PALATE) STANDS FOR PERSON_

THE MOUTH IS SEAT OF EMOTION FOR PERSON_

BLACK FORCE IN PALATE STANDS FOR EVIL SPEECH

MANNER IS COLOR_

EVIL-SAYING IS BLACK

sijah del (balck-hearted) MM: a bad and dishonest person

In this example, in order to communicate the intended abstract concepts a socio-cultural relation was established between conceptual aspects of body part terms, emotion and personality traits. To wit look at Table 12:

Conceptual Keys

THE BODY PART STANDS FOR PERSON

THE HEART STANDS FOR PERSON_

THE BODY PART IS A SEAT FOR MANNER_

THE HEART IS A SEAT FOR MANNER_

MANNER IS COLOR_

UNTRUTHFULNESS IS BLACK_

Table 12: The conceptual keys for sijah del

del sefid (white-hearted)

Metaphoric Meaning: a person who is completely good and honest

Most of emotional concepts are expressed via metaphoric expressions of body parts. The conventional realization of body parts as closely linked to emotions, mental states, and personality traits reflects the interplay of embodiment. This complex concept constitutes the starting point for the different linguistic metaphors and metonymies referring to psychological constitutions, mental states and related phenomena. Thus, attributes like "honesty" and "be morally good" are not ascribed to the person, but to a specific body part or organ. Table 13 features the conceptual keys of the example:

Table 13: The conceptual keys for del sefid

_Conceptual Keys

PART FOR WHOLE_

THE BODY PART STANDS FOR PERSON_

THE HEART STANDS FOR PERSON_

THE BODY PART IS A SEAT FOR MANNER_

THE HEART IS A SEAT FOR MANNER_

MANNER IS COLOR_

TRUTHFULNESS IS WHITE

4. Conclusion

Metaphors are everywhere and, as we can see, human body has a manifold approach in conceptualizing metaphorical expressions. However, the expression to one true event will be different because of different angels, detailed degrees and core of concepts as well as different cognition to the things. As our data indicate, the interaction between embodiment, cultural codes and linguistic pattern has a crucial role for linguistic manifestation. In this vein, some metaphorical expressions of colours besides their universality, reveals discrepancies in their applications which implies that they are also culturally oriented. Considering their mapping, many of them especially the more specific ones, reflect the socio-cultural context in which they are used. The analysis of data shows that the connections between cognitive and linguistic structure are bound to different factors influencing the processing and understanding of linguistic structure. Consequently, unfamiliarity with the ethnic mentality and cultural codes of the language users cause deviation in transmission of information and bring obstruction to intercultural communication.

Research on metaphors may help us to build up language-cultural model and reflect cultural discriminations based on the model identified. Since we think I metaphor and most of the time our language, which is a part of culture, is

metaphorical, cultural studies like the present one can shed light on the way of thinking and speaking of the speech community. Summing up, this let us to comprehend the cultural assumptions underlying linguistic realization. First and foremost, this endeavour revealed how analysis of metaphoric projection of colour, culturally, may hint at the ubiquity of metaphor in language. It is the tip of the iceberg, which is a good place for landing if we want to know more about the prevalence of metaphor in language.

References:

Notes:

1. Ferdowsi, the famous Iranian epic poet who composed Shaahnaameh.

2. Shaahnaameh, a famous Persian/Iranian epic.

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