Body and emotion: Body parts in Chinese expression of emotion

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This study presents a semantic analysis of how emotions and emotional experiences are described in Chinese. It focuses on conventionalized expressions in Chinese, namely compounds and idioms, which contain body-part terms. The body-part terms are divided into two classes: those denoting external body parts and those denoting internal body parts or organs. It is found that, with a few exceptions, the expressions involving external body parts are originally metonymic, describing emotions in terms of their externally observable bodily events and processes. However, once conventionalized, these expressions are also used metaphorically regardless of emotional symptoms or gestures. The expressions involving internal organs evoke imaginary bodily images that are primarily metaphorical. It is found that the metaphors, though imaginary in nature, are not really all arbitrary. They seem to have a bodily or psychological basis, although they are inevitably influenced by cultural models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)341-367
Number of pages27
JournalPragmatics and Cognition
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Science(all)
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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