Metaphorical Character of Moral Cognition: A Comparative and Decompositional Analysis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


This article studies the moral metaphor system focusing on a subsystem consisting of five pairs of MORAL and IMMORAL metaphors whose source concepts represent some contrastive categories in our visual experience: WHITE and BLACK, LIGHT and DARK, CLEAR and MURKY, CLEAN and DIRTY, PURE and IMPURE. The study examines whether these moral metaphors are manifested in Chinese and English, looking for linguistic evidence in both languages. It is found that the studied moral metaphors are applicable in both languages at varying degrees. This finding suggests that these metaphors may range from being widespread to being universal. The study then further analyzes them regarding whether they are primary or complex metaphors and whether they are equal in status, applying a decompositional approach to metaphor analysis. The result suggests that the moral metaphors under study are complex rather than primary metaphors, and that they are actually not equal in status, some depending on others in meaning making in our moral cognition. If the analysis is valid, the implications are: some conceptual metaphors are more fundamental than others, those that are more fundamental are more likely to be widespread or universal, and hypotheses can be made about conceptual metaphors based on in-depth analysis of their conceptual composition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)163-183
Number of pages21
JournalMetaphor and Symbol
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 3 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Communication
  • Linguistics and Language


Dive into the research topics of 'Metaphorical Character of Moral Cognition: A Comparative and Decompositional Analysis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this