Spatial Metaphors for Morality: A Perspective from Chinese

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


This study aims to contribute to the research on spatial metaphors for morality from the perspective of Chinese. It outlines the linguistic patterns in Chinese that manifest the putative underlying spatial subsystem of moral metaphors, which can be summarized by a central metaphor “MORALITY IS SPATIALITY.” In doing so, it focuses on 17 spatial words that instantiate in real-life discourses five pairs of moral–spatial metaphors in their positive and negative valence. The total of 10 metaphors under study forms a cluster as the spatial metaphor subsystem operating in conjunction and connection with other metaphor subsystems in our moral cognition. It is suggested that the 10 conceptual metaphors emerge from four image schemas: UP-DOWN, BALANCE, PATH, and OBJECT. A unified schematic configuration is proposed to lay out the spatial elements and relations represented by the four image schemas in a single diagram. Based on its linguistic analysis, the study also provides a list of prototypical target aspects of MORAL and IMMORAL onto which the source concepts of the 10 moral–spatial metaphors are mapped. The list reflects a division of labor, although with some overlaps, among the 10 metaphors under study. Finally, the study conducts a decompositional analysis of two moral–spatial metaphors as examples showing how deeper analyses of metaphors can be achieved.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)108-125
Number of pages18
JournalMetaphor and Symbol
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Communication
  • Linguistics and Language


Dive into the research topics of 'Spatial Metaphors for Morality: A Perspective from Chinese'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this