‘Head’ as a Link of Embodiment in Chinese

in Embodiment in Cross-Linguistic Studies
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Abstract

This paper offers an analysis of the Chinese body-part terms for ‘head’ and its related parts ‘brain’ and “neck” from a conceptual and cognitive perspective. It examines their semantic and morphological functions through the metonymic and metaphorical extensions which display both universal and language-specific tendencies derived from human experiences characteristic of this particular part of the body. Discussions focus on the historical development of these terms and how they manifest themselves in the semantic and cognitive template that is framed by the sensorimotor in the contour of the body. Comparison is made to several languages in the surrounding regions to provide cross-linguistic perspective in this semantic domain. The grammaticalization path of these body part terms is explored, as are the cognitive bases of their conceptual mapping and patterns of cognitive transfer. The study aims to contribute to a better understanding of how potentially universal features and cultural factors interact with each other in language and cognition.

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