The Deaths of One Conceptual Metaphor in Two Languages

In: Frontiers of Philosophy in China

This title refers to what I see as the state of synonymy between the word “husbandry” in English and the word se 嗇 in Chinese. There are points of striking similarity, not only in the meaning and usage of these two words, but also in the changes in their usage over time, and I have found a comparative study of the etymology of these two words to be mutually illuminating. The similarity and potential for mutual analysis between these two case studies speaks to the universality of metaphor in thought and its expression, as well as the influence of shared experiences, such as agricultural practices, on how we talk about ideas that are more abstract. In English, the idea of a general practice of husbandry derived from the idea of the husbandman or farmer in Late Medieval English (C13th onwards). A more abstracted sense of husbandry, understood as an attitude that may be applied to abstract and intangible objects is witnessed in Shakespeare’s sonnets in the C16th. This sense of husbandry, the husbandry of intangible resources, is also precisely the sense that is developed by a small and specialised group of writers in China represented by texts dating from the pre-Qin period to the Eastern Jin dynasty, following a similar progression from agricultural to ever more metaphorical senses of the practice of husbandry. The similarity of the process through which these abstracted meanings developed from concrete usage in both cases makes the pair mutually illustrative as I hope to show in this paper.

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 27 27 7
Full Text Views 4 4 2
PDF Downloads 8 8 4