The notion of levels can be found in many everyday expressions, such as top-level destination, entry-level sales, low-level panic, high risk level, basic-level research, high level of care, level of meaning, level of knowledge, level of freedom, and level of importance. I argue that these are metaphorical expressions in which the respective abstract concepts can be understood in terms of the more palpable experience of the levels to which we are accustomed through the handling of liquids. By looking at the interaction between SCALE and ITERATION image schemas, this article examines an embodied interpretation of levels, layers and water columns in the context of containers to facilitate a better understanding of these experiences and their use as a source domain for conceptual metaphors in language, science and mathematics. The conceptual analysis in this paper is limited to English expressions.
The article explores the cognitive semantics thesis that lexical expressions function as points of access to vast repositories of schematic concepts arising from embodied experience. By comparing various forms of communication, I find that expressions in art, science, and technology display a pattern in which expressions prompting the sense of intensity, magnitude and force are often combined into products with expressions that prompt the sense of extent, multitude and displacement. This pattern seems to be largely absent from natural language. I argue that lexical items activate the same pattern, though in a less direct way.