Languages develops over time, but we have little knowledge about how. To decrease this deficit the first large-scale study that researching the evolution of words has been published that includes 5000 English metaphorical mapping records within the time-scope of the past 1100 years. The research-project is conducted by Lehigh University and the University of California, Berkeley. Barbara Malt, professor of psychology and director of the Cognitive Science Program at Lehigh University explains: “The idea that language moves from describing concrete phenomena to abstract ideas has been around for a few decades. But, nobody has taken that idea and looked at how word meanings have evolved over time – until now.” The results shows that from the beginning a word is something that describes something immediate about the world. It is physically experienced and emotionally neutral. Then the metaphoric abstraction increases over time, and according to the authors of the study, to large extent in a predictable way. Even though “cultural conditions and communicative needs” in many cases have shaped the metaphoric development. In this spirit, storytelling in different forms is not only a powerful force to shape people’s’ minds and actions. It also develops the language over time towards more abstraction. Source: Eurekalert
How a word becomes a metaphor, new research from Lehigh University
Bookmark the permalink.