A Contrastive Study on Human Body Words Between English and Chinese

As mankind life is based on material, human being gained experience from their practice. Our body experience in and with the world sets out the contours of what is meaningful to us and determinates the ways of our understanding. In short, experience assigns a central role to bodily experience in meaning, understanding, and reasoning and metaphor is based on human body experience.

1. 1 The Definition of Human Body Words Human body words usually refer to words that indicate some parts of a human body. Human body plays an important part not only in our life but also in the process of cognition.According to Colins Cobuild English Language Dictionary, human body is defined as “all their physical parts, including their head, limbs, flesh, and organs. ” In anthropology, human body can be categorized into four parts and they are respectively head, neck, truck, and limb.

We Will Write a Custom Case Study Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!

order now

Both in Chinese and English, human body words contain a great number of metaphorical phenomena. 1. 2 The Theoretical Framework of This Thesis The research of cognitive linguistics has revealed that metaphor was a common language phenomenon no matter in English or Chinese. Both English and Chinese are languages with many metaphorical words and expressions.Metaphor is contained not only in thinking but also in behavior. Lakoff (1980) thought that the basic function of metaphor was to provide the possibility so that people can understand an experience through another experience.

(Lakoff, 1980 21)cross-domain metaphor is the cognitive center of human being’s activities such as generation, transferring and treatment for the meanings. Human beings’ cognitive process can be explained as follows that human beings often use their familiar concept to understand another concept in their fields. This is a process of mapping which uses a concept to map another concept so that a new field is built.Lakoff (1987) gave a definition of experientialism or experimental realism, which is different from objectivism in the definition of meaning. “……experiential realism characterizes meaning in terms of embodiment, that is, in terms of our collective biological capacities and our physical and social experiences as being functioning in our environment”(Lakoff 1987a, 266-267) Meaning is based upon experience, especially bodily experience.

Human body plays a critical role in the interaction between the experiencing organism and the experienced environment. Metaphor is motivated and rooted in our bodily experience.It has been widely thought that body part terms are used to describe or characterize object parts and locative relations across languages. Besides, body parts are also found to denote temporal and logical relations. 1. 3 Literature Review As metaphor is quite important to human language and cognition, the analysis of metaphor has attracted the attention of scholars and experts interested for more than two thousand years.

A great number of studies have been made on adopting the cognitive approach to metaphor. Detail analysis is made on the basis of current cognitive linguistics.These researches promote the development of contemporary linguistics and help scholars know more about metaphor. For example, Lakoff (1992) introduced the conceptual metaphor, nature of metaphor and the mechanism of metaphor. Earl R. Mac Cormac (1990) put forward an unified cognitive theory of metaphor.

F. Ungerer and H J. Schmid (2001) made an detail introduction on cognitive linguistics including rhetoric, category and prototype. Lakoff, George, &Mark Johnson, (1980) introduced the concept of metaphor and orientational metaphor. In China, scholars made a great number of researches on human body words.Zhao Yanfang (2000) gave a detail introduction on the theories of cognitive linguistics.

Hu Chun (2004) made an analysis on human body words from three aspects: the position of human body words in daily life, domain of human body words and the meaning stracture. Wen Xu (2007) used English materials to research the metaphor, especially the human body words. Sun Yulan (2009) made researches on the metaphorical meaning of human body word “eye”. In this dissertation, I will make the contrast from three perspectives; they are respectively the cultural aspect, grammatical aspect and meaning aspect.In the first part, mapping theory will be employed to express the similarities and differences between English and Chinese human body words from three angles: cognitive deviation, cognitive equivalence and cognitive absence.

In the second part, detail analysis will be made on the basis of the process of grammaticalisation. In the last part, similarities and differences will be found from the perspective of culture. In all, based on the above discussion, this dissertation tries to make some new contributions in the following aspects: the structure of human body words, thinking ways and cultural differences. . Contrastive Studies on Human Body Words between English and Chinese In this section, I will contrast the Chinese and English human body words from three perspectives: metaphorical meaning aspect, grammaticalisation process aspect, and cultural aspect.

As there are so many human body words and I can not list them all, I just base my dissertation on part of these words. I just choose some of these words and phrases as examples so as to find the differences and similarities of human body words between English and Chinese. 2. Contrastive Study from Perspective of Metaphorical Meaning In this part I will introduce similarities and differences from the perspective of metaphorical meaning. I will discuss the metaphorical meaning from the following aspects.

They are respectively cognitive equivalence, cognitive deviation, and cognitive absence. 2. 1. 1 Cognitive Equivalence Cognitive linguistics thought that language was resulted from the interaction between the world and cognition and it was also the premise of cognition. Language is a kind of symbol system in accordance with conceptual structure.The differences and similarities between nations are not only revealed in the languages but also in psychology.

Metaphor is both a kind of figure of speech and an approach to understand human language world. This is quite similar to poem writing, because they both use one object to denote another object in English and Chinese such as at the head of ??? ,??? ,?? ,????? ;cost someone’s head ?? ,?? ;from the bottom of one’s heart ??? ,??? ,????? ; to break one’s heart ?????? ; walls has ears ????? From above examples, the English human body word “heart” and the Chinese human body word “? ” share the same meaning.Both English and Chinese use the metaphorical meaning of human body. In addition to the above, another conclusion can be made that both the two languages tend to choose the same metaphor object to explain the world. This can be judged from the example “walls has ears”. Both the two languages choose the same human body word “ear” to denote the same metaphorical meaning.

In this part, both the English and Chinese share the equivalent meaning. 2. 1. 2 Cognitive Deviation Cognitive deviation means that both English and Chinese have the same metaphorical meaning but different words are employed.That is to say that they share the same meaning but have different metaphor objects.

According to cognitive linguistics, language resulted from the summary of experience in objective world, but the human experience originated from the nature and interaction among people. Language expression also reflected the difference of social culture including metaphor. In both English and Chinese, there are many metaphors sharing the same meaning but having different metaphor objects. Take some body part words and expressions for example. Pull one’s leg ????? ;a good liver ????? ;? the Apple of one’s eye ???? ; a heart of oak????? ,???????Generally speaking, metaphor often uses proper simile and makes people imagine, however, national environment and living experience determinate the imagination.

Every nation often borrowed their familiar objects and substances around them to denote the metaphor phenomenon. In the example “pull one’s leg”, the difference is quite different. In English, they choose the phrase “pull one’s leg” to denote the meaning of playing jokes on someone. However, in Chinese, we mean hinder someone to do something. In the example of “the apple of one’s eye”, the human body word “eye” is chosen to express the meaning of Chinese human body word “? .

Those above examples give a brief introduction about cognitive deviation. 2. 13 Cognitive Absence Sometimes, the contradiction between different cultures is irreconcilable. In this situation, different culture background may affect the understanding of metaphor. While having no cognitive equivalence and cognitive deviation in English and Chinese, cognitive absence comes into being.

Take some Chinese words and expressions for example: ???? ,???? ,???? ,???? ,????. The English language has no such similar metaphor or imagination. The same occasion also happened in English.Crocodile’s tear is a good example. People who do not understand a nation’s culture will find it difficult to understand.

These will certainly bring cognitive absence. According to the above contrast between English and Chinese human body metaphor, a brief theoretical framework is listed below: ? Cognitive Equivalence ? Source Language>Cognition>Cognitive Deviation >Target Language ? Cognitive Absence ? While we talk about metaphor, we should not only regard it as a kind of figure of speech but also a kind of mode of thinking and an approach to reflect the objective world.Metaphor originated from metaphorical mode of thinking and it revealed the way that human brain knows the world. As human beings have the same physical mechanism, people have some common characteristics in cognitive structure so the words and expressions in both English and Chinese have some common characteristics. Besides, the same physical mechanism of human beings will lead to some same cultural traditions. This is also an element that caused some similarities between English and Chinese metaphor.

But the difference of every nation’s existing environment also affected the cognitive approach and it is also the basic reason that caused the difference between English and Chinese metaphors. Language is closely related to a nation’s culture. As a cognitive approach, metaphors have distinct national characteristic and cultural connotation. Every aspect of social and cultural life will be reflected in metaphors. So language learners should learn language from the aspect of cognition.

According different cognitive results, the information can be transferred successfully so that intercultural activity will be complicated.All in all, the metaphors between English and Chinese share some similarities but they are also differentiated. From above contrast in three aspects, a brief conclusion can be made that English and Chinese are not totally the same in choosing the metaphor object to denote another object. 2. 2 Contrastive Study from Perspective of Grammaticalisation As grammaticalisation has become an important part in the analysis of cognition, it is also an important subject in contemporary linguistics. Some linguists pay great attention to the research to grammatical analysis of metaphor.

Cognitive linguistics thought that language and cognition are closely related and cognition is the basis of language. Cognition is human beings’ experience for the world. Lakoff &Johnson(1980) thought that human beings in the beginning knew the world from themselves’ movement and the change of their living environment. (Lakoff, 1980 31)They connect the external world and internal world by cognition. In the process of cognition, metonomy and metaphor play very important roles, because they are two main approaches.

2. 21 A General Grammaticalisation Research Statement of Human Body Part Words andExpressions Human body part words denote the words of the part of human body such as mouth(? ), head(? )and foot(? ). Lakoff used metaphor to explain human beings’ cognitive process for the external world and he also thought that metaphor lives everywhere. In the cognitive domain listed by Lakoff, spatial relation is the fundamental element. In the process of cognition, human beings often project human body part into spatial domain. Both in English and Chinese, we can find many metaphorical examples of human body part.

Grammaticalisation is a hot issue in linguistics which attracted many eyeballs.Some linguists thought that grammaticalisation contained two meanings: the first one is how grammatical form and structure appeared and how they were used and affected the formation of language; the second is study how words become grammaticalised as time went on. This dissertation will borrow previous research and take the Chinese word “? ” and the English word “head” for instance to make a detail analysis on grammaticalisation. 2. 22 A Contrastive Analysis of Grammaticalisation Process on The English Word “head” and Chinese Word “? ” 2.

221 the original meaning of “head” and “? “According to Longman Contemporary English Dictionary, 2002, the English word “head” means the top part of your body which has your eyes, mouth, brain etc in it. The Oxford Dictionary 2004 also gave an explanation to the English word “head” that the part of your body on top of the neck containing the eyes, nose, mouth and brain. So, the English word “head” has such components as mouth, nose, eyes, brain, and so on. According to the Chinese dictionary, the word “? ” has such an explanation: ????????????????????????? (?????? ,2006)Obviously,the English word “head” and the Chinese word “? ” have the same original meaning.According to the views of linguistics, the formation and expand of word meaning are closely related to human beings’ cognition, culture and living experience.

Though human beings share the same cognitive mechanism, they have different languages, culture, and environment. The same word has the same original meaning under most circumstances; meanwhile, they may share both the same and different expand meaning. 2. 222 Expand Usage of “Head” and “? ” According to the views of Lakoff &Johnson, human beings centralize themselves in the process of conceptual system construction and project their bodily spatial domain into other domains.Previous research shows that both the English and Chinese use body part to project at other objects.

This is the same spatial meaning of “head” and “? “, denoting the top part of an object. For example, (1)a. ?? ?? b. the head of a nail the head of a flower Head is an important part of any animal. No man or animal can live without head.

So, in both English and Chinese use “head/? ” to describe the leader or the top one. (2)a. ????????? (?????? P1374) b. the head of the organization Head in Chinese can used to denote quantity. Though head is the most important and attractive part, in terms of the proportion, it takes a relative small place.

So in Chinese, head can also be used to denote a small quantity. For example: (3)?????????? (4)??????????? In English, the word “head” has no such a usage. But both English and Chinese can use the word “head/? ” with numeral. Information can be got from the below examples. (5)a ???????????? b. there are tens thousands of sheep on the farm.

The English word “head” can represent abstract thinking ability. The Chinese word also has such a function. (6)a. ?????????? b. I wish you had used your head. The English body word “head” and the Chinese body word “? ” both have the same expand usage and different expand usages.

Some Chinese different expand meaning will be listed below. (7)???????? (8)?????????? In addition to the above examples, Chinese often use the word “? ” to denote class categories such as quality and value. “??? “? “??? ” are good examples. 3. 2.

3 Contrastive Analysis of Grammaticalisation Process In both English and Chinese, nearly all the human body words can be found a metaphorical usage and these metaphors are often spatial metaphors denoting spatial relations. Now, I will take the Chinese word “? ” and the English word “head” as examples so as to make detail analysis of grammaticalisation process.The grammaticalisation of English body words often uses preposition and adverb to express spatial relationship such as “at the head of”, “by the side of”, “at the back of”. However, these expressions can be expressed by these words “ahead”, “beside”, and “back”. The process is called grammaticalisation. The grammaticalisation process of the English word “head” can be explained by the below examples: (9)the head of a bed (10)the head of a stick (11)ahead of time, go ahead From the examples (9) and (10), we can know that in English, the word “head” was firstly used to denote an object domain, then expanded to abstract domain.

As the nouns which were combined with “head” became abstraction, the original meaning of “head” also became weakened. The meaning will also abstract and then it will be transferred to a single word such as “ahead” which is transferred to “on top of”, “top” or “on”. The word “ahead” was often used with the preposition “of”, however, it is still not separated from possessive form. This means that the word “ahead” is experiencing the process of grammaticalisation. In Chinese, noun of locality to represent spatial relationship and the basic structure is like this: noun+ human body word such as “?? “, “?? “, “?? “, and so on.

In Chinese, the word “? ” has a higher using frequency than the English word “head” in denoting spatial metaphor. As the word “? ” is easy to become a compound word in Chinese, it was firstly transferred from entity noun to place noun then to locality noun. In this process, the usage of the word “? ” has become abstract and weakened such as (12) ?? ?? (13) ?? ??? (14) ?? ?? (15) ?? ?? From the Example (12) to (15), the original usage has weakened and the function of locality words has strengthened. We can know from the above analysis that the Chinese word “? ” has complicated the process of grammaticalisation. 2. 2.

Contrast of Characteristics and Mechanism about English and Chinese Human Body Part Grammaticalisation As is mentioned above, most human body words in both English and Chinese can be used to express spatial meaning, however, just only a few words take part in the process of grammaticalisation. This fact shows that grammaticalisation is shared by all languages instead of a single language and grammaticalisation is also a common phenomenon. The grammaticalisation process of different languages has many similarities. The above analysis showed that English and Chinese have many similarities in the process of grammaticalisation.First, the two languages in the grammaticalisation of human body part words share the same steps. In the beginning, human body part noun describe part of body; then, the word is used to describe the same part of an object; thirdly, the noun became a locality noun and was used to describe a neighboring space or the space covered by the part; in the end, the word can be used to used to describe a spatial relationship.

In this part, the semantics has expanded. Second, the words that have taken part in the process of grammaticalisation are often transferred from concrete and specific meaning to abstract.Sometimes, the pronunciation also changed so that more contexts can be applied. Third, the process of grammaticalisation has close relationship with human beings’ most fundamental experience, because, in a language with more than ten thousand words, there are just few words taking part in the process and these words are all related to spatial location. From the above analysis, the conclusion can be made that metaphor plays an important role in the process of grammaticalisation in both English and Chinese.

Nearly all the human body nouns can be used to denote to the relevant part of an object.Through the analysis of “head” and “? “, similarities and differences are found. Besides, the analysis showed that the feature if the Chinese word “? ” in the process of grammaticalisation is more obvious than the English word “head”. It also showed that “? ” play an important part in Chinese culture. We can know the reason from the cultural difference of the two nations. Meanwhile, we can find that the English word “head” is in the process of grammaticalisation; however, the Chinese word “? ” has finished the process of grammaticalisation.

2. 3 Contrastive Study from Perspective of CultureAlthough people of different nations share the same physical metaphorical mechanism, culture plays an important role in the cognition of human body words. In this section, I plan to divide human body part words into two groups. They are respectively (1) external organs and (2) internal organs. 2.

3. 1 External Organs and Internal Organs In this part, I will take some expressions from Advance Chinese Dictionary and Contemporary Comprehensive English-Chinese dictionary. The body part terms are divided into two categories: those denoting external body parts and those denoting internal body parts or organs.Previous research showed that, with a few exceptions, the expressions involving external body parts are originally metonymic, using the terms of their externally observable bodily events and processes. The expressions involving internal organs evoke imaginary bodily images that are primarily metaphorical. I choose the metaphorical expression which are related to nose as the example of external organs and live as the examples of internal organs below.

2. 3. 1. 1External Organs——Nose (1) Loaned metaphorical words A nose of wax?????? ,???????? ,??????? As plain as the nose in your face ???? ,???? Before one’s nose ???? ???? Bite or snap somebody’s nose off ???????????? Bite or cut off one’s nose to spite one’s face ?????? ,????? Bring or hold or keep or put one’s nose to the grindstone????? Win by nose ?????????? Passed the examination by a nose ??????? Poke his nose into someone’s else’s business ??? ,??????? Cock one’s nose ??????? Cannot see beyond (the length of )one’s nose[see no further than one’s nose] ???? Get up one’s nose ????? ,???? ,???? Powder one’s nose ????????? ,???? ,???? Put somebody’s nose out of joint ???? ,????? Turn his nose at ? …???? ,??? White nose ?????? (From Contemporary Chinese Dictionary. (2)Personified metaphoric word the nose of an air plane, bucket nose, cam nose, conical nose, etc. ?: ?? ,?? ,?? (From Advanced Chinese dictionary.

) From the listed examples above, a conclusion is easily made that metaphor is quite a critical tool in our daily communication because it structures many concepts, especially the abstract ones in our language systems. In English, we have the example like poke his nose into someone’s else’s business (??? ,??????? ),win by a nose(?????????? ), turn his nose at (? …???? ,??? ) while Chinese tend to use “nose” to refer to the object with a hole, like ?? ,?? because “nose” seems more salient on the English face than on the Chinese face. From the above examples, another phenomenon can be found that we Chinese often use human body words to refer to somebody, while in English mainly depict things for example, ?? in Chinese and Put somebody’s nose out of joint in English. That what words will be chosen in one language is largely dependent upon the cultural models. Cultural models play an important role in constituting our understanding of the world and constrain the selection of metaphors.

Between the two different cultures, different words are employed to explain the objective world.The explanation of this can be found in the fact that Chinese are more concerned with the relations between people and the westerners pay more attention to the nature. 2. 3. 2.

2 Internal Organs——Liver A good liver[? ] ?????? ,????? ,????? A hearty liver ???? An evil liver ?? A free liver?????? Clean liver ?????? Close liver ??? High liver???????? Hot liver ???? ,???? Loose liver ?????? (from Contemporary Chinese Dictionary. ) ?: ???? ???? ???? ??? ?? ?? ???? ?? ???? ?? ?? ?? ??? ???? (from Advanced Chinese dictionary. ) Similarities between the two languages can be attributed to the common human bodily experience.Since human beings have similar physical and mental experience, they have the similar cognitive mechanism of the external world although there are some differences in culture. We can see very clearly from the numbers of the metaphorical examples I collected from the two dictionaries: metaphorical examples of “nose” in English is more than those of “? ” in Chinese. While examples of “liver” in English is less than those of “? ” in Chinese.

By the contrast of the above expressions, we can see many cultural differences. The Chinese culture is deeply influenced by the theory of five elements in the nature.With the relation of mutual promotion among the five elements, the balance of the universe is achieved. In Chinese medicine, the internal organs of primary importance are called Zang: liver, heart, spleen, lung and kidney. The five parts are also related to the five elements theory.

All these elements shaped the cultural mode of China and influence the usage of Chinese Language. 3. Conclusions This dissertation makes an analysis on English and Chinese human body part words from the angles of mapping theory and cross culture and finds the similarities and differences of human body words between the two languages.From the discussion above, we can know that English and Chinese are two quite different languages, but the people share the similar conceptual understanding and explanation of human body. It is mainly analyzed from three aspects: the structure, the process of grammaticalisation, and the culture. Some basic conclusions can be made below: (1) metaphor plays an important role in the process of grammaticalisation in both English and Chinese; (2) though human beings share the same physical cognitive mechanism, the difference of culture also makes a great distinction on cognition.