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Applied Linguistics Review

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Conceptual metonymies and metaphors behind SHUI (WATER) and HUO (FIRE) in ancient and modern Chinese

Conceptual metonymies and metaphors behind the SHUI (WATER) Element and the HUO (FIRE) Element in ancient and modern Chinese

Chun Lan
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  • School of English and International Studies, Beijing Foreign Studies University, Beijing 100089, China
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Published Online: 2018-05-10 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/applirev-2017-0132

Abstract

This paper investigates the conceptual metonymies and metaphors behind SHUI (水, water) and HUO (火, fire), two of the Five Elements (五行, wu-xing) in traditional Chinese thought, as recorded in ancient and modern Chinese. Our analysis shows that: (1) SHUI in ancient Chinese is built around the conceptual metonymies SHUI FOR FEATURES OF WATER, SHUI FOR BODY LIQUID and SHUI FOR BODIES OF WATER and the conceptual metaphors THOSE WITH FEATURES OF WATER ARE SHUI and THOSE WITH FEATURES OF SHUI XING ARE SHUI. (2) HUO in ancient Chinese is built around the metonymies HUO FOR FEATURES OF FIRE and HUO FOR THE POWER/DESTRUCTION OF FIRE and the metaphors THOSE WITH FEATURES OF FIRE ARE HUO and THOSE WITH FEATURES OF HUO XING ARE HUO. (3) SHUI and HUO in modern Chinese show an overall similarity with their ancient counterparts, the main differences being that the metaphor THOSE WITH FEATURES OF SHUI XING ARE SHUI is absent from modern Chinese and that the metaphor THOSE WITH FEATURES OF HUO XING ARE HUO has a much narrower coverage in modern Chinese. We discuss what this kind of selective inheritance suggests about the development of Chinese people’s conceptualization of the world.

Keywords: the Five Elements; conceptual metaphor; conceptual metonymy; Chinese culture

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About the article

Published Online: 2018-05-10


Citation Information: Applied Linguistics Review, ISSN (Online) 1868-6311, ISSN (Print) 1868-6303, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/applirev-2017-0132.

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