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Cognitive Linguistics

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Volume 27, Issue 2


Metaphor in culture: LIFE IS A SHOW in Chinese

Ning Yu
  • Corresponding author
  • Department of Applied Linguistics, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA
  • Department of Asian Studies, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA
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/ Dingding Jia
Published Online: 2016-03-26 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/cog-2015-0080


This study analyzes the linguistic patterns via both qualitative and quantitative data that manifest the underlying conceptual metaphor life is a show in Chinese. It starts with an analysis of the performing arts frame as the source domain of the show metaphor. The frame comprises three major aspects: people, performance, and venue, and each of them has a focal element, respectively role, opera, and stage. It argues that the second one, opera, which refers to “Chinese opera”, a prominent form of performing arts in traditional Chinese culture, is the central element that dominates the whole frame. A systematic qualitative analysis of linguistic data shows that, because its source domain centers on Chinese opera, the life is a show metaphor generates a large number of culture-specific linguistic instantiations in Chinese. A quantitative perspective supported by corpus data reinforces the argument that this metaphor plays a central role in the Chinese conceptualization of events and phenomena in various domains of life, constituting a core component of the Chinese cultural model of life. The study concludes that the show metaphor has a salient subversion life is an opera in Chinese, in contrast with its sister life is a play found salient in English.

Keywords: conceptual frame; conceptual domain; conceptual metaphor; cultural model; life is a show; Chinese


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About the article

Received: 2015-08-13

Revised: 2015-09-23

Accepted: 2015-09-24

Published Online: 2016-03-26

Published in Print: 2016-05-01

Citation Information: Cognitive Linguistics, Volume 27, Issue 2, Pages 147–180, ISSN (Online) 1613-3641, ISSN (Print) 0936-5907, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/cog-2015-0080.

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