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Cognitive Linguistics

Editor-in-Chief: Divjak, Dagmar

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Volume 29, Issue 4


Time will tell: Temporal landmarks influence metaphorical associations between space and time

Heng Li / Yu Cao
Published Online: 2018-10-11 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/cog-2017-0043


According to the Temporal Focus Hypothesis (TFH), people’s implicit spatial conceptions are shaped by their temporal focus. Whereas previous studies have demonstrated that people’s cultural or individual differences related to certain temporal focus may influence their spatializations of time, we focus on temporal landmarks as potential additional influences on people’s space-time mappings. In Experiment 1, we investigated how personally-related events influence students’ conceptions of time. The results showed that student examinees were more likely to think about time according to the past-in-front mapping, and student registrants, future-in-front mapping. Experiment 2 explored the influence of calendar markers and found that participants tested on the Chinese Spring Festival, a symbol of a fresh start, tended to conceptualize the future as in front of them, while those tested on the Tomb Sweeping Day, an opportunity to remember the ancestors, showed the reversed pattern. In Experiment 3, two scenarios representing past or future landmarks correspondingly were presented to participants. We found that past-focused/future -focused scenarios caused an increase in the rate of past-in-front/future-in-front responses respectively. Taken together, the results from these three studies suggest that people’s conceptions of time may vary according to temporal landmarks, which can be explained by the TFH.

Keywords: temporal focus hypothesis; temporal landmark; Mandarin speakers; conceptual metaphor; space-time mappings; representational flexibility


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About the article

Received: 2017-04-03

Accepted: 2018-05-10

Revised: 2018-03-06

Published Online: 2018-10-11

Published in Print: 2018-11-27

Citation Information: Cognitive Linguistics, Volume 29, Issue 4, Pages 677–701, ISSN (Online) 1613-3641, ISSN (Print) 0936-5907, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/cog-2017-0043.

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