The general issue I address in the paper is this: How is the concept of smell linguistically coded in English, as examined from a cognitive linguistic perspective? I break down this larger theoretical issue into three sub-issues: One sub-issue concerns what the lexis of smell in English reveals about the conceptual organisation of smell. What is the conceptual prototype of smell? Another has to do with which lexical items are used from the domain of smell to structure other, more abstract concepts. Indeed, I show, partly based on previous work by others, that there are several conceptual metaphors that involve the concept of smell as their source domain. However, and this is the third sub-issue, I also argue that smell can also occur as a target domain in conceptual metaphors. This possibility presents a challenge to conceptual metaphor theory, which claims that perceptual experiences (and the concepts corresponding to them) are understood in a direct, literal way and that concepts that are not based on perceptual experiences (i.e., are not concrete) are understood figuratively by making use of such direct, literal conceptualisations. I conclude that smell is a fairly richly coded concept in English, but whose degree of “linguistic codability” can only be established relative to counterpart concepts in other languages and relative to other sense modalities in studies conducted by means of the same methodology and cognitive linguistic machinery as employed in the present one.
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