Unweaving the embodied nature of English temporal prepositions
The case of at
The metaphor time is space (Lakoff & Johnson 1999) and the pervasiveness of metaphor and image-schematic structure in human conceptualization (Johnson 1987; Hampe 2005) have been widely accepted among cognitive scientists as constructs that help explain non-spatial and temporal linguistic constructions. However, Conceptual Metaphor Theory (CMT) might not be the whole story. While it is acceptable that moments in time can be construed as being analogous to points in space as in utterances such as at the corner vs. at 2:30, there seems to be much more temporal cognition than previously thought. It turns out that time exhibits its own structure (following Evans 2004, 2013; Galton 2011) that is based on transience. This idea has made some scholars support the weak version of CMT which posits that the temporal meaning of prepositions is represented and processed independently of the corresponding spatial meanings (see Kemmerer 2005 for such a view). The present article supports the idea that spatial and temporal structures complement each other in order to achieve temporal conceptions. This is indeed a conceptual pattern showed by the English preposition at that makes use of an extrinsic temporal reference to activate its temporal semantics. To analyze the different temporal realizations that at may have, the paper aims to identify the topological structure that underlies the conceptual basis of this preposition. This allows us to appreciate how the spatio-conceptual structure of at partially structures temporal conceptions. The paper also identifies the nature of the temporal structure that is involved in temporal realizations. The article concludes with some remarks, among them the pivotal role of the schematic temporal structure that is captured by the extrinsic temporal reference, and the role of conceptual metaphor in underdetermining temporal thinking.
Keywords: temporal frame of reference (t-FoR), temporal structure, conceptual parameter, metaphor, conceptual basis
Published online: 08 September 2021
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