Vol. 1:2 (2014) ► pp.236–251
A corpus-based diachronic investigation of metaphorical containers of sadness in English
This paper addresses the question of conceptual diversity in the seat of emotions via a corpus-based case study of diachronic variation in the metaphorical containers of sadness in English. Data sourced from Literature Online, Early English Books Online and the British National Corpus reveal three types of metaphorical containers of sadness: (1) the human body in general and whatever is either literally internal to it, or at least often conceptualized as such, such as the heart and the soul; (2) external body parts and different kinds of superficial body features, such as the eyes and the voice; and (3) containers that are not inherently connected with the human body, such as a room and a sonnet. A comparison between the types of metaphorical containers in different periods shows that whereas the percentage of the third type of containers remains constant by and large, there has been a noticeable increase in the percentage of the second type of containers and a quite obvious decrease in the percentage of the first type of containers. It is argued that the diachronic variation in the relative frequencies of the two types of containers may have been related to a shift in the general conception of body and emotions, and specifically to the gradual disintegration of humoral theory.