Article published in:Conceptualizations of Time
Edited by Barbara Lewandowska-Tomaszczyk
[Human Cognitive Processing 52] 2016
► pp. 67–84
Temporal Language and Temporal Thinking May Not Go Hand in Hand
Do people think about time the way they talk about it? This chapter examines dissociations between temporal language and temporal thinking in speakers of English and of Darija, a dialect of Moroccan Arabic. In both languages, conventional metaphors suggest that the future is ahead of the speaker and the past is behind. Yet, English speakers typically conceptualize the future as rightward and the past as leftward – a spatial mapping that is not conventionalized in any known spoken language. Darija speakers typically conceptualize the past as ahead and the future a behind them – a spatial mapping that directly contradicts their verbal metaphors. Darija speakers’ “backward” mapping of time does not appear to arise from any feature of their language, or from their physical experience with the natural world, but rather from their cultural bias to focus on the past (i.e., to value their ancestry and practice ancient traditions). Analyses of verbal space-time metaphors reveal that humans’ temporal thinking depends, in part, on spatial mappings. Yet, essential features of these mappings, including their spatial orientation and direction, may be absent from language and can only be discovered using extra-linguistic methods. Beyond the influences of language and of physical experience, cultural values and non-linguistic cultural practices can play important roles in shaping our mental representations of time. As a result, at any moment people may be thinking about time differently from the way they are talking about it, using different spatial schemas.
Keywords: cultural values, Darija, gestures, metaphor, space-time mapping
Published online: 14 June 2016
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