Publication details [#10059]

Siqueira, Maity. 2004. Sas metáforas primárias na aquisição da linguagem: Um estudo interlingüístico. Porto Alegre, Brazil. URL


In my dissertation I have worked with the conceptual metaphor IMPORTANCE IS SIZE - among others. Data come from interviews with monolingual Brazilian Portuguese and American English native speakers at the ages of 3 to 10, along with adult native speakers. For the primary metaphor IMPORTANCE IS SIZE, children and adults gave some answers that were graded ‘0’ (null) when referring to some sort of identification. The task was to choose which figure between a small cartoon and a big one was the most important. Some children chose the smallest because they identified themselves with it, while some adults made the very same choice because they matched their own children with the smaller picture, as revealed the answers listed underneath: (Subject 58, 5 years old) — ‘Because it is little. My Dad says I am the most important thing’ (Subject 4, adult) — ‘The little one doesn’t know much, like my little one.’ Interestingly, most subjects replied in the expected way to this question for the very same reason of those subjects who did not score on it, namely, for identification. Some of the participants who pointed at the biggest cartoon as being the most important identified it with their parental figure. (Subject 104, 4 years old) — ‘He is big. The big is the Daddy.’ (Subject 106, 6 years old) — ‘Porque é a mãe.’ (Because she is the Mother). These answers indicate a relationship between the interaction parents/children and the metaphoric connection stablished between the domains, SIZE and IMPORTANCE. Others pointed towards a correlation between the relative size of people and those impositions that are determined by their personal strength. Subjects realize that the biggest one can stand out and exert dominance. (Subject 19, 10 years old) — ‘It’s bigger, easier to see. It probably wants to be like that, so he can stand up more.’(Subject 82, adult) — He could have more done, by intimidating or by lifting something.’ (Subject 186, adult) — ‘Ele está em mais destaque, pois é maior.’ (He is standing out because he is the biggest). The above answers reiterate Grady’s idea (1997) as to what actually motivates the metaphor, IMPORTANCE IS SIZE. It is the correlation experienced between object or people size and the difficulty this represents into the interaction with them that propitiates the mapping between size and importance. This correlation is daily present in children’s lives along their interactions with bigger people, who are able to dominate over them both physically and psychologically. (Maity.Siqueira)