Publication details [#11540]

Yu, Ning. 2000. Figurative uses of finger and palm in Chinese and English. Metaphor and Symbol 15 (3) : 159–175. 17 pp.


This article studies 2 Chinese body-part terms 'zhi' (finger) and 'zhang' (palm) as they are used in compounds and idioms to express abstract concepts. Primarily, 'zhi' (finger) is used to express intention, aim, guidance, and direction, whereas 'zhang' (palm) is used to refer to power and control. The metaphoric and metonymic expressions involved are based on 2 common acts with hands: pointing with the index finger and holding in the palm of the hand. A comparison between Chinese and English data reveals 2 differences. First, the conceptual metaphor "CONTROL IS HOLDING IN THE PALM OF THE HAND " is not richly manifested in English, although it is in Chinese. Second, the conceptual metaphor "THE FINGER IS THE DOER " is well manifested in English, but it is not realized in Chinese. These differences consist in the choice of a subpart (palm or finger) over the part (hand) as a result of cultural preferences. They reside, however, in a larger context of common grounding of meaning in bodily experiences. (Ning Yu)