Publication details [#17965]

Wnuk, Ewelina and Yuma Ito. 2021. The heart’s downward path to happiness: cross-cultural diversity in spatial metaphors of affect. Cognitive Linguistics 32 (2) : 195–218.
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Spatial metaphors of affect display remarkable consistencies across languages in mapping sensorimotor experiences onto emotional states, reflecting a great degree of similarity in how our bodies register affect. At the same time, however, affect is complex and there is more than a single possible mapping from vertical spatial concepts to affective states. Here we consider a previously unreported case of spatial metaphors mapping down onto desirable, and up undesirable emotional experiences in Mlabri, an Austroasiatic language of Thailand and Laos, making a novel contribution to the study of metaphor and Cognitive Linguistics. Using first-hand corpus and elicitation data, we examine the metaphorical expressions: klol jur ‘heart going down’ and klol khɯn ‘heart going up’/klol kɔbɔ jur ‘heart not going down’. Though reflecting a metaphorical mapping opposite to the commonly reported happy is up metaphor, which is said to link to universal bodily correlates of emotion, the Mlabri metaphors are far from idiosyncratic. Rather, they are grounded in the bodily experience of positive low-arousal states, and in that reflect an emic view of ideal affect centered on contentment and tranquility. This underscores the complexity of bodily experience of affect, demonstrating that cultures draw on the available sensorimotor correlates of emotion in distinct ways.