Publication details [#2856]

Abdelwali, Mohammad A. 2007. The cultural perception of similarity in metaphors. Hammond, Indiana.


This study investigated the American and Arabian perception of similarity in metaphors and their structurally related similes. The inclusion of two culturally distinct groups in the study broadened our understanding of the different aspects of concepts that people in each culture appreciate. These aspects were in fact the parameters along which the notion of similarity in the target-source domains was gauged. The study deployed a mixed method approach in which assessment sheets were provided. Students were instructed to interpret a provided list of possible metaphors, mark the interpretations they thought were cultural, and mark verbal expressions that they thought were metaphors. Later, individual interviews were held with the students in order to clarify their responses on the assessment sheet. Students' responses in the interviews were audiotaped, transcribed and then coded. Results of the study indicate that American students see the similarity between the target and the source more in a behavioral sense, whereas Arabian students see that relation more in an evaluative sense. Findings of the study also reveal that American interpretations are more culturally consistent than Arabian interpretations. Findings of the study also show that interpreting metaphors and similes evoke a perceptual context experienced at the invitation of the metaphor and simile. This finding highlights the complexity and unpredictability of the metaphor since visualizing contexts is evidence that the interpretation process is not merely semantically linguistic. That is, meaning is derived from the meaning of the individual words that compose the metaphor. This implies that the educational value of metaphors is dubious, simply because it is image based and has no one correct standard response. (LLBA, (c) CSA [2007]. All rights reserved.)