Linguistic Relativity in Conceptual Metaphors

  • Yanli Huang
  • Chi-Shing Tse
Part of the The Bilingual Mind and Brain Book Series book series (BMBBS)


Language is essential to human life, such as describing objects or events and sharing ideas with others. One of the most central questions in linguistics and cognitive psychology is whether language influences human cognition, which has been investigated in various domains such as color, space, and number. Recently, some researchers investigated the influence of language on the processing of conceptual metaphors, such as space–pitch metaphor and space–time metaphor. In this selective review, we first present the background of the linguistic relativity hypothesis, the Conceptual Metaphor Theory, and the relationship between bilingualism, conceptual metaphor, and embodiment. Then, we focus on space–time metaphor, a type of conceptual metaphor to depict the impact of bilinguals’ spatial language on their mental representation of time. Despite the mixed evidence in the literature, most of the current findings supported the linguistic relativity hypothesis that spatial language does have an impact on bilinguals’ mental representation of time. We conclude by providing a tentative answer to the effect of linguistic relativity on conceptual metaphor processing and bringing up some questions that will lead to future research.


Bilingualism Conceptual metaphor Embodiment Linguistic relativity Space–time metaphor 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Education, Centre for Advancement of Chinese Language Education and ResearchUniversity of Hong KongPokfulamHong Kong
  2. 2.Department of Educational PsychologyThe Chinese University of Hong Kong, KongShatinHong Kong
  3. 3.Centre for Learning Sciences and TechnologiesThe Chinese University of Hong Kong, KongShatinHong Kong

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