A study of temporal cognition through spatial metaphors in Chinese: Compared with Vietnamese

1. Introduction Time is a familiar and common concept in daily life. Time is invisible but it seems that we feel the time everywhere, in everything and all phenomena, even in human thoughts and emotions. From the scientific point of view, time is a measure of the movements of the material world. Thanks to these movements, such as the moon’s orbiting the Earth, the Earth’s orbiting the sun, the planets’ moving, or the operation of sunshine, rain, rivers, oceans, weather, etc. we can perceive the concept of time and form specific names such as: hour, day, night, year, month, century. And every concept of time is associated with a certain space. Space is the lens that helps people "observe" time. The notions of time in language are usually perceived by the notions of space. In the art of literature, time becomes particularly vivid, when the writers describe time via unique spatial metaphors, making time a tangible entity with shape, appearance, distance, position, weight. Previously, spatial metaphors were often understood as a pure rhetorical method, however, its cognitive function has been gradually being studied more comprehensively and systematically.

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HNUE JOURNAL OF SCIENCE DOI: 10.18173/2354-1067.2017-0038 Social Sci., 2017, Vol. 62, Iss. 5, pp. 93-99 This paper is available online at A STUDY OF TEMPORAL COGNITION THROUGH SPATIAL METAPHORS IN CHINESE: COMPAREDWITH VIETNAMESE Tran Minh Van University of Languages and International Studies, Vietnam National University, Hanoi Abstract. Metaphor is an important way for conceptualization. The concept of time is also expressed through spatial metaphors. Chinese and Vietnamese have many similarities in temporal cognition, besides, the socio-cultural background also defines their own characteristics when expressing the concept of time. Keywords: Cognitive linguistics; temporal cognition; spatial metaphors; time perception; noun of locality. 1. Introduction Time is a familiar and common concept in daily life. Time is invisible but it seems that we feel the time everywhere, in everything and all phenomena, even in human thoughts and emotions. From the scientific point of view, time is a measure of the movements of the material world. Thanks to these movements, such as the moon’s orbiting the Earth, the Earth’s orbiting the sun, the planets’ moving, or the operation of sunshine, rain, rivers, oceans, weather, etc... we can perceive the concept of time and form specific names such as: hour, day, night, year, month, century... And every concept of time is associated with a certain space. Space is the lens that helps people "observe" time. The notions of time in language are usually perceived by the notions of space. In the art of literature, time becomes particularly vivid, when the writers describe time via unique spatial metaphors, making time a tangible entity with shape, appearance, distance, position, weight... Previously, spatial metaphors were often understood as a pure rhetorical method, however, its cognitive function has been gradually being studied more comprehensively and systematically. 2. Content Any notion of time which appears in language carries the shadow of space. In English, when we say in July, July is conceptualized as a container that has spatial characteristics. In Chinese, we say (deep night), then the night time has the depth Received date: 10/2/2017. Published date: 1/5/2017. Contact: Tran Minh Van, e-mail: tranminhvanvn@gmail.com 93 Tran Minh Van of space. In literature, the writers can determine the distance of the spring, the position of the winter when saying that the spring is far away, the winter "flows" in nostalgia, in emotions... The ideas of spatial concept spill into literary language, illuminating the notion of time. Through cultural exchanges, it is easy to find out such similar metaphorical method in the cognitive minds of Chinese and Vietnamese, but to point out the distinctive characteristics of each language related to its own culture and ethnicity. 2.1. Literary representation with temporal symbols The existence of the world, reflecting the non-stop movement of things and phenomena in space, creates time. People perceive time from the change of the world. As a Zen master in The Li dynasty, with the poem (Meaning: When having diseases I tell everybody), Man Giac felt the passing time by observing the "walk" of things in human life: (When spring passed away, all flowers die) (When spring comes, all flowers smile) (Before the eyes, all things flow endlessly) (Over the head, old age comes already) (Don’t say that when spring gone, all flowers fall) (Last night, in the front yard, a branch of apricot flower) Spring is the embodiment of time, spring comes and goes to let people know that the years are passing. Time is familiar, close, but also mysterious and elusive. People can not perceive time directly, but through the observation of objects’ movements. The poet "sees" the time when flowers are blossoming or falling, recognizing that spring comes and goes, old age also follows itself. The time here is transformed into spring, blooming flowers mean that spring is present, falling flowers mean that spring has left. In human cognition, time is often metaphorized as a physical material that moving in the space around us. While metaphor reflects artistic meaning in literature, itserves as an essential tool for expressing ideas in daily language, appearing very often, but we do not always recognize. InMetaphor we live by, George Lakoff and Mark Johnson have shown the role of metaphor as a thinking tool. From the perspective of cognitive linguistics, metaphor is not just a common rhetoric but really plays an important role in shaping concepts. Metaphor is the method people explain another thing through interpretating a certain thing, thereby creating the notion. In terms of cognitive metaphors, the concept of the source domain is mapped to the concept of the target domain, forming cognitive relationships between the two domains, where specific, familiar concepts are often used to explain and perceive of abstract, complex concepts. Metaphor becomes a very popular way of thinking. For example, in the definition of “time is money”, time, an abstract and complex concept, is materialized and interpreted figuratively, specifically, understandably as money, because time can be wasted, saved, invested, depleted, time is valuable, time is limited and time is a resource... There exists a relationship of meaning between these two concepts and they are related by metaphor. The cognitive linguists Lakoff divides metaphor into three groups: structural 94 A study of temporal cognition through spatial metaphors in Chinese: compared with Vietnamese metaphor, spatial metaphor and ontology metaphor. Therein, spatial metaphor is one of the most important ways to form the conceptual system. Space becomes the most basic cognitive domain in cognitive language. "Space is a concept that explains other concepts." Thanks to metaphor, non-spatial concepts are perceived through reference to spatial orientations. Between the two categories of space and time, which are considered to be the fundamental forms of things, time is an extremely abstract concept and very difficult to define, and time is fundamentally interpreted through space. Vietnamese poet Nguyen Du wrote: Just as the lotus wilts, the mums bloom forth; Time softens grief, and the winter turns to spring. In The Tale of Kiều, time seems to have short size, can move from one place to another place. Short and move belong to the spatial category without which it is very difficult to imagine and indicate time in language and thinking. 2.2. Characteristics of time concept Different cultures have different interpretations of time, but the most popular method of metaphor is that time is defined as a thing with continuous motion in space in a straight line, passing through the past to the present and the future. For example, in the English sentence Thanksgiving is coming up to us, Thanksgiving here is perceived as a thing going in a straight line toward the speaker. In Chinese, the path of time is usually divided into two axes: the horizontal axis (indicated by the words - front, - back) and the vertical axis (indicated by the words - up, - down). Temporal cognition with the orientational metaphor up/down is a prominent model in Chinese, reflecting the specific cultural characteristics of Chinese people. 2.2.1. Time in the horizontal axis Time in the horizontal axis is an important interpretation in many languages. In the poem Make haste, poet Xuan Dieu wrote: “Spring is coming, meaning spring is passing, Spring is budding, meaning spring is aging”. Time here is like a regular visitor, youth seems to be a breeze wind passing through life. Lakoff sets out the “Time is motion” model, which divides into two cases: Time-moving metaphor and Ego-moving metaphor. 2.2.1.1. In the case of the Time-moving metaphor, the observer stands still at a point (currently). Time travels in a straight line through the observer’s position in the direction from the future to the past, from the front to the back of the observer. In the above example, “Spring is coming, meaning spring is passing”, which means that at the time of “spring is coming”, the position of the observer, is approaching the beginning of spring. Spring, a concept for determining the time, has been metaphorically becoming a specific thing that can move in spatial relations with the observer. Likewise, there are visual description such as spring back to the alley, spring is passing, spring has gone etc... that all set time in reference to space to determine. Thus, the motion model of an object in space is mapped to the motion model of time. It helps us to explain that time is like a moving object that has a certain relative position for the observer. To indicate the future, Chinese has the following expressions: (future - what will come), (next year – coming year), (deadline is coming)... The 95 Tran Minh Van Fig 1. Model of time moving in the horizontal axis “entity” time is moving toward the observer. To indicate the present, Chinese has the following expressions: (present), (spring has arrived)... At this time, time has the same position as the observer. To indicate the past, Chinese has the following expression: (past year), (past, what has passed), (passed days), (spring has gone so quickly)... Time passes by the observer’s position and continues to move away. 2.2.1.2. In the case of the Ego-moving metaphor, we can see the visual expressions such as: “Ai đâu trở lại mùa thu trước, Nhặt lấy cho tôi những lá vàng?” (poet Che Lan Vien, Spring) (Who did come back to last autumn, Pick up the yellow leaves for me?). Time becomes the place for people to move there. In this model, time is likened to a straight route with past, present, and future landmarks, the observer will move on this route over time points from the past, through the present and step into the future. The phrase “sang thu” (turn to autumn) refers to the observer entering the “autumn” time, the spatial relationship between the observer and the “position” of time has a relative change in the observer’s motion. Time in this case is recognized as a visible landmark in space. Fig 2. The model of ego-moving metaphor To indicate the future, Chinese has the following expressions: (front road), (front vision), (coming to spring) ... Future serves as a scene, road or thing in front of the observer, the observer moves forward as if he is moving in the time route to enter a certain scene or touch a landmark corresponding to a future point of time. To indicate the present, Chinese has the following expressions: (until now), (entered the new century)... the present is recognized as a small landmark 96 A study of temporal cognition through spatial metaphors in Chinese: compared with Vietnamese or a very large space that people can “step in”. To indicate the past, Chinese has the following expressions: (look back), (turn around), (remember back), (schedule - the passed way), (has gone through 30 years of ups and downs)... The space that the observer walked past and “left behind” becomes the past. In the given examples, it is easy to see that in a lot of languages, Time in the horizontal axis is a relatively popular way of perception. When determining the position of time on the horizontal axis, (front) and (back) are two important orientational words that are frequently used in Chinese. Where the reference position is time itself (regardless of the observer’s position), the front and back positions are defined in terms of time intervals. Fig 3. Model of the intrinsic spatial relationship of the "entity" time The timeline can be visualized as people standing in line, who come early will stand at the front, who come later will stand at the back. The past, coming earlier than the present, will be arranged at the front, the future, coming later than the present, will be arranged at the back. Compared to today, the front-standing day ( ) is the past, back-standing day ( ) is the future. In Chinese, there are several ways to specify the time: (two days ago – two previous days), (previous generation), (before spring), (next generation), (from now on)... The time is determined by the orientational words with specific spatial relations. In the case that the reference point is an observer, Lakoff’s model of time motion is applied to describe the cognitive method in English, but it is only partially correct in Chinese. (and Vietnamese). In English, the future is at the front, the past is at the back, for example: to look forward to the future, that’s all behind us now. In Chinese (and Vietnamese) there is a way to recognize the future in back, the past in front. This can be determined by the cultural background, historical traditions, customs and living environment of each language community. Westerners are prone to think logically, pursue the discovery and transformation of the natural world, and always want to learn new ideas, so they tend to look towards the future, the future becomes the destination and always lies ahead. The Chinese and Vietnamese, as analyzed above, have the same cognitive way, but besides, the culture of worshiping ancestors, respecting the elderly, attaching importance to experiences, always puts traditional values at the front. This feature makes the perspective of time have one more orientation, that towards the past. Future generations are like the next wave which pushed the previous wave, and so we are stepping on the journey becoming the past. In Chinese, people say: (previous person), (there are people who will carry on in every generation), (You are 97 Tran Minh Van unprecedented (in the past) and unrepeatable (in the future).). When the time is recognized horizontally, Chinese and Vietnamese have similarities in modes of expression. This also reflects many similarities in the cultural characteristics and customs of the two peoples. Words expressing past approaches in English such as recall, review, and recollect do not show the direction of the observing space. The tendency of looking back the past of the Chinese and the Vietnamese is clearly a cognitive characteristic differ from the West, and this is actually reflected in the language. 2.2.2. Time in the vertical axis Time in the vertical axis is a unique cognitive characteristic in Chinese. The temporal relationship under the vertical axis of space is defined primarily by these two orientational words (up), (down). In Chinese, using up, down to define the time is very popular: (morning), (first half of a year), (ancient), (last week), (afternoon), (second half of a year), (last third of the month) ... Many Chinese scholars argue that the way of perceiving the time under the orientational relations of up, down is related to the motion of the sun. At sunrise, the sun begins to move up to the highest (referred to - up), at noon, and then move downward (referred to - down). From this phenomenon, the earlier time is indicated by (up), the later time is indicated by (down). In addition, under Chinese traditional culture, time is often compared to a flow ( - history as long river), flowing from high to low, endlessly. This image is mapped to the concept of time, in which each time point in the time flow is defined at a high or low position. This state is associated with time sequences, forming the fixed metaphor that past is up, future is down. The way of perceiving time in the vertical axis is very popular in Chinese, but seems very rare in Vietnamese (except the expression through the Sino - Vietnamese words as upper, middle, lower). (up), (down) frequently appear in Chinese, being used with both temporal and spatial orientations. This represents the deepest traditional color of the Chinese nation, everything or even every concept has a up and down hierarchy. According to Chinese culture, the precious, ancient and traditional things are placed on top. The notion of time is no exception, because time and space always have a unified relationship through the existence of things and phenomena. 3. Conclusion Through the basic concepts of space, the concept of time has been interpreted in a very specific and flexible way. Spatial metaphor of time is cross-cultural literacy, but at the same time, the similarities and differences in the expression of time in Chinese and Vietnamese also show the linguistic characteristics and cognitive orientation associated with the context of each nation. It is important to understand the cognitive characteristics through the language of peoples in the context of multiculturalism nowadays. This not only creates a precondition for the study of the linguistic comparison, but also contributes to overcome language barriers and open the foundations of cultural interaction with all the world. Cultural and linguistic exchanges between nations will enrich the range of cognition of each nation. The reception of artistic, cultural and scientific knowledge in general will be more flexible, because the similarities and differences in thinking of each 98 A study of temporal cognition through spatial metaphors in Chinese: compared with Vietnamese nation are reflected clearly by language’s modes of expression. REFERENCES [1] Ly Toan Thang, 2005. Cognitive Linguistics - From General Theory to Practical Vietnamese. Social Sciences Publishing House, Ha Noi. [2] Nguyen Đuc Dan, 1996.Expression and identification of time in Vietnamese. Journal of Languages, vol 3, pp.5-13. [3] Nguyen Van Han, 2012. 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