Linguistic synesthesia is metaphorical: A lexical-conceptual account

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This study seeks to clarify the nature of linguistic synesthesia using a lexical-conceptual account. Based on a lexical analysis of Mandarin synesthetic usages, we find that (1) linguistic synesthesia maps the metaphorical meaning between two domains; and (2) linguistic synesthetic mappings and conceptual metaphoric mappings have similar behaviors when sense modalities are treated as conceptual domains that contain a set of mappings constrained by Mapping Principles. This lexical-conceptual account is designed to capture the fact that linguistic synesthesia involves mapping between lexicalized concepts of sensory properties, instead of the real-time sensory input that is processed in neurological synesthesia. The incorporation of a lexical semantic view with the framework of Conceptual Metaphor Theory not only offers a coherent and comprehensive account for the nature of linguistic synesthesia, but also handles aspects of linguistic synesthesia previously only accounted for by non-metaphorical accounts. These design features make this proposal the most comprehensive account to fit the current data. Furthermore, by showing linguistic synesthesia as a type of metaphor, our study strengthens the role of conceptual metaphors as the link between the perceived world and our conceptualization of that world.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberA*
Pages (from-to)553-583
JournalCognitive Linguistics
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2022


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