Novel metaphor and embodiment: comprehending novel synesthetic metaphors

Yin Zhong, Kathleen Ahrens, Chu-Ren Huang (Corresponding Author)

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


Linguistic synesthesia links two concepts from two distinct sensory domains and creates conceptual conflicts at the level of embodied cognition. Previous studies focused on constraints on the directionality of synesthetic mapping as a way to establish the conceptual hierarchy among the five senses (i.e., vision, hearing, taste, smell, and touch). This study goes beyond examining the directionality of conventionalized synesthetic terms by adopting a Conceptual Metaphor Theory approach (i.e., the Conceptual Mapping Model) to test if conventional synesthetic directionality still holds when it comes to novel metaphorical expressions. The subjects, 308 native English speakers, are asked to judge the degree of commonness, appropriateness, understandability, and figurativeness in order to measure the degree of comprehensibility of novel synesthetic metaphors. Our findings demonstrate that novel synesthetic metaphors that follow conventional directionality are considered more common, more appropriate, and easier to comprehend than those that violate conventional mapping principles; they are also judged as more literal than those that do not follow conventional directionality. This study explores linguistic synesthesia from the perspective of comprehension of novel synesthetic metaphors, posits a pivotal position for mapping principles in synesthetic directionality, and supports an embodied account of linguistic synesthesia.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)245-255
JournalLinguistics Vanguard
Issue number1
Early online date25 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


  • conceptual mapping model
  • embodiment
  • linguistic synesthesia
  • mapping principle
  • novel metaphors


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