ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2018, Vol. 50 ›› Issue (9): 953-964.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2018.00953

• Reports of Empirical Studies • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Effect of the spatial linguistic symbol on the container metaphor of seniority rules

Xinxiao WANG1,Shan JIANG2,Jijia ZHANG1()   

  1. 1 Department of Psychology, Renmin University of China
    2 The State Ethnic Affairs Commission Key Research Center for Language, Cultural, and Psychology
  • Received:2017-10-13 Published:2018-09-15 Online:2018-07-27
  • Supported by:


Kinship words are those that represent each relative in the language system. These words contain a variety of information about genetics, sociology, and culture. Therefore, the study of these words has always been a very popular topic in many research fields.
According to Conceptual Metaphor Theory (CMT), people acquire abstract and difficult concepts by connecting them with some concrete and simple representations. Spatial metaphors are the most basic and universal type of metaphor, which means that spatial concepts often serve as the source domain to help people understand other abstract concepts better. Recent studies have shown that the multidimensional spatial representation of different semantic concepts of Chinese kinship words are psychologically real.
Thus far, only a few studies have explored the container metaphorical representations of the nature of the kinship (blood relation vs relation by marriage). A past study has shown that the embodied kinship type might be explained through an inside-outside spatial relation. To be specific, blood kinship inside, marriage kinship outside. Nevertheless, whether the process of kinship automatically activates the inside-outside spatial concept or otherwise has not been explored. Furthermore, the influence of linguistic symbol has not been fully considered in the literature. Some Chinese blood kinship words feature a linguistic symbol “外,” which means “outside” in English, whereas some marriage kinship words contain the linguistic symbol “内,” which means inside. Whether these symbols would influence the association between kinship words and the inside-outside spatial concept thus requires further research.
Three experiments were carried out to investigate whether and how the linguistic symbol changed the container metaphorical representation of the embodied relation type. Experiment 1 used a parallel spatial Stroop paradigm. Results showed that the marriage kinship words containing the linguistic symbol “内” have a higher error rate when presenting outside a circle. Moreover, the symbol “外” changed the container metaphorical representations of blood kinship words to react faster when presented outside a circle. Experiment 2 used a spatial attention orientation paradigm, and the results showed that both “内” and “外” changed the direction of the original metaphor schema of the type of kinship words. Experiment 3 actually indicated that activating the inside-outside schema changed how people recognized Chinese kinship words containing the spatial linguistic. The results of Experiment also indicate that the process of Chinese kinship words is serial.

Key words: linguistic symbol, kinship words, container metaphor

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