ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2020, Vol. 52 ›› Issue (4): 440-455.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2020.00440

• Reports of Empirical Studies • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Gender culture influence on spatial and weight metaphors of kinship words: Evidence from Bai, Yi, and Mosuo nationalities

ZHANG Jijia(),FU Ya,WANG Bin   

  1. Key Research Center for National Psychology and Education, the National Education Development Center of the Ministry of Education, Beijing 100872, China
  • Received:2019-07-16 Published:2020-04-25 Online:2020-02-25
  • Contact: Jijia ZHANG


Metaphors are among cognitive styles, which refer to the construction of psychological ideas using other concepts. The core of our conceptual system is derived directly from our experience of perception, physical movement, and social characteristics. Embodied philosophy is the philosophical foundation of cognitive linguistics and closely related to the study of metaphors. In terms of spatial metaphors, “up” is generally believed to represent morality, enthusiasm, and high status, while “down” represents immorality, negativity, and low status. With regard to weight metaphors, “heavy” generally denotes high authority and more respect, while “light” depicts low authority and less importance. Kinship is one of the social relationships formed on the basis of blood relations and marriage. In every language, numerous words represent kingship, which are called kinship words. The purpose of this study is to explore whether kinship words can be represented by concepts of “up-down” and “heavy-light” and whether gender culture has an impact on the spatial and weight metaphors of kinship words.

Three experiments are conducted in this study, with over 100 volunteer participants for each experiment, involving 30 individuals from three nationality groups. All the participants are from Yunnan Province, with the same academic qualifications but different cultural backgrounds. The kinship words in the materials are paired with gender from the same generation, such as “father-mother”, “brother-sister”, and “son-daughter”. In Experiment 1, a pair of kinship words is presented on the screen vertically, while the participants are asked to judge whether both words are kinship words. In Experiment 2, a pair of kinship words is presented on the screen horizontally before a picture of a balance is shown, and the participants are asked to judge the tilt direction of the balance. In Experiment 3, a picture of a balance appears before a pair of kinship words is presented, and the participants are asked to judge the position of the male/female words.

Studies have shown that (1) the Bai, Yi, and Mosuo people are influenced by the concept of seniority when processing kinship words, which is closely related to the tradition of showing respect and love to elders. (2) Kinship words could be represented by “up-down” and “heavy-light” concepts, with “up/heavy” representing high power and more respect and “down/light” representing low power and less importance. (3) Cultural schema affects the metaphorical representation of kinship concepts. Moreover, gender culture has an influence on the spatial space and metaphor of kinship words. Metaphorical consistency between male and “up/heavy” among the Yi people and between female and “up/heavy” among the Mosuo people is observed, whereas male/female concepts are not significantly related to “up/down” and “heavy/light” concepts among the Bai people.

Most previous studies on kinship words have studied spatial metaphors and mainly focused on the structure of kinship words. The present study considers spatial and weight metaphors and is innovative in terms of gender culture perspectives. We find that the gender concepts of the three nationalities have different connections with spatial and weight concepts, which demonstrates the impact of gender culture on cognition.

Key words: Yi, Bai, the Mosuo, spatial metaphor, weight metaphor

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