Silk Metaphors in Chinese Characters

Yunhui ZHOU


Within the framework of cognitive linguistics, the research introduces the image-based feature of Chinese characters and explores metaphor motivations behind Chinese characters containing images of silk. By studying the existing earliest constructions of those characters and analyzing the corresponding form-meaning connections, three conceptual metaphors are put forward, namely, “LINK IS SILK”; “END IS KNOT”, and “THOUGHT IS SILK”. There are altogether seven characters with the “LINK IS SILK” motivation, and their character meanings form a coherent system in terms of different aspects of “LINK”. The metaphor “END IS KNOT” seems to be consistent with the metaphor “LINK IS SILK” and only one character is found motivated by the former. The metaphor “THOUGHT IS SILK” is reflected in the sound form and meaning connection of the Chinese character “思”,and the sound form is connected with the silk image. All the three metaphors are also reflected in Chinese words and literature, which shows the consistency of Chinese thought patterns. Comparison study with English reveals the three silk metaphors are probably specific to the Chinese language and culture.



Chinese characters; Character constructions; Image; Conceptual metaphor; Silk

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