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Corpus-based analysis of body-part terms for emotions and feelings in English and Japanese


This study examines the usage and meanings of emotion-related body part terms that are found in metaphoric expressions. By using the data from electronic corpora of written and spoken languages, English head, heart, gut and leg parts and Japanese atama 'head', mune ‘chest’, hara ‘belly’ and ashi 'leg' are cross-culturally compared. The goal of this research is two-fold. One is to redefine the communicative function of metaphoric expressions that is conventionally considered peripheral. Another is to highlight potential ‘culture specific concepts’ by Lakoff and Johnson (1980) behind the metaphoric usages of the English and Japanese body part terms through a microscopic analysis of KWIC (keyword in context) search results. Research results show that English and Japanese associate different types of emotions/feelings with different parts of the body. For example, English places a center of self in the heart and Japanese places it at the gut. However, it appears that both English and Japanese commonly use Lakoff and Johnson’s (1980) ‘spatial orientation’ (e.g. up and down) to code one’s feelings/emotions in the body. My hypothesis is that the locations of the body parts play a role in representing different types of feelings. Specifically, I suggest that upper body represents controllable emotions and the lower body represents more primordial emotions and feelings such as anger and instinct.

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