You are here: Home Publications Language experience influences the conceptualization of TIME metaphor

Language experience influences the conceptualization of TIME metaphor

Lai, V. T. (2005). Language experience influences the conceptualization of TIME metaphor. In Proceedings of the II Conference on Metaphor in Language and Thought, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, August 17-20, 2005.
This paper examines the language-specific aspect of the TIME PASSING IS MOTION metaphor and suggests that the temporal construal of time can be influenced by a person's second language. Ahrens and Huang (2002) have analyzed the source domain of MOTION for the TIME metaphor into two special cases. In the special case one, TIME PASSING is an object that moves towards an ego. For example, qimuokao kuai dao le "the final exam is approaching." In the special case two, TIME PASSING is a point (that a plural ego is attached to) that moves across a landscape. For example, women kuai dao qimuokao le "we are approaching the final exam." In addition, in English, the ego in the special case one faces the future while in Chinese, the ego faces the past. The current experiment hypothesizes that English influences the choice of the orientation of the ego in native Chinese speakers who speak English as the second language. 54 subjects are asked to switch the clock time one hour forward. Results show that native Chinese speakers living in the Chinese speaking country tend to move the clock one hour forward to the past (92%) while native Chinese speakers living in an English speaking country are less likely to do so (60%). This implies that the experience of English influences the conceptualization of time in Mandarin Chinese.
About MPI

This is the MPI

The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics is an institute of the German Max Planck Society. Our mission is to undertake basic research into the psychological,social and biological foundations of language. The goal is to understand how our minds and brains process language, how language interacts with other aspects of mind, and how we can learn languages of quite different types.

The institute is situated on the campus of the Radboud University. We participate in the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, and have particularly close ties to that institute's Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging. We also participate in the Centre for Language Studies. A joint graduate school, the IMPRS in Language Sciences, links the Donders Institute, the CLS and the MPI.


Street address
Wundtlaan 1
6525 XD Nijmegen
The Netherlands

Mailing address
P.O. Box 310
6500 AH Nijmegen
The Netherlands

Phone:   +31-24-3521911
Fax:        +31-24-3521213

Public Outreach Officer
Charlotte Horn