Semantic Change: Synaesthetic Metaphors
Quintas Quintas, Patricia
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Every word has its own history. Semantic change does not follow strict rules as other domains, such as phonological change sometimes does, but it does not happen randomly either. In this paper we will analyze a phenomenon which could represent a law in semantic change, and at the same time help explaining how our cognitive system processes Language, synaesthetic metaphor (SM), a kind of metaphor in which the two terms belong to different sensorial domains, as in 'sweet smell'. Words change in order to fulfil a need; they change to ease communication and to help conceptualizing the changing world. Scholars have struggled to find a law for semantic change for several years but up to now they have not found any firm pattern. The evolution of a word cannot be foreseen, but there are some natural tendencies that new lexicalizations tend to follow. For instance, abstract concepts, which are difficult to grasp, are usually understood in terms of concrete ones, which can be understood more easily, so, words for the latter are used for referring to the former. In the case of SM, however, we can find more than a simple tendency; we have a regularity that is almost an exceptionless law: the directionality thesis. The directionality thesis analyses the order of mapping in the synaesthetic transfer. Several authors have analysed verbal synaesthesia from different perspectives and conclude that the mapping goes from the lower to the higher senses. The directionality thesis mirrors a natural tendency: transfer of meaning usually goes from concrete to abstract. On the other hand, we will see that metaphor and especially SM cannot be accounted within the boundaries of semantics, pragmatics or any linguistic theory. We need a cognitive approach such as the conceptual metaphor theory. The conceptual metaphor theory defends that metaphors, and SM, can be processed because our cognitive system is metaphorical in nature and we are prepared to understand one thing in terms of another. In this approach, metaphor is not considered the exception of a rule anymore, it is seen as the norm. Moreover, another kind of synaesthesia, the perceptual or strong synaesthesia, provides evidence to show how our cognitive system works. The fact that some people, synaesthetes, experience real co-sensation, makes us believe that our cognitive system works in an analogical manner. Synaesthesia provides linguists with a path to analyse the functioning of Language.