It's Not All about the Brain: A Cross-Linguistic Exploration of Body-Part Metaphors in Chess

Posted: 5 Nov 2008

See all articles by Judit Simo

Judit Simo

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: October 18, 2008


The notion of embodiment in human conceptualization (Lakoff & Johnson, 1999) has served as a basis for investigating the usage of body parts in metaphorical expressions cross-linguistically (Kovecses, 2002; Yu, 1995). To date these studies have focused primarily on emotional states (anger, happiness) and have relied mostly on examples generated by the researchers. They conclude that a number of shared conceptual metaphors exist across cultures, and explain variation in light of hypothesized differences in culture. To gauge the full potential of embodiment, the present study broadens the scope of investigation of body part metaphors beyond emotions by exploring possible connections between cognitive concept and culture to account for cross-linguistic similarities and differences.

The study links body parts used in metaphorical expressions to describe a game of chess in naturally occurring discourse in American English and Hungarian to the findings of a Roschian (Rosch & Mervis, 1975) investigation of the prototype concept of chess in the two populations. Data come from a variety of sources in both languages (daily papers, chess magazines, sport websites). Expressions were included if they used a body part or substance (the knight is heading to f4; d¿ntetlen, v¿rt izzadva- a draw, sweating blood), or if they could be unequivocally linked to a body part (Black stumbles). Findings show that both languages use a wide range of body parts to metaphorically describe chess. The biggest difference is that whereas these expressions are about evenly split between players and the game/pieces in the American data, about 75% of the Hungarian expressions describe the players. The body parts that can be considered the most "obvious"- legs for pieces (The queen goes pawn hunting), or hand for players (get a firm grip) - are used in a similar way. To describe the mental state of players, both languages use stomach (The Hungarian grandmaster was hungrier) and leg (Megj¿rja a mennyet ¿s a poklot - Go through heaven and hell), but only Hungarian uses blood (hidegv¿rrel v¿dekezik- defend in cold blood). To speculate about possible outcome, both languages use mouth (Bf3 t¿bbet ¿g¿rt- Rf3 promised more), but nose is implied only in Hungarian: remiszag¿- draw-smelling (which can be related to smell's meaning of suspicion, discussed by Ibarretxe-Antu¿ano, 1993).

The presenter will connect the findings to the differing views of chess in the two cultures, and will argue that the differences in metaphorical expressions partially emerge as the result of the cognitive conceptualization of chess in the two populations.

Keywords: cognitive linguistics, metaphor, chess, body-part

Suggested Citation

Simo, Judit, It's Not All about the Brain: A Cross-Linguistic Exploration of Body-Part Metaphors in Chess (October 18, 2008). 9th Conference on Conceptual Structure, Discourse, and Language (CSDL9), Available at SSRN:

Judit Simo (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics