EKU Faculty and Staff Scholarship


The Expression of the Location Event-Structure Metaphor in American Sign Language


American Sign Language and Interpreter Education

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Conceptual metaphor theory (CMT) proposes that there is a large system of conceptual metaphors in our cognition known as event-structure metaphors (ESMs). Through ESMs, we understand the conceptual domains of actions, causes, changes, states, purposes, and so forth in terms of the aspects of the domain of motion in space. ESMs are largely organized under two systems, or branches—the location and object branches. Earlier studies present linguistic evidence that these ESM conceptual systems are expressed in unrelated spoken languages (English, Hungarian, Chinese, and Arabic) thus supporting the claim that ESMs are universal. In this article, I explore the question of whether the location branch of event-structure metaphors (location ESM) is exhibited in American Sign Language (ASL). The article begins with a brief review of the conceptual metaphor theory and its application to signed languages. This is followed by a summary of the location ESM and references to studies that support its cross-linguistic universality. A description of data and methods used in this investigation is given. I then define each of the eleven submappings of the location ESM system. For each respective submapping, I reference English examples from the CMT literature. I then analyze evidence selected from ASL corpora suggesting that each of the submappings in the location ESM system is exhibited in ASL. This study is the first systematic investigation in a signed language that supports the claim of universality of each main submapping in the location ESM system.

Journal Title

Sign Language Studies