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Metaphors of space and time

Alan Wallington (Bangor University)

This workshop will explore the proposal that much of what we understand of time and of how we infer temporal information is structured spatio-kinetically, by our understanding of space and of how objects, ourselves included, move through space. The workshop assumes no prior knowledge of the topic but an awareness of conceptual metaphor theory would be helpful.

The workshop will start with a survey of how temporal information is conveyed, concentrating mainly, although not exclusively, on metaphor. As a probe into the issue, we shall look at how target domain temporal entities such as Easter can be embedded in spatio-kinetic source domains. For example, we use a range of spatio-kinetic frames, such as: ‘Easter is approaching’; ‘We are approaching Easter’; ‘Easter is behind us’ and ‘Good Friday follows Easter Sunday’. In effect, the exercise will keep the temporal entities broadly constant but will vary the details of the source domains in order to determine the range of spatio-kinetic frames that can be used to convey temporal information.

In the second part of the workshop, we shall change tactics and using the frames we identified previously, we shall explore what happens if we vary the nature of the temporal entity along different dimensions. Thus, a distinction can be made between events, such as Easter, and units in a temporal measuring system such as ‘14.02’. Events that have general significance, such as Easter, can be distinguished from events that have significance mainly for the speaker, such as the speaker’s birthday or hospital visit. More clearly delimited events such as Easter can be distinguished from less delimited events such as ‘good times’. We shall see that this can result in changes in frequency or acceptability. This will lead to a re-examination of the proposal that it is TIME that is being structured spatio-kinetically.

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