Conference poster "Space and Metaphor" Conference poster "Innen und Aussen Conference poster "Path of Knowledge"
Research group (C-2) Space and Metaphor is dedicated to spatial metaphors used in written and non-written communication by diverse cultures from antiquity through the early modern era to the present day. The research began with the observation that spatial metaphors constitute a universal principle by which non-spatial subject matter can be cognitively grasped, processed and verbally represented. Although this principle, as such, is indisputably universal, there nevertheless exist important linguistic specifics that, as the linguistic resources vary, allow for the formation of a culturally conditioned conceptualization of space.
18 Researchers
4 Research Projects
5 Dissertation Projects
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The group took as its concrete subject matter metaphorical expressions and formulations used in verbal and nonverbal communication that are based on empirically intuitable phenomena associated with physical space, e.g. prepositional phrases that indicate vertical and horizontal relations, motion verbs and locative adverbs. Research focused primarily on texts dating from between the early 2nd millennium BCE and the end of antiquity in the 6th century CE and originating from a variety of cultures – Egyptian, Greek and Roman. Various language forms are represented in these texts, including ancient Egyptian, classical Greek and the Koiné, as well as the Latin of late antiquity. Furthermore, the group analyzed not only documentary texts, but also literary works that belong to different genres or textual types and are situated in diverse political, religious and social discourses.

In order to broaden the diachronic and cultural-comparative perspective, the group also analyzed classically influenced texts from the England of the early modern era, as well as spoken and nonverbal communication in contemporary oral cultures indigenous to parts of East Asia and North America. Individual studies of these corpora addressed the following six objectives:

1. With a focus on linguistics, we explored the question what aspects of physical space are productive as sources of metaphors in the languages in question.

2. From the opposite perspective, we investigated what target domains spatial metaphors are employed in, and whether a motivation or aptitude for the use of these metaphorical expressions can be identified. Particular attention was paid to the question in what contexts and discourses metaphors are employed; whether, e.g., theological or philosophical texts exhibit a marked tendency to use metaphors.

3. On the level of individual language usage, we focused on exploring textual methods in which spatial metaphors are used. Because the individual projects investigated the function of metaphors in specific contexts, the study should investigate contextual factors which influence concrete linguistic features and analyze their effects on communication.

4. We explore what functions these metaphors fulfill in connection with individual communication. Particular attention is paid to determining what interpretive effort is achieved by spatial metaphors, in that they concretized abstract concepts through spatial representations and enrich them with meaning.

5. Accordingly, the group had a common interest in describing the relevance of spatial metaphors for the process by which knowledge is produced, organized and retained. If what metaphors actually achieve consists in their explaining abstract facts through concrete concepts, it follows that bodies of knowledge are structured and organized in accordance with spatial relations and hierarchies before ultimately being made available to memory and verbal representation.

6. Finally, through interdisciplinary exchange, the projects make a contribution to the theoretical and methodological debate, in that they assess the theoretical premises by examining the use of metaphors in concrete situations and, above all, continuously reflect on the extent to which approaches grounded in cognitive science are applicable to the study of metaphors in ancient texts that have been handed down solely in written form.

Cover Spatial MetaphorsResearch group C-2 carried on the work of research group (C-I-1) Spaces in Language (Topoi 1), which was concerned primarily with systematically describing the different forms that verbal spatial references may take. The new research group approached this task from a methodological standpoint, while also applying previously acquired knowledge of spatial references as a substantial basis for metaphor analysis.

Results were presented at several conferences and published volumes including the overview Spatial Metaphors. Ancient Texts and Transformations


Research Projects