Investigating the universality of primary metaphors: a perspective from buddhism

Dennis Tay Zhiming


 In this paper, I conduct a conceptual metaphor analysis of the “Wheel of Life”, a pictorial representation of Buddhist philosophical concepts. Abstract concepts that define our everyday realities (e.g. states, causation) are claimed by some to be metaphorically structured, and reducible to a universal set of primary metaphors (LAKOFF; JOHNSON, 1999), while argued by others to be structured by non-metaphorical cultural understandings instead (QUINN, 1991). Recognizing the need for empirical testing of the universalist claim, I analyze Buddhist conceptualizations of states-of-being, rebirth and event structure for their reducibility to primary metaphors. I show that while some concepts are reducible to universal primary metaphors, others might be constituted by culture-specific understandings instead. I also question the concept of primary metaphor itself, suggesting that supposedly universal primary metaphors already carry culturally-biased preconceptions, and urge the Lakoffian school to justify the assumed universality of subjective experiences which give rise to primary metaphors.


Buddhism; Primary metaphors; Conceptual metaphors; Cultural models

Texto completo:


Ling. disc. Universidade do Sul de Santa Catarina, Santa Catarina, ISSN 1982-4017

Licença Creative Commons
Esta obra está licenciada com uma Licença Creative Commons Atribuição 4.0 Internacional.