Linguistic synaesthesia in Chinese

Authored by: Chu-Ren Huang , Jiajuan Xiong

The Routledge Handbook of Chinese Applied Linguistics

Print publication date:  March  2019
Online publication date:  March  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138650732
eBook ISBN: 9781315625157
Adobe ISBN:


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Linguistic synaesthesia is the linguistic expression of cross-sensory domain transfer among the five sense domains, viz., the visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory and tactile domains. As such, it is related to two different important research areas: neurological synaesthesia and metaphor. Neurological synaesthesia is considered to be a special cognitive condition in which co-activation in two sensory domains sheds light on the organization of human brains. As linguistic synaesthesia represents conventionalized cross-sensory mapping with some potential cross-linguistic variations, what does it tell us about our brains and cognitive processes? Metaphor is considered to be the linguistic device for expressing abstract concepts with familiar and often embodied terms involving mapping from source to target domains. Linguistic synaesthesia involves mapping from one sense domain to another and therefore seems to fall into the scheme of metaphor. Yet, since both domains are sensory modalities and express embodied experiences, can linguistic synaesthesia be accounted for within the embodiment theory of metaphor? This chapter explores the linguistic devices for linguistic synaesthesia in Chinese language. The fact that linguistic synaesthesia in Chinese shows language-specific mapping directionality will be underlined. The lack of strict universality in mapping directionality poses important challenges to the embodiment assumption of linguistic synaesthesia.

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