Comprehension of “Love” Metaphor in English and Chinese


校园英语·中旬 2017年6期


I. General Introduction about Metaphor

“Metaphor” has been atrtacting the attention of scholars for more than 2000 years, and this terminology is beocmnig more and more popular in current literary field. Lakoff and Johnson first used the term “domain” in their outstanding work, in which they define a domain as a multidimentional structured whole arising naturally from experience.

With the development of the cognitive linguistics, more and more researches have been carried out to study the role metaphor plays on the course of the formation and understanding of the emotional concept.

II. Similar “Love” Metaphor in English and Chinese

There are large amounts of metaphorical expressions of love in both Enlish and Chinese language.

(1) Love is a war:

In English we have:

She fought for him, but his mistress won out.

In Chinese we have:

她被彻底征服了。(She was totally conquered.)

As we have compared above, WAR and LOVE share so many similarities and WAR is familiar to both English and Chinese people. No wonder they both have this metaphor to understand LOVE spontaneously. The goal of a war is to win, and the aim of the fight of love is to gain the heart of the beloved one; in a war actually people can win or lose, and so it is in the love.

(2) Love is a journey:

In English we have:

Who travels for love finds a thousand miles not longer than one.

当我们走过爱情的旅程, 会终究庆幸没放弃退让。(After we walked through the journey of love, we would feel lucky that we didnt give up.)

In this metaphor love is represented as a journey, and these metaphorical expressions are easily found in pop love songs and love stories. As mentioned in those above examples, many aspects of love are elaborately explained: as we all know, during a journey there are travelers who are companions, just like partners in love, and they regard the common goals of life as the destination of their journey: the travelers need to help and comfort each other and so do the lovers.

(3) Love is fire:

In English we have such metaphors:

She set my heart on fire.

In Chinese we have some similar metaphors:

我們永远相爱, 如果你是柴, 我便是火。(We will love each other forever. If you were the feul, I would be the fire.)

Fire and love both have the character of spreading quickly and being potentially destructive. Love can inspire and encourage a person just as the fire can give brightness and warmth; love can make a person crazy or even destroy a person, which is similar to the destructive fire. When the fire is kindled, the love begins; when the fire is burning, the love is progressing; when the fire extinguishes, the love disappears. Sometimes a little spark can cause raging flames, while sometimes the raging flames will die out in an instant.

(4) Love is heart:

In English we have:

My heart will go on and on.

In Chinese we can find more such similar mtaphors:

他最后終于赢得了她的芳心。(At last he won her heart.)

Kovecses believes that “it (metaphor) is both motivated by the human body and produced by a particular scial and cultural environment.” (Kovecses, 2002b: 14) From the examples mentioned above we can find that both English and Chinese tend to use the physical organ “heart” to express love. The “heart” is the most important organ in the human body, which governs the whole body and other viscera as well as the physical and psychological activities of human beings including all kinds of emotions.

III. Conclusion

Through a series of cognitive comparisions of love metaphor between English and Chinese, this thesis discovers that meaphor is not only a language phenomenon, but a cultural phoenomenon. Researches on metaphors from the cognitive point of view believes that metaphors are universal, and they are cognitive and systematic in nature. Metaphors root in peoples physical experience and common cognition, reflecting human beings thinking modes, and thats the reason why there are large amounts of similar expressions of love in both English and Chinese. Different people living in different backgrounds will have different understandings about love because of different cultural traditions and their inherent thinking modes. Thus we can conclude that our understanding on metaphors not only comes from common experiences of daily life and cognition but also from seemingly same but distinct cultural modes.


[1]George L,and Turner M.More Than Cool Reason:a Field Guide to Poetic Metaphor[M].Chicago:The University of Chicago Press, 1989.