Language, Embodiment and Cultural Idiosyncrasies

Author: Sweta Sinha (Indian Institute of Technology Patna, India)
Speaker: Sweta Sinha
Topic: Cognitive Anthropology and language
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2019 General Session


The paper surveys prominent and recent literature on the embodied grounding of human cognition from a vantage point of Cultural Linguistics and using the theories of Cognitive Linguistics to explore the relationship between language, culture and conceptualization. The paper illustrates the relationship between language and embodiment through evidences from Hindi spoken in large parts of India. Language in itself is a cognition- enhancing animal built structure, accepting this perspective is to view language as a kind of self- constructed cognitive niche, by materializing thought in words, one creates structure that are themselves proper objects of perception, manipulation and thought. The main motivation of the paper is to focus on concepts mediated by language by presenting evidences from colour metaphors in Hindi proverbs with a view to establish the idiosyncrasies of language in determining unique cultural experiences for its speakers. The use of colour codes in metaphorical expressions in Hindi proverbs seem to be culturally induced in the language with rare instances of conceptualization and interpretation being far from modern sense of logic. For example: if someone is caught during the act of committing a crime, that person is referred to in Hindi as being caught rang-e haathon (literally translated as being caught ‘coloured handed’). The embodiment thesis being “central” (Shina and Lopez, 2007) language cannot be investigated in isolation from human embodiment (Evan and Green, 2006). Cognitive Linguistics claims that language is not an abstract cognitive faculty, independent from other human cognitive processes but language is created from our daily and real experiences, we construct and understand our categories on the basis of concrete experiences, first and foremost our bodies (Barcelona 1997, Yu 2014)). This paper is an attempt to discuss the significance of colour codes in frequently used experiential proverbs in Hindi with a view to highlight the intrinsic relationship between language and culture and how this relationship governs conceptualization of such experiences.


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DOI: 10.4324/9781315793993.ch16

Keywords: language and embodiment, language and culture, Hindi idioms, colour metaphors