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Lexicon of Common Figurative Units

Widespread Idioms in Europe and Beyond. Volume II


Elisabeth Piirainen

The book continues the work of Widespread Idioms in Europe and Beyond (2012) and also brings new insights into the similarities of the European languages. Using comprehensive data from 78 European and some non-European languages, another 280 “widespread idioms” have been analyzed in terms of their distribution and origins. They are arranged according to their source domains (for example, performing arts, sports, history, war, technology, money, folk belief, medical skills, gestures, and nature). Among them are very modern layers of a common figurative lexicon, including quotes of personalities of recent times. Thorough research on the sources of these idioms goes beyond the entries in relevant reference works and brings new and unpredictable results. All of the data in this book adds new knowledge to the fields of language and culture. We now know which Europe-wide common idioms actually constitute a “Lexicon of Common Figurative Units” and which chronological and cultural layers they may be assigned to. The question about the causes of the wide spread of idioms across many languages now can partly be answered.

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9 Time and Space


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9.1 The Temporal and Spatial Dimensions as Source Domains: Introduction

SPACE and TIME are considered to be the ubiquitous components that constitute the perception of the world. Both concepts—three-dimensional space and time as an additional dimension—are seen as corresponding phenomena according to the space-time theory in physics which combines space and time into a single continuum. However, the equation of time and space dates back to much earlier times.

Figurative language provides ample evidence about the commonalities of the two concepts; they are blended in numerous metaphors. For example, the word Zeitraum (“time-space”), ‘period’, in German indicates that the abstract and invisible dimension of time is expressed in terms of a spatial concept; cf. also the flow of time (German der Lauf der Zeit “the running of time”).1 The same holds for German über kurz oder lang “over short or long”, used ← 399 | 400 → exclusively in the temporal sense of ‘sooner or later’.2 There are also spatial prepositions which are conventionally used in the temporal sense (in this year).3 Finally, the etymology of several words can show how the concepts of space and time overlap, e.g. the English temporal adverb always which is obviously based on the concept WAY, and the Hungarian postposition után ‘after’ which is derived from út ʻway, road’, and can be used for both space and time: az iskola után ʻbehind the school-building’ and ‘after school/classes’. The same applies to Maltese wara l-iskola...

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