Brdar, Mario

How heavy are things in Croatian and elsewhere? A contrastive-experimental study / Mario Brdar, Kristina Štrkalj Despot, Mirjana Tonković, Rita Brdar-Szabo, Ivan Tomić. - str.

In this presentation we study the entrenchment of the conceptual metaphor DIFFICULT IS HEAVY in Croatian and other languages. This metaphor, considered to primary (often named DIFFICULTIES ARE BURDENS), results from recurring and co-occurring embodied experiences (Grady 1997) and conflation (Johnson 1997) of sensorimotor or perceptual domain (muscular exertion) and conceptual domain or subjective judgment of difficulty. The experiential basis for this metaphor is the discomfort or disabling effect of lifting or carrying heavy objects (Lakoff and Johnson 1999). As is usual within CMT (in accordance with Gibbs 2005 for example), we do not claim that there is some abstract or objectively similar set of attributes existing between literal and metaphorical concepts, such as our understanding of difficulty in terms of heavy physical weights (contrary to Murphy 1996). However, we assume that the concepts from these two domains are related to one another by virtue of how people are physically constituted, their cognitive abilities, and their interactions with the world. We build on the results of previous psycholinguistic (Pelosi and Macedo 2007) and psychological (Kouchaki, Gino and Jami 2014) experimental studies of the associations between physical experience of weight and different emotional or cognitive experiences. A number of studies have documented connections between bodily experiences of weight and thought, and there is every reason to believe that we might expect a robust association between the physical experience of weight and the experience of cognitive difficulty. We therefore performed a pilot experiment in which subjects (university students majoring in Croatian, N=40) were asked to solve anagrams of variable degree of difficulty while carrying backpacks of the same weight. Afterwards they were asked to assess the weight of their backpack. Generally, our hypothesis that the half of the subjects that solved more difficult anagrams would tend to assess their backpack as heavier than their actual weight was confirmed. However, the effect was not as strong as expected. This experiment will be repeated on comparable populations speaking a different mother tongue (Hungarian and English). We also plan another experiment in which all the subjects will have to solve the same task carrying backpacks of variable weight. Because of the congruency between the weight and cognitive difficulty, we expect extra weight to intensify the experience of cognitive difficulty. We predict that carrying a heavier weight would make people judge tasks to be more difficult, i.e. cognitively more demanding. This is all the more interesting as Croatian and Hungarian exhibit a pair of antonymous adjective such that both members are polysemous between ‘heavy’ and ‘difficult’, and ‘light’ and ‘easy’, respectively. This contrasts with English, where the physical heaviness and cognitive difficulty are kept apart (heavy vs. difficult, and light vs. easy).


Štrkalj Despot, Kristina ; Tonković, Mirjana ; Brdar-Szabo, Rita ; Tomić, Ivan ;

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