Conceptualization of "TIME" in Yousef Tadres' Stories in the light of cognitive semantics theory

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Graduate PhD Student, Arabic Language and Literature Department, Lorestan University, Khorramabad, Iran

2 Associate Professor, Arabic Language and Literature Department, Faculty of Literature and Humanities, Lorestan University, Khorramabad, Iran

3 Associate Professor, Linguistics Department, Faculty of Persian Literature and Foreign Languages, Payame Noor University, Tehran Iran



Introduction: Cognitive semantics is a branch of cognitive linguistics which suggests that there are a number of cognitive mechanisms in the minds of humans including image schemas, conceptual metaphors, and conceptual metonymies through which meanings are created. Image schemas are the basic concepts like movement, container and force experienced by human beings from the early days of life and formed in their minds. One of the main claims of cognitive semantics is that abstract thinking roots in human experiences. Conceptual metaphor theory (CMT), first proposed in Lakoff and Johnson (1980), believes that the abstract concepts like life are better evoked by concrete and tangible concepts like journey. The former is called a target domain, and the latter is a source domain. There are lots of systematic mappings between these domains. The theory believes that the ubiquity of the systematic mappings between sources and target domains is a proof that our thinking is mostly metaphorical. The important dimension of image schemas is that they provide concrete experiential bases for the construction of some conceptual metaphors. Moreover, conceptual metonymies are mechanisms in which a kind of mental access is provided between two relevant and adjacent entities which are in the same idealized cognitive model (ICM).
Time is one of the most important as well as complex abstract concepts that has attracted the attention of many thinkers throughout the history. In both formal and cognitive linguistics, this issue has been studied in literary texts, primarily in narrative texts. The novel Yusef Tadres' Stories (Hikayat Yusef Tadres), winning the Najib Mahfouz Prize (2016), is one of the famous works of Adel Esmat, the Egyptian famous novelist. This story is narrated by Yusef Tadres, the main character of the novel. He is an artist, invoked by many idiosyncratic thoughts, cognitively developed through the passage of time by the aid of his paintings. This research attempts to shed light on the cognitive system of time representation in the story and, at the same time, its conceptualization in the mind of the ego-narrator, according to the cognitive semantics theory.
Methodology: To analyze the temporal elements of this narrative, the researchers tried to use the ideas of Lakoff and Johnson (1980) and Johnson (1987) as the bases for the identification, categorization and explanation of all the temporal elements in the story. So, all the metaphorical expressions denoting the time concept were extracted from the text. Moreover, the image schemas which represent time elements were identified and recorded. There are some time metonymies in the text that construct the concept of time. These elements were identified and explained in the process of argumentation.
Results and Discussion: The extracted data were used for the analysis of the time representation quality in the text and its conceptualization. The results show that the ego-narrator has used the three mechanisms of image schemas, conceptual metaphors and metonymies. Firstly, since there is a general correlation between time and place concepts, that is, TIME is universally conceptualized as PLACE/SPACE, the text provides such a mapping with the preposition "fi" (in) for the temporal elements. This constructs a kind of spatial identity for the non-spatial elements of time, both through a fundamental image schema of CONTAINER and the metaphors of time like time as SPACE or time as a PATH THAT HUMANS PASSED. Another issue is the conceptualization of time as an OBJECT, evoked by special expressions like small (Saghir), heavy (Thaghil) and pronominal elements like that (Zaleka/Telka). The PATH schema is used in the conceptualization of time. In some cases, time is evoked as a volitional movement in the path, as if TIME IS AN ANIMAL/HUMAN. In these cases time is as a moving object, and humans are static observers. In the conceptual metonymy found here, time is a CONTAINER in which all the events of the story are located and there is a metonymic relation of THE PROPERITIES OF EVENTS FOR EVENTS, as well as THE WHOLE FOR PART in which, for example, a whole day is used for a part of it.
Conclusion: This study shows that the novelist conceptualized time as SPACE, PATH, OBJECT, as well as, ANIMATE CREATURE to achieve narratological purposes such as description of the setting of the story, characterizations, and thematic descriptions. At the same time, the conceptual metonymies like THE TIME OF THE EVENT FOR THE EVENT and THE WHOLE TIME FOR PART OF IT are observed and aligned with other conceptualizations. The results suggest that the cognitive semantics theory, among other theories, is potentially capable of analyzing the narrative concepts, conceptualizations and the details of semantic constructions in the story, which can shed light on the subjectivity of the narrator.


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