Colorful Metaphors

Conceptual metaphors are interesting because they reflect the human thought processes. Although it may seem obvious, people do not think serially; rather, humans think by making connections that expand across multiple thought domains.  They have an innate tendency to associate commonalities across distinct disciplines of ideas. Language reflects the associative human thought process. What is interesting is that an understanding of a different culture is possible though an analysis of language, specifically of conceptual metaphors. Society constructs the initial framework for processing information by scaffolding a blueprint of values, conventions, and ethics.  My previous sentence for example, is an example of metaphorical associative thinking. My primary language, the American English language, gives me the ability to link thinking behavior with construction, with words like “construct, framework, process, scaffolding, blueprint”. Under a different context, like my secondary language, Mandarin Chinese, it would make absolutely no sense.  The construction metaphor in the American English language demonstrates values that are not shared between the two languages. This analysis of of language, specifically conceptual metaphors is just one way of gaining insight on a different culture.

In this blog post, colors reveal something about American and Chinese values

1) Green is life.

Green is associated with life because it is a reminder of spring. Spring is a time of renewal and growth, which is associated with life.

In Chinese culture, the same idea is applicable with the color “grue” a combination between green and blue. It is called 青 in Chinese, and has connotations of youth and sprouting life.

2)Black is death.

Black is associated with death because it is the color of decay and carries associations of  uncertainty.

In Chinese culture, white is associated with death because it is the color of mourning. For example, my grandpa from China, hates the paper lantern from IKEA because it reminds him of funerals.

3) Red is danger.

Red is associated with danger because it is color of extremes. Red has the ability to stand out and capture attention, it is filled with emotions like violence, passion, hate, and anger.

In Chinese culture, red is associated with good luck because back in the dynastic periods, people believed that it had the ability to ward off evil spirits.

About Ryan Wang

Ryan Wang is a first-year student at Bucknell University. He is currently majoring in Chemical Engineering and Management. He was born and raised in New York City and speaks English, some French, and three dialects of Chinese.
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