Lexicalization Degree of Figurative Meaning Affects the Mental Organization of Body-Related Metaphorical Words in Chinese

Aitao Lu, John X. Zhang, Lei Mo, Jijia Zhang, Yuxiao Dang, Jinwang Yu


The purpose of the present study was to examine how body-related Chinese metaphorical words are organized
when the degree of lexicalization is taken into consideration. Three experiments were conducted using
multidimensional scaling (MDS) and a priming paradigm. The results in Exp. 1 and 2 indicated that the
dispersion of metaphorical words was influenced by degree of lexicalization to produce a clear separation
between a cluster of highly lexicalized metaphorical words (HM) and a cluster of body-part words (BW) with
partially lexicalized metaphorical words (LM) scattering between these two clusters. Semantic priming effect
based on a word’s literal meaning was then assessed in Exp. 3 by contrasting a picture-word match condition
with a picture-word mismatch condition using these three types of words. Significant positive priming effect was
found for the BW words but not the LM words, while a reversed inhibitory effect was found for the HM words.
Briefly, with the direct evidence from Exp. 1 and 2 showing a unique dispersion in the Euclidean distance map
and the indirect evidence from Exp. 3 revealing the existence of literal meanings for the LM but not the HM
words, this study showed that metaphorical words are organized based on their degree of lexicalization.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5539/ijps.v2n2p136

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International Journal of Psychological Studies   ISSN 1918-7211 (Print)   ISSN 1918-722X (Online)

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