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.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.