Event Structure Metaphors through the Body

Daniel R. Roush
  • June 2018, John Benjamins
  • DOI: 10.1075/ftl.4

How Deaf translators handle metaphors when interpreting from English to American Sign Language (ASL)

What is it about?

Metaphors arise as connected concepts in our minds based on bodily experience. Metaphoric language is an expression of these embodied and connected concepts. When translating metaphors, sometimes Deaf people appear to change one thought for another, not just one ASL sign for an English word. The type of metaphors that Deaf translators substitute or add have a different prominence in ASL than in English (body-as-container metaphors). This raises the question of whether culturally Deaf people think in different metaphors based on the visual and spatial orientation of their bodily experience.

Why is it important?

The type of metaphors that I examined in translation are called Event-Structure Metaphors. These conceptual metaphors help us understand abstract, event-related concepts such as states, changes, causes, purposes, difficulties, achievements, and so forth. Previously, Event-Structure Metaphors were divided into two main branches. This study adds a third main branch to the theory. This book also contributes to ongoing interest in the translation of metaphor and the factors that influence metaphor universality and variation. It also highlights the importance of including the world’s many signed languages in metaphor studies.


Daniel Roush (Author)
Eastern Kentucky University

I count it a privilege to be a native ASL signer and to be raised in a culturally Deaf home. Rather than seeing deafness as a loss, I see the Deaf experience as a gain. Deaf people have been called the “People of the Eye” and the unique visual and spatial orientation exhibited in their languages has made important contributions to humanity. This study further supports how studying the indigenous signed languages of Deaf communities around the world can offer important insights into the conceptual and cultural diversity in our human societies.

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The following have contributed to this page: Daniel Roush