“You Betcha!”: Metaphorical Basis of Epistemic Modality in Tunisian Arabic and English

By Hafedh Halila.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Lakoff & Johnson (1980) have argued extensively for the cognitive basis and functions of metaphors. We apprehend abstract concepts and experiences by referring to more basic experiential events. Thus, in English, ideas (an abstract concept) are conceived of as food (a physical substance). Thus we speak of half-baked theories, fishy arguments, food for thought, and of swallowing claims, among other things. Lakoff & Johnson’s theory of metaphors makes a number of claims about the universality of conceptual metaphors. Many studies have tested the validity of such claims across languages with varying results (see for example Yu 1998 and Radden 2003 among others with respect to expressions of time). The metaphorical basis of abstract thinking is consistent across languages although actual expressions of conceptual metaphors may vary. This paper examines the metaphorical basis of expressions of epistemic certainty and uncertainty in Tunisian Arabic and compares them to equivalent expressions in English. While both English and Tunisian Arabic use essentially similar metaphors, namely counting, gambling, and seeing to express metaphorically the speaker’s degree of commitment to the certitude of the outcome of the proposition, these metaphors are not used in parallel fashion in both languages. For example, epistemic certainty is expressed metaphorically in English through the use of the verb “count” while “think” conveys uncertainty. In Tunisian Arabic, the lexeme “ħsb” (count) is used much more frequently to convey epistemic uncertainty. In addition to this basic metaphor, a number of other metaphorical extensions related to epistemic modalities will be examined.

Keywords: Conceptual Metaphor Theory, Epistemic Modality, Certainty, Tunisian Arabic Metaphors, Lakoff & Johnson, Cultural Interference

The International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 5, Issue 10, pp.79-86. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 543.857KB).

Dr. Hafedh Halila

Assistant Professor of Linguistics, Department of English, Institut Supérieur des Langues de Tunis, Institut Supérieur des Langues de Tunis, Tunis, Tunisia

Dr. Hafedh Halila is Assistant Professor at the English Department at the “Institut Supérieur des Langues de Tunis,” where he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in English and linguistics. He has a Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of Southern California. His formal training and current main interests are in syntax and related sub-disciplines. He is also interested by trade in teaching and learning in general and foreign language teaching and learning in particular. He is the current head of the ESP (English for Specific Purposes) Resource Center, a research and teacher training center at ISLT.

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