Conceptualisations of ageing in English and Chinese: a corpus-based study of conceptual metaphors surrounding ‘age’ and ‘old age’

Zhou, Taochen (2022) Conceptualisations of ageing in English and Chinese: a corpus-based study of conceptual metaphors surrounding ‘age’ and ‘old age’. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

[thumbnail of Thesis Zhou PhD  - corrections approved 2023.pdf] PDF
Restricted to Repository staff only until 30 June 2026.

Request a copy


The complexity of the ageing experience – a combination of societal, biological and personal effects – has gained attention in linguistic studies. The combination of language and ageing is even more urgent now because discourses on ageing are going to affect both an increasingly ageing population and those tasked with caring for them. This thesis investigates the conceptualisations of ageing from a cultural perspective, which takes Conceptual Metaphor Theory (Lakoff and Johnson 1980/2003) as its methodological basis. The project aims to uncover how two languages, English and Mandarin Chinese, make sense of ageing, specifically, ‘age’ and ‘old age’, by way of a qualitative study of corpus data. Our analysis starts with a heuristic exploration of age and old age-related dictionary entries in English and Chinese. It proceeds to focus on conceptual metaphors of ‘age’ and ‘old age’ identified in two newly assembled media corpora in the two languages. The findings show that the universally shared bodily experience, i.e., ageing, is conceptualised in a similar way on a highly abstract level, which is reflected in the conceptual metaphor AGEING IS A JOURNEY both in the idiomatic phrases and in the media data. However, on a subordinate level, the English data employs a DOWNWARD path of the ageing JOURNEY and an UPWARD path by the Chinese data. These finding suggests distinct cultural differences even for the AGEING IS A JOURNEY metaphor. Furthermore, we have identified the following source concepts in metaphors for ‘old age’: LOCATION, CONTAINER, VIOLENCE, DISEASE, A DANGEROUS THING, A LIVING THING and FRUIT. Of these, VIOLENCE, DISEASE, A DANGEROUS THING, FRUIT are not identified in the Chinese media data. The thesis extends Conceptual Metaphor Theory in terms of its range of topics in a cultural backdrop. In turn, the method proves that metaphor analysis offers a strong tool to understand the ageing experience and employing metaphors seems to be inevitable in our daily communications. To appreciate these cultural differences, we propose to use Metaphor Scenarios (Musolff 2016,2021) to complement CMT in interpreting the disparities systematically.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Politics, Philosophy, Language and Communication Studies
Depositing User: Chris White
Date Deposited: 12 Jul 2023 08:16
Last Modified: 12 Jul 2023 08:16

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item