“Release a chocolate hostage”: how to speak about the body without referring to it. Taboo expressions as construal of the prohibited
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Taboo expressions have been the focus of various linguistic studies and from various theoretical standpoints. Past research in cognitive semantics has addressed taboos in language as a way of accessing a significant spectrum of human bodily experience at large, focusing mostly on sexuality. From an onomasiological perspective, the present corpus-based study analyses a number of metaphors and metonymies implemented to refer to an ampler range of the so-called taboo themes. The analysis intends to cast a new light onto the reasons we refer to tabooed experiences in the way we do. It postulates that taboos should not be treated as referentially standard and holistic themes such as sex, death or birth, but as the output of specific perspectivisations over these, due to the distinct conceptualizations underlying the expressions used to speak about taboos. In accord with this assumption, it hypothesizes that the variant construal over taboo themes must also be followed by a variant blocked gestalt, particular to each expression. It also hypothesizes that the distance taken from the taboo theme, generated by the use of metonymy and metaphor, has implications for the binary distinction of euphemism and dysphemism. Methodologically, 119 expressions that make reference to four taboo themes, namely sex, excretion, death and birth, have been randomly extracted and coded for the schematic structure underlying these expressions. Respectively, the categories comprising the expressions’ schematic blueprint are the following: Image Schemas, Domains, Frames, ICMs, type of integration, and the newly coined “blocked gestalt”. Following the analysis of the coded expressions and the processes of conceptual integration of the taboo themes with the conceptual gestalts underlying the expressions, this research reports on various interesting patterns. Those are found to be different for each level of schematization, conditioned either by the domain that the taboo is linked or the connotative evaluations that accompany it. It points towards the promising possibility of an innovative and comprehensive treatment of taboos, through a multi-level and dynamic structure responsible for the conceptualization of various experiences as taboo.
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