18.8.2009

How do you talk about time without talking about space?

In most (all?) languages people talk about time in spatial metaphors. We have things like "a long time". Events in the future are "ahead" or "in front", and things in the past are... in the "past" or "behind". In the Finnish language the very words "future" and "past" are based on the spatial verbs 'come' and 'go': tulevaisuus 'that which is coming' and menneisyys 'that which has gone'.

This tendency of looking at time is also inter-connected with the metaphor of life as a journey ("I'm at a crossroads") and other Lakoffian "conceptual metaphors".

What I want to know is, are these tendencies just useful analogies that make sense and thus occur a lot in different languages, or are they inevitabilities built into the very fabric of the Chomskyan Universal Grammar? Is there a language that has no or very little overlap between concepts of spatial and temporal "long"? After all, even in English and Finnish we have pairs like further along / later, here / now and kauempana / myöhemmin.

3 kommenttia:

muhtimin kirjoitti...

Thanks for reminding me, I was supposed to write something about the "tulee menemään" construction, as in "ihan hyvin se tulee meneen".

(Supposed as in I kinda wanted to.)

Päätoimittaja. kirjoitti...

modern physics tells us time is simply the fourth dimension in a 4d space-time continuum, thus inherently connected with space. we are actually moving in a one-way dimension of our universe by experiencing time, which make these phrases surprisingly accurate and in line with the natural world, seemingly a case where people have intuitively realized a property of the universe. so in fact there's no need to talk about time without space because there's no such thing.

Tuomo kirjoitti...

That is a very good point. A refreshing, yet obvious viewpoint. Thanks for the comment!