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Idioms of body parts in the Hijazi dialect of Arabic: a study based on cognitive semantics

By Najah Ali Mohammed Al-Jahdali


This study explores the meaning of idioms concerning six parts of the human body (eye, head, mind, hand, tongue, and nose) in the Hijazi dialect of Arabic (henceforth HDA), as used in the city of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. It uses the theoretical perspective of cognitive semantics and tests the cognitive linguistic hypothesis that idiomatic expressions are motivated by conceptual mechanisms of the native speakers of a language. These mechanisms are conceptual metaphors, conceptual metonymies, and conventional knowledge of the speakers of a language. The study also explores how far our conceptual system results from the kind of beings we are and the way we interrelate with our physical and cultural environments. In the absence of Hijazi dialect dictionaries, the researcher collected these idioms first-hand and verified their figurative meanings with HDA-speakers. These figurative meanings were classified and then translated, both literally and figuratively, into English. Using the Conceptual Theory of Metaphor and Metonymy, developed mainly by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson (1980), Lakoff (1987), and Kövecses (2002), the analysis demonstrates that: HDA-speakers' conceptual system is metaphorical; that there are four main cognitive mechanisms used as motivators for the meanings of these idioms; that the overall idiomatic meaning of these HDA body-part idioms is motivated through one or more of these strategies and is never arbitrary; and that some of HDA body-part idioms are culture-specific

Publisher: University of Leicester
Year: 2010
OAI identifier: oai:lra.le.ac.uk:2381/9951

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