The Metaphors We Speak with Affect How We Think about Time and Space

Martín LlerasUniversidad de los Andes
Florencia RealiUniversidad de los Andes
Camila AlviarUniversidad Nacional de Colombia
María Paula BermúdezUniversidad de los Andes


A growing bulk of work indicates that we think about time in terms of space. Solving temporal ambiguities may involve adopting alternative spatial frames – namely time-moving vs. ego-moving perspectives. Previous work showed that people draw on either spatial perspective to disambiguate statements such as Next Wednesday´s meeting has been moved forward 2 days (Boroditsky, 2000). The ambiguity lies in the expression move forward, which can be translated into Spanish either as adelantar or as mover hacia adelante. A Spanish corpus analysis shows that, when these expressions are used to talk about time, the former is more frequently used to describe events moving towards the ego (time-moving perspective). We studied whether the use of these expressions influences the interpretation of ambiguous temporal statements in Spanish. Results from three experiments show that: 1.Both spatial schema primes and the choice of “move forward” translation constrain people´s interpretations of ambiguous temporal statements (Experiment 1); 2.The use of different metaphors to talk about time influences the solving of spatial ambiguities (Experiment 2); 3.Temporal primes containing no metaphorical forms fail to do so (Experiment 3). We conclude that the conventionalized use of expressions affects how people draw on spatial schemas when thinking about time and space.


The Metaphors We Speak with Affect How We Think about Time and Space (652 KB)

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