Translating Cognitive and Linguistic Metaphors in Popular Science: A Case Study of Scientific Discoveries

Sui He*, Mark Shuttleworth*, Wang Caiwen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


Since the cognitive turn in metaphor studies in the late 1970s, metaphor has been seen as a cognitive phenomenon reflecting how we think, alongside its classic role as a powerful literary device. This ‘cognitive turn’ in metaphor studies makes it possible to investigate metaphor in two facets: the cognitive one and the linguistic one. In this tenet, the notion of metaphor features two intertwined parts: conceptual metaphors which resemble mental connections between different knowledge packets (e.g., LIFE IS A BOOK), and their linguistic manifestations known as metaphorical expressions or linguistic metaphors (e.g., They are starting a new chapter of their life). This opens a window for metaphor translation research, for it allows researchers to examine metaphor translation from the two complementary facets. Building on conceptual metaphor theory (Lakoff and Johnson 1980, 2003) and conceptual blending theory (Fauconnier and Turner 2002), our case study discusses the translation of cognitive and linguistic metaphors identified in source and target texts. Metaphorical expressions were handpicked from seven popular cosmological articles published in Scientific American between 2017 and 2018, and their official Chinese translations published in Huanqiukexue (‘global science,’ Beijing) and Kexueren (‘science person,’ Taipei). The findings lend support to the joint application of two metaphor theories to descriptive translation studies, for it not only facilitates the analysis of translation examples but also enhances the feasibility of comparing metaphor translation research across languages pinned by metaphor parameters waiting to be explored.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-26
Number of pages26
JournaltransLogos Translation Studies Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

User-Defined Keywords

  • conceptual blending theory
  • conceptual metaphor theory
  • metaphor translation
  • popular science


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