Semino, Elena (2010) Descriptions of pain, metaphor and embodied simulation. Metaphor and Symbol, 25 (4). pp. 205-226. ISSN 1092-6488
The variety of sensations conveyed by the English word pain tend to be described via expressions that refer to potential causes of bodily damage (e.g., stabbing, burning). Such expressions are used metaphorically when they convey pain experiences that do not directly result from physical damage (e.g., migraine pain). In this paper, I discuss psycholinguistic and neuroscientific research that suggests that these uses of metaphor may facilitate some form of embodied simulation of pain experiences on the part of listeners/readers, which may in turn provide the basis for an empathic response. I suggest that different kinds of metaphorical descriptions of pain vary in terms of their potential for eliciting a response involving embodied simulation, and in terms of the nature and intensity of the simulation they may elicit. I argue that the most relevant characteristics of metaphorical descriptions of pain in this respect are their level of detail, degree of creativity, and textual complexity.
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