Certain complexities of cross-domain conceptual mapping

The given paper focuses on the complexities arising during the constitutive processes pertaining to the construction of conceptual networks which generate mental associations and notional constituents of the human cognition. These constitutive processes involve conceptual mapping, projection, compression of vital relations and origination of emergent structure in the blended space. More importantly, they serve as the foundation for the formation of any blending network consisting of a definitive set ofmental spaces - regions of conceptual space comprising informational content [1].

All of the above-mentioned mental operations pertain to the comprehension of figurative language by the human mind. Therefore, the given paper aims to thoroughly examine these complex processes with a view of presenting a relatively simplistic approach to defining the mechanisms of figurative content analysis. Thus, the principal purpose of the conducted research is to clarify the notions of conceptual mapping, crossdomain mapping, vital relations, and spatiotemporal relativity.

In the first place, it is necessary to provide an explanation of the basic operations participating in the construction of an integration scheme.

The process of blending is based on the development of an integration network. Conceptual integration networks include two or more input spaces, one generic space and one blended space. The generic space is activated at the first stage of the process. It is made up of the background and long-term memory information empirically acquired and accumulated by any given individual. Its participation and role in blending are unquestionably significant [1].

The second stage deals with mapping in itself - conceptual elements existing in the input spaces are identified and linked by means of connectors. The input spaces represent the two interrelated domains of information constantly interacting during the mental analysis of metaphorical utterances. The identified and connected notional elements comprising the input spaces are referred to as counterparts. The third stage of the process is associated with the selection-based projection of the newly-established relations to the blended space - the intended destination point of the overall blending procedure occurring simultaneously with this transference. The final stage of the integration process deals with the origination of the emergent structure in the blended space which represents the ambivalent unity of the projected conceptual constituents.

Conceptual mapping is one of the main procedures contributing to the development of a blending scheme. It is associated with the identification and subsequent linkage of the counterparts related to the semantically incompatible notional fields (or domains) of a given figurative-content message. This incompatibility stems from the dichotomic and equivocal nature of the metaphorical language which is based on the interaction of the literal-sense and figurative-sense informational constituents.

The notion of domain is fundamental to the Conceptual Metaphor Theory. Domain is a meaningful unit representing a complicated knowledge framework pertaining to a specific experiential aspect and possessing a fluctuating level of structurization complexity. The main function of a domain is to provide the empirically-established and situation-based knowledge contexts on which the comprehension of other representational units is based [2].

Inherently, there are two foundational domains - source domain and target domain. Source domain is a field of conceptual space comprising the originally embedded meaningful structure or information packets which, as the operation of blending proceeds, undergo semantic transformation and are projected to the target domain. The given projection results in the entrenchment of a conceptual connection between the domains and representational constituents of any integration network. Target domain is the second major region of notional space serving as the basis for the reception and further alteration of the converted conceptual content.

According to the Conceptual Metaphor Theory, the internal structure of mental representational networks also includes domains of space and time [2]. The universal notional category of space is an inseparable component of the human cognition closely associated with empirical sensory experience and physical perceivability of entities pertaining to the external reality. The all-embracing conceptual category of time is another significant constituent of the human cognition. The domain of time provides the chronological and durational essence of the information packets confined within the regions of a blending network. The domains of space and time can function as source or target domains depending on the peculiarities of spatiotemporal relations existing in the network.

The above-mentioned domains hypothetically include and activate mental representations, such as semantic frames and concepts. The domains of space and time are mainly composed of the representational units characterized by the presence of spatial and temporal semantic content - concept of space and concept of time, respectively. Consisting of the spatiotemporal information packets, these concepts are interrelated, interdependent, and indispensable to the construction of any integration network.

Furthermore, the domains are employed to systematize the inherent conceptual knowledge patterns and to present the necessary information packets that subsequently undergo meaning alteration in the course of super-domain interaction.

The complex relations between the source domain and the target domain are referred to as cross-domain mapping - the process of transferring (projecting) conceptual elements within and across domains. The notion of domain resonates with another term crucial to the blending operation - mental space. Mental spaces are less significant in that they are constructed on the basis of the content projected from the domains. Therefore, the main difference between the two is evidenced by the more universal nature of domains and the fact that they serve as the source for the acquisition of conceptual information and the target of the subsequent projection of it to an integration network.

Cross-domain mapping is achieved by the structurization of one notional domain, the target domain, in terms of another, the source domain [2]. Cross-domain mapping is one of the most important means of organization of the conceptual system. Crossdomain mapping contributes to the visualization of one domain in terms of another by virtue of simplification of the complicated super-domain relations associated with the transference of the meaningful content from the source domain to the target domain.


Certain complexities of cross-domain conceptual mapping

Cross-domain mapping is considered as an established relationship existing between conceptual elements pertaining to the distinct domains.

The complexities arising in the course of cross-domain mapping are related to the interaction of the source and target domains.

First of all, the conceptually entrenched information is transformed in the process of projection because of the new situation-based evaluation of the given phenomenon. It results in the reinterpretation of the previously incorporated conceptual content, and discrepancies between the initially-embedded and the newly-acquired semantic meanings of a given metaphorical utterance. The literal-sense meaningful units collide and interact with the figurative content to generate a novel semantically ambivalent structure characterized by a relatively stable degree of metaphoricity [3].

The notion of super-domain interaction implies the presence of the spatiotemporal relations. The concepts of space and time communicate with each other across domains to generate an all-embracing network space-time continuum - conceptual unity of the spatiotemporal relations existing in the given notional field.

The compression of vital relations represents a complex process which encumbers the cross-domain mapping operation because of the presence of a large number of connections in the blending network. Vital relations are the connectors employed to determine and link the counterparts located in distinct mental spaces. The compression process is achieved by the transformation of outer-space vital relations into inner-space vital relations. The outer-space vital relations are used to connect counterparts across the input spaces. The compressed vital relations which are projected to the blended space are referred to as inner-space vital relations. Thus, the conversion of vital relations can be characterized as the process of constriction of an extensive set of interactions into a restricted one.

There are spatial and temporal vital relations, the compression of which is concurrent with the projection of the conceptual information from one domain onto another, from one input space onto another, thus encumbering the course of the overall blending network construction.

Relations of space in the domain of space, be it source or target domain, are frequently incompatible with those in the integration network, i.e. within input spaces. Relations of time in the domain of time are also not concordant with those situated in the input spaces. This results in simultaneous activation of multiple vital relations in all of the domains, which complicates the analysis of the integration network by the human mind.

The introduction of a novel hypothetical principle, spatiotemporal relativity, is an attempt to facilitate the complex nature of the above-mentioned mental operations. This principle is based on interdependence, and not interchangeability of spatiotemporal conceptual elements. Furthermore, the principle of spatiotemporal relativity holds that the inherent notional components of an integration network possess either spatial or temporal characteristics, i.e. each of the structurally embedded conceptual units can be comprehended through the domain of space or the domain of time. More importantly, the relativity principle is based on the constant interaction of the spatial and temporal meaningful constituents within the given conceptual continuum. The activation of spatial relations does not provoke the shutdown of temporal elements. In actuality, spatial and temporal vital relations are simultaneously triggered and employed to form a conceptually entrenched space-time continuum within the scope of any given figurative- content utterance. Therefore, the principle of spatiotemporal relativity, representing the interdependence of the spatial and temporal notional components - vital relations, is indispensable to the simplification and facilitation of cross-domain mapping and the construction of a conceptual blending network as such.

Decompression, the reverse process to compression of vital relations, is also considered as a means of reduction of the internal complexity of cross-domain mapping. Emergent structure, the result of the blending operation, is divided in the blended space with a view of reorganizing the outer-space relations and the counterparts which contributed to its origination. The reconstruction of the previously established complex relations gives rise to the simplification of the secondary cross-domain mapping process.

Thus, the facilitation of the conceptual projection can be achieved by taking all of the above-mentioned approaches into consideration. The hypothetical principle of spatiotemporal relativity should be highlighted as one of the most significant and efficient means of reducing the complexity of conceptual cross-domain mapping and blending operations. More importantly, the principle of spatiotemporal relativity, representing the complex nature of mapping mechanisms intelligibly, should be thoroughly examined and analyzed due to its large theoretical potential.



  1. Fauconnier. G.. Turner. M.. “The way we think: Conceptual Blending and the Mind’s Hidden Complexities”. Basic Books 2002 - 440 c.
  2. Evans, V.“A Glossary of Cognitive Linguistics”. Edinburgh University Press 2007 - 251 c.
  3. Oakley, T. “Conceptual integration” Handbook of Pragmatics, John Benjamins Publishing Company 2011 - 25 c.
Year: 2015
Category: Pedagogy