The anthropocentricity of the English word(s) back

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The semantics of lexical items manifest in the form back are closely examined and related to front, face, behind. Essentially, “back” is where the action and interaction isn't; Le., it names the intrinsic part location, or direction directly opposite where the action and interaction goes on. By defining the back as “that part of a body opposite the interactive-side”originally on an anthropomorphic model of the prototypical human being in upright stance confronting the world by looking forward and walking for ward the term is extended to the corresponding proper parts of vertebrate and invertebrate animals and to inanimate objects such as houses, cup boards, and computers. Although some semantic extensions of “back” in languages other than English are based on an animal model (are zoomor-phic), the anthropomorphic model is shown to be prior. The anthropocentric “journey schema” is the basis for extending back to abstracts such as spatial-temporal location, movement, notions of falling behind one's peers, and supporting someone or something. The journey schema underlies the “landmark” model for semantic extensions of “back” in a number of languages. The paper confirms that the uses and meanings of English back are motivated by our cognitive modelling of the world and that they evidence a powerful anthropocentric image of “the body in the mind” of humankind.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-32
Number of pages22
JournalCognitive Linguistics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1995

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