In studies of metaphor, a conceptual domain is the representation of any coherent segment of experience, such as love and journeys. A conceptual domain that is understood in terms of another is called a conceptual metaphor.
In Cognitive English Grammar (2007), G. Radden and R. Dirven describe a conceptual domain as "the general field to which a category or frame belongs in a given situation. For example, a knife belongs to the domain of 'eating' when used for cutting bread on the breakfast table, but to the domain of 'fighting' when used as a weapon."
Examples and Observations
- "In the cognitive linguistic view, a metaphor is defined as understanding one conceptual domain in terms of another conceptual domain… Examples of this include when we talk and think about life in terms of journeys, about arguments in terms of war, about love also in terms of journeys, about theories in terms of buildings, about ideas in terms of food, about social organizations in terms of plants, and many others. A convenient shorthand way of capturing this view of metaphor is the following:
CONCEPTUAL DOMAIN (A) is CONCEPTUAL DOMAIN (B), which is what is called a conceptual metaphor. A conceptual metaphor consists of two conceptual domains, in which one domain is understood in terms of another. A conceptual domain is any coherent organization of experience. Thus, for example, we have coherently organized knowledge about journeys that we rely on in understanding life…
"The two domains that participate in conceptual metaphor have special names. The conceptual domain from which we draw metaphorical expressions to understand another conceptual domain is called source domain, while the conceptual domain that is understood this way is the target domain. Thus, life, arguments, love, theory, ideas, social organizations, and others are target domains, while journeys, war, buildings, food, plants, and others are source domains. The target is the domain that we try to understand through the use of the source domain."
Zoltán Kövecses, Metaphor: A Practical Introduction, 2nd ed. Oxford University Press, 2010
- "According to the cognitive linguistic view, a metaphor is the understanding of one conceptual domain in terms of another conceptual domain. For instance, we talk and think about love in terms of food (I hunger for you); madness (They're crazy about one another); the lifecycle of plants (Their love is in full bloom); or a journey (We'll just have to go our separate ways)… Conceptual metaphor is distinguished from metaphorical linguistic expressions: the latter are words or other linguistic expressions that come from the terminology of the concept used to understand another. Therefore, all the examples in italics above are metaphorical linguistic expressions. The use of small capital letters indicates that the particular wording does not occur in language as such, but it underlies conceptually all the metaphorical expressions listed underneath it. For instance, the verb in 'I hunger for you' is a metaphorical linguistic expression of the LOVE IS HUNGER conceptual metaphor."
Réka Benczes, Creative Compounding in English: The Semantics of Metaphorical and Metonymical Noun-Noun Combinations. John Benjamins, 2006