Assignment 2

by Zach Tomaszewski

for LING 440, Spring 2002, taught by Ben Bergen

The given examples of eyes meeting, eyes glued to the report, and couldn't take my eyes off it are examples of a conceptual metaphor. The metaphor is A FIELD OF VISION IS AN EXTENDED LIMB, or, more simply, EYES ARE HANDS. The source domain is hands; the target is eyes. Thus, eyes are thought of in terms of hands. Here are some of the mappings:

moving one's hands over an object causes changing sensations moving one's eyes leads to a new field of vision, different light sensations, and a view of different objects
not moving one's hands usually results in feeling the same sensations not moving one's eyes usually results in looking at the same thing
one has to touch something to physically sense it one has to look at something to visually sense it
when we meet people, we often shake hands (in Western culture) when we meet people, we generally look directly into their eyes (in Western culture)

Two more example sentences using this metaphor are I could feel her eyes on me and She reached out to me with her eyes. Two slightly more novel uses are There was no escape from the heavy grip of her eyes and We looked at each other and exchanged a high-five of the eyes.

There are even cases of reasoning about eyes in terms of hands. When we touch something, we usually impact it somehow. In the same way, when we look at someone, it is thought that sometimes they feel it. (Quantum physics may imply that this is more true than it first seems.) Hands can be constrained, even glued to an object. Though it would be much more difficult to prevent someone from moving their eyes, we often think of something as so engaging as to be constraining us from moving our eyes or changing our field of vision--It held my gaze or My eyes were glued to it..

The metaphor probably comes for a co-occurance of the two domains. When we are really interested in a new object, we first look at it and then touch it. We move both our fingers and our field of vision over the object, usually in synchrony. This likely give rise to the SEEING IS TOUCHING metaphor, of which EYES ARE HANDS is part.

Other things are also thought of in terms of hands. Minds, for example, as in groping for an idea or understanding. We also talk of a meeting of the minds, which is similar to a handshake (or even meeting another's gaze). Emotional experiences impact us much as hands do: It was a touching movie and I can still feel the grip of terror on my heart.