Linguistics, (Sign) Language, Metaphor

Here are two contrasting articles about metaphor and (sign) language.   Does signing profit from the additional dimension of time?

Poetry in Sign Language

“a splendid flash of concrete poetry” in ASL trace,Photospeaking and/or Photowriting series by Jolanta Lapiak at

Poetry is a form of literary art in language, whether it is written, spoken or signed. Poetry uses various elements and devices, such as alliteration, rhythm, simile, metaphors, and onomatopoeia. Often poetry relies heavily on imagery and metaphors. In this sense, poetry and visual-manual (sign) language are somehow a natural complementarity. Merging them together is a magic of poesy in imagery.

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Sign languages help us understand the nature of metaphors

December 10, 2010

A recent study of the use of metaphors in spoken language and various sign languages shows that certain types of metaphors are difficult to convey in sign language. The study, “Iconicity and metaphor: Constraints on metaphorical extension of iconic forms,” to be published in the December 2010 issue of the scholarly journalLanguage, is authored by Irit Meir of the University of Haifa.

Dr. Meir’s research sheds new light on the interrelations between two notions that play an important role in language and communication, iconicity and metaphor. This study shows that the iconicity of a form may constrain the possible metaphorical extensions that the form might take. Put another way, certain metaphorical expressions in  cannot be “translated directly” into sign language if their form is iconic.

More information: A preprint version is available on line at:


About carlos

I'm a curious person, of reasonable intellect, "on the beach" (retired) and enjoying my interest in anthropology, language, civil rights, and a few other areas. I've been a hippie/student/aerospace tech writer in the '60s, a witness to the Portuguese revolution in the ‘70s, a defense test engineer and witness to the Guatemalan genocide in the '80s, and a network engineer for an ISP in the '90s. Now I’m a student and commentator until my time is up. I've spent time under the spell of the Mesoamerican pyramids and the sweet sound of the Portuguese language. I've lived in Europe, traveled in Brazil, Central America, Iceland, New Zealand, and other places. My preferred mode of travel is with a backpack and I eat (almost) anything local. Somehow, many of the countries I have been to have had civil unrest (for which I was not responsible). I'm open to correspond with anyone who might share my liberal, humanist interests. I live in San Buenaventura, California.
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