The heart and cultural embodiment in Tunisian

The heart and cultural embodiment in Tunisian Arabic
Zouhair Maalej
The Muslim concept of the heart as an instrument of understanding is evident in the teachings of the Koran (the Holy Book of Muslims). The heart in present-day T. Arabic, however,
is almost exclusively the seat of emotions and cultural values, but hardly ever the instrument
of thought and understanding, which are relegated to the 3aql ‘intellect’. Compared to other
parts of the body, the heart is one of the most productive source domains for cultural conceptualizations in present-day T. Arabic. It is a CONTAINER for emotions, people, and objects
that can enter it and leave it (IN-OUT schema). It is also capable of movement as in UPDOWN (fear, panic, and worry), and WIDE-NARROW (worry, anxiety) image schemas.
The heart provides metaphoric conceptualizations for love and sadness, and is also involved
in conceptualizations of cultural values such as compassion, cruelty, courage, encouragement, generosity, hard work, kindness, laziness, meanness, (in)tolerance, conscience, remembrance, and so forth. The metonymic model of the heart’s Idealized Cognitive Model
describes the HEART FOR PERSON metonym, where the heart stands for the person.
Compared to the conceptualizations of the heart in English, the heart in present-day T. Arabic is fairly restricted in scope. Indeed, while the heart in English describes a wider range of
emotions, mental faculties, and cultural conceptualizations – equating this organ with the
mind, thinking, understanding, etc. – in present-day T. Arabic the qalb ‘heart’ is largely
dissociated from the mind, thinking, and understanding.
Keywords: heart, metaphor, metonymy, cultural model, cultural values, emotions, Tunisian
In the West, three models of the relation between body and mind can be
isolated: (i) the humors model, which originated in the Greek culture and
medicine and dominated Western thought up to the middle ages, with remnants still felt in some language use nowadays (Geeraerts and Grondelaars
1995); (ii) the body-mind split model, which was staunchly defended by
Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle and systematized by Descartes, and which dominated Western philosophy for many centuries (Lakoff and Johnson 1999); and (iii) embodied thought model, which called
Zouhair Maalej
for a body-mind conflation (Johnson 1987; Lakoff and Johnson 1999). In
particular, the embodied model recently questioned the other two models,
especially the body-mind split model.
The embodiment thesis is the backbone on which cognitive linguistics
rests, and, perhaps, also on which its future will greatly depend. Drawing
on the foundational work by Lakoff and Johnson (1980), Johnson (1987)
and Lakoff (1987), the literature on embodiment is growing bigger with the
addition of specific volumes (Gibbs 2005; Ziemke et al., in press) and papers in journals (Sinha and Jensen de López 2000; Ziemke, 2003; Maalej
2004, 2007; Rohrer in press). Treatments of embodiment range from “embodiment as the physical substrate” (Rohrer in press) to structural coupling,
historical embodiment, physical embodiment, ‘organismoid’ embodiment,
organismic embodiment, and social embodiment (Ziemke 2003).
Lakoff and Johnson (1999: 102–4) investigated embodiment by distinguishing it into neural, phenomenological, and cognitive unconscious levels, which are all useful biological, experiential, and psycho-philosophical
dimensions to embodiment. However, why do we have, for instance, to
move in the direction of abstract forms of embodiment such as some of the
types distinguished by Ziemke (2003) while rudimentary physiological and
cultural forms of embodiment are out there awaiting treatment and recognition? It may seem a proliferation of terminology to add new concepts to the
already existing ones (developed by Lakoff and Johnson 1999, Rohrer 1998
2001, Wilson 2002, Ziemke 2003). But cultural embodiment (Sinha and
Jensen de López 2000; Maalej 2004), as another addition to the list, may
turn out to be a promising alley into research on embodiment.
The conception of “cultural embodiment” offered here can be contrasted
with the more physiological kind of embodiment. For instance, emotions
are known in brain studies to be regulated by the hypothalamus brain structure, and controlled by the limbic system, which inhibits and excites them.
Lakoff and Johnson (1999) call this kind of correlation between emotions
and their correlative brain structures “neural embodiment.” Cultural embodiment occurs when physiological embodiment is departed from in significant ways, thus constructing a culturally-situated form of embodiment.
Cultural embodiment in the sense used here is when the neural synchronization between emotions, on the one hand, and the hypothalamus and the
limbic system, on the other, is ignored in a given culture, and when the
control of experience and its conceptualization is permeated by culture. An
important type of cultural embodiment is when the physiology, function,
and neural basis of body parts are imaginatively exploited and hijacked by
The heart in Tunisian Arabic
culture. This conception of embodiment runs counter to “Lakoff & Johnson’s companion formulation that the physiological body grounds cultural
thought and never the reverse” (Maalej 2007: 91).
Bodily organs used in emotions and endearment are commonplace in
present-day T. Arabic. For instance, in the conceptualization of anger, body
parts such as stomach, brain, nerve, bone, and testicle represent different
degrees of anger such as fqa3-l-i ma3id-ti (He burst open my stomach),
Haraq-l-i muxx-i (He caused my brain to burn), Haraq-l-i 3Saab-i (He
burnt my nerves), digdig-l-i 3Daam-i (He broke my bones into small bits),
and nfaxx-im-l-i (He inflated my testicles) (Maalej 2004). On the other
hand, organs such as the heart, liver, and eye are commonly used in endearment in present-day T. Arabic, offering conceptualizations such as ya
ruH qalb-i (hey, soul of my heart), ya kibd-i (hey, my liver) or ya mamm-u
3ayn-i (hey, pupil of my eye). Such conceptualizations show how the dearness of children is motivated by and correlated in present-day T. Arabic
with the centrality of organs such as the heart, liver, and eye to perception.
The eye, in particular, is involved in a panoply of cultural conceptualizations such as love (e.g. flaan fi 3ainayya: X is in my eyes: I love X so
much), perseverance (e.g. 3mill l-milH fi 3ainay-h w bana daar: He put salt
into his eyes and built a house: He worked hard/persevered and managed to
build a house), ambition (e.g. 3ain-ha kbiira/waas3a: her eye is big/
spacious: She is very ambitious), over-ambition (e.g. l-3ain ma yimlaa-ha
kaan d-dud w traab: only worms and sand can fill the eye: Her/His ambition is outrageous), desire of coveting (e.g. 3ain-u 3ali-ha: His eye is on
her/it: He covets her/it), with the object of the desire of coveting being a
woman, a car, a house, a plot of land, etc. The eye can also be found in
memory-related conceptualizations as in xalli-ha bain 3ainay-k (Keep it
between your eyes: Don’t forget it) or jaat bain 3ainayya (It came between
my eyes: I remembered it). Remembrance is also conceptualized with the
ear as in xalli l-Hkaaya xirS fi wiDnik (Keep that story as an earring: Never
forget that story). However, except for eye and ear, bodily organs used as
bearers of mental faculties are rare in present-day T. Arabic.
Each of the body parts used in the conceptualization of emotions, endearment, and cognitive faculties does not, however, constitute a cognitive/
cultural model as complex and elaborate as that of the heart in present-day
T. Arabic. The heart as a source domain has been attested in the expression
of emotions in many cultures, including Chinese (Yu, 1995, 1998, 2003),
English (Niemeier 1997, 2000), Hungarian (Kövecses, 2000, 2002), and
Persian (Sharifian this volume), and so forth. Building on Maalej (2004,
Zouhair Maalej
2007), the present chapter shows the heart to be one of the most productive
source domains in present-day T. Arabic for the conceptualization of emotions and feelings, describing a complex Idealized Cognitive Model (Lakoff
1982, 1987). Its image schematic structure shows the heart both as a static
container for emotions, people, and objects, and a dynamic entity moving
in space. Its metaphoric model establishes the heart as a repository for emotions and cultural values while its metonymic model describes the HEART
FOR PERSON metonym, where the heart stands for the person.
The data on which this chapter is based comes from conventionalized expressions that take the heart as a target domain in present-day T. Arabic. It is
based on the author’s intuition as a native speaker, and it is crossed-checked
informally by other natives of T. Arabic to minimize the risk of interference
from English expressions. There exist for T. Arabic no sizeable written
documents such as dictionaries, nor even oral corpora recorded or transcribed. Since T. Arabic is only a spoken language variety of Arabic, few
documents1 are found in written form. The only book that discusses Tunisian
culture and traditions in the author’s sub-dialect is Zouari and Charfi (1998),
which has very little to offer about the heart in present-day T. Arabic.
The structure of the present chapter is as follows. Section 2 discusses
conceptions of the heart in the Arab-Islamic culture, isolating a religionbased model and a secular one, arguing that present-day T. Arabic has
opted for the latter as the basis of an Idealized Cognitive Model. Section 3
addresses the conceptualizations of the heart in present-day T. Arabic in
light of the humoral doctrine, which is shown to offer very little toward
accounting for the Idealized Cognitive Model of the heart in present-day T.
Arabic. Section 4 deals with the image schematic conceptualizations of the
heart in present-day T. Arabic, especially the CONTAINER schema with
regard to anger, fear, and love emotions and some cultural values. Section 5
is devoted to the metaphoric conceptualizations of the heart in emotions,
cultural values, and mental faculties. Section 6 discusses the metonymy of
The heart in the Arab-Islamic culture
In the Koran, the holy book of Muslims, the heart is a bearer of the mental
faculty of understanding, though it is not used to think with as, for instance,
is the heart in Chinese (Yu this volume). Consider the following examples
from the Koran:
The heart in Tunisian Arabic
(1) a. Many are the Ginns and men we have made for Hell: They have
hearts wherewith they understand not, eyes wherewith they see not,
and ears wherewith they hear not.2
b. Do they not travel through the land, so that their hearts (and minds)
may thus learn wisdom.3
c. Verily in this is a Message for any that has a heart and understanding
or who gives ear and earnestly witnesses (the truth).4
In (1a), it is clear through the use of the instrumental conjunction (wherewith) that the heart is for understanding. Emphasis is added between brackets “(and minds)” by the translator in (1b) to the translation of qulubun
(hearts), though it does not have a counterpart in the source text. The intention of the translator is to make sure that through this added (and conjoined)
parallel to “their hearts” the heart in translation is interpreted by the reader
as “their minds.” But the translator could have done away with the addition
as understanding the heart as a mental faculty is very obvious in the cognitive verb “learn” predicated of hearts. The translator did the same in (1c),
whereby he translated the word qalb (heart) by “heart and understanding.”
This extra care on the part of the translator to render “heart” as “heart and
understanding” in the translated text is taken to ensure that “heart” triggers
the right translation equivalent intended in the Koran.
The heart-as-instrument-of-understanding metaphor is brought out more
clearly when the heart is said to be veiled/locked/covered, thus precluding
it from performing its main function of understanding, signaled in many
places in the Koran:
(2) a. But we have thrown veils on their hearts, so they understand it not.5
b. Do they not then earnestly seek to understand the Qur’an, or are their
hearts locked up by them?6
c. And We put coverings over their hearts (and minds) lest they should
understand the Qur’an, and deafness into their ears.7
There is, therefore, a relation of causality between lack of understanding
and the heart being veiled, locked up, and covered, whereby the heart is
clearly held responsible for the understanding task.
Zouhair Maalej
In (2c), the heart also shares the hearing function with the ear as an instrument of understanding. This is clearly understood if we add the necessary material to the elliptical construction used to avoid repetition: “… and
[put] deafness into their ears” [lest they should understand the Koran]. Further confirmation of the involvement of audition and sight with the heart in
the Koran, can be seen in the following contexts:
(3) a. We could punish them (too) for their sins, and seal up their hearts so
that they could not hear.8
b. Truly it is not their eyes that are blind, but their hearts which are in
their breasts.9
The heart in the Koran, therefore, does part of the mind’s work as in Western culture. This can be inferred from the conceptual metonymy CONCRETE FOR ABSTRACT, which subsumes the specific conceptual metaphor, UNDERSTANDING IS SEEING AND HEARING, with the heart as
the organ of understanding. This perceptive metaphor for understanding has
been attested for Indo-European languages by Sweetser (1990: 28), who
studied it under the generic Mind-as-Body metaphor.
Alongside the conceptual metaphor CONCRETE FOR ABSTRACT,
where the heart qualifies as an organ of understanding, the Koran also
makes use of the more universal heart-as-container metaphor. The container is signaled by the preposition fi (in) as in:
“And God knows (all) that is in your hearts: And God is AllKnowing, Most Forbearing.”10
Obviously, the logic of the container presupposes contents filling it,
which can be positive or negative. Man’s heart, thus, may be filled with
faith (Suras XLIX, LVIII), hypocrisy (Sura IX), ignorance (Sura XLVIII),
indignation (Sura IX), peacefulness (Suras XLVIII), perversity (Sura III),
rancor (Suras LIX), regret (Sura III), sickness (Suras V, VIII, IX, X, XXIV,
XLVII, LXXIV), terror (Suras III, VIII, XXXIII, LIV). In particular, the
heart being filled with sickness is very frequent in the Koran, whereby
sickness is metaphorically conceptualized. As will be seen later on in the
chapter, Tunisian culture conceives of the heart as being filled with different contents than does the Koran.
The heart in Tunisian Arabic
The prevalent religious system in Islam (which it shares with Christianity and Judaism) can be captured in the soul-body dichotomy, where the
soul is heavenly, immaterial, and eternal while the body is earthly, material,
and ephemeral:
Religious system
Believers should aspire to shun things bodily in favor of things heavenly.
As seen in the Koran, the heart and the intellect overlap at the bodily member of the dichotomy since both heart and intellect have biological foundations. However, compared to the Western body-mind dichotomy, Islam not
only does not dichotomize the heart and the intellect, it explicitly states that
both heart and intellect are bodily-based. As stated by al-Jawziyya (1998:
81), “according to Islamic medicine, the primary connection of the spirit
(rûh) with the body is by the heart from which the spirit arises and is sent
forth into the parts of the body” (quoted in MacPhee 2003: 66):
Thus, under this religious model the heart acts like a mediator between the
body and the soul.
The Arab culture has certainly been impacted by the teachings of Islam,
which explains the existence of the heart-as-intellect metaphor in olden
times. Indeed, the heart among Arabs had come to stand for the intellect as
attested in The Tongue of Arabs (Ibn ManDur 1994), one of the famous
books that documents linguistic practices in Arabic history. Reporting from
authorities, Ibn ManDur (1994 Book I: 687) mentioned that “it is permissible in Arabic to say: ‘You have no heart’ and ‘Your heart is not with you’,
i.e., ‘Your intellect/reason/mind is not with you,’ and ‘Where did your heart
go?’, i.e. ‘Where did your intellect/reason/mind go?’ Others said: He who
has a heart, i.e., understanding and reflection.”11 There are certainly relics
of ancient conceptions surviving in deeply religious communities, as
documented by MacPhee (2003: 57) for the rural province of Errachidia,
Morocco, where the heart is seen as “an organ and symbol that links spiritual, emotional, and physical experience.” However, the religious model of
body versus soul and the medical body-spirit-heart model have been abandoned in present-day T. Arabic, thus giving rise to a secular system where
Zouhair Maalej
heart and intellect find themselves dichotomized. The heart and intellect
have gradually been separated in the Arab culture probably under the influence of western philosophy, especially ancient Greek philosophy and rationalist-oriented Enlightenment in Europe, which was overwhelmingly
translated and adopted into Islamic philosophy and Arab culture.
The religious conceptualization of the heart-as-understanding that existed in Arab-Muslim culture, therefore, seems to have been short-lived in
many of the dialects of Arabic. As documented by MacPhee (2003: 65) for
Morocco, “the growing influence of secularism and capitalist sentiments in
the Sahara” are responsible for social disunity. Probably for similar political reasons, the religious component was lost in Tunisian culture, giving
way to the secular heart-intellect dichotomy. The heart and the intellect in
present-day T. Arabic have come apart so completely that those who think
with their hearts are deemed irrational as in:
X thinks with his heart.
‘X is quite irrational.’
with heart his
As a result, the heart has kept a very low profile in the conceptualization of
mental faculties in present-day T. Arabic, but occupies a preponderant
place in the conceptualization of emotions and cultural values, describing
an Idealized Cognitive Model of the heart image schematically, metaphorically, or metonymically.
Curiously enough, thinking to the self is achieved with the help of the
soul or between the self and the soul as in the following examples:
(8) a. xammimt
[I] think-PERFECT
between myself
‘I thought between myself and my soul.’
I thought to myself.
b. xammimt
[I] think-PERFECT
‘I thought with my soul.’
I thought to myself.
w bain
and between soul my
soul my
The heart in Tunisian Arabic
The “with” in (8b) expresses the notion of instrumentality rather than
that of accompaniment, where the soul is conceptualized as carrying some
of the burden of thinking with the self. Such a soul-as-understanding metaphor seems to be the only religious survivor in present-day T. Arabic.
The heart in Islamic medicine
Burnett (2004), a professor of the History of Islamic Influences in Europe,
presents Avicenna’s medicine as built on the four humors:
The basis of this medicine was ‘humoral pathology', i.e. an understanding
that the human body consisted of four humours: blood, yellow bile (choler),
phlegm, and black bile (melancholy), which were related to other `quaterneries': the elements air, fire, earth and water; the seasons spring, summer,
autumn and winter; the ages of man, childhood, youth, middle age and old
age; and the triplicities of the signs of the zodiac. Good health depended on
the four humours being well-balanced in respect to each other (the Greek
term is ‘eukrasia' – a ‘good mixing’, ‘temperament’ or ‘complexion’).
Winsvold (2005) argues that “the success of the Arabian medicine can be
credited for their endorsement of Greek and Roman medicine at a time
when this knowledge was lost to the West.” Winsvold (2005) adds that
medicine was practiced according to the:
Six Necessities': Air (including climate, soil etc.), Food, Bodily rest and
movement, Sleep, Emotional rest, Excretion and retention. Any of these
were believed to influence the temperament. This meant that people living
in one climate would have a different temperament than others. Food or
even substances surrounding a man, such as wood, brick or metal, would influence his health, and thus both be potential explanations for disease and
form the basis of a cure.
However, the question that must be raised is whether the theory of the four
humors can be traced back in cultural conceptualizations of the heart in T.
As presented by Geeraerts and Grondelaers (1995: 156) and Yu (this
volume), the humoral tradition includes physiological, psychological, and
medical aspects. Physiologically, the four humors (yellow bile, black bile,
phlegm, and blood) regulate the body’s well-being. Psychologically, they
Zouhair Maalej
generate corresponding temperaments (angry, fearful, phlegmatic, and sanguine), depending on the dominant humor available to the body. Medically,
the humoral theory identifies diseases and their symptoms and prescribes
therapies to regulate the body’s imbalance. Arguing against the conceptualization of anger as the HEAT OF A FLUID IN A CONTAINER, Geeraerts and Grondelaers (1995: 174) claim that anger “has undergone the
influence of the humoral doctrine, but that the original set of humoral expressions has been subjected to a process of reinterpretation and obsolescence,” whereby the humoral expressions have been, under scientific influences, corrected as physiological ones.
To address the heart in present-day T. Arabic, the system of humoral
correspondences is reproduced from Geeraerts and Grondelaers (1995: 158)
in the following table:
Table 1. The system of humoral correspondences
Black bile
Yellow bile
Cold and moist
Cold and dry
Warm and dry Warm and
Liver/stomach Heart
Originating in translations of western concepts, names for the four humors do exist in Modern Standard Arabic as ?an-nafsu l-balRamiyyatu
(phlegmatic self), ?an-nafsu is-Safraawiyyatu (choleric self), ?an-nafsu ssawdaawiyyatu (melancholic self), and ?an-nafsu d-damawiyyatu (sanguine
self). However, unlike English and French, present-day T. Arabic does not
seem to include the nominal concepts that stand for the humors (except, of
course, blood), nor any of the adjectives derived from the four humors that
designate the temperaments in the theory. Practically, the humoral theory
no longer has an existence in the mind of speakers of T. Arabic.
The heart in Tunisian Arabic
Present-day T. Arabic does include expressions such as damm-u sxun
(His blood is hot/He is hot-blooded), to mean that he is easily irritable, and
damm-u baarid (His blood is cold: He is not irritable). Such expressions
might be argued to evoke the humoral doctrine. However, a close scrutiny
reveals a skewing of correspondences. For instance, in damm-u sxun, although blood is hot not just warm, the person having that kind of disposition is not sanguine but choleric in present-day T. Arabic. In damm-u baarid, there is a problem fitting the expression either under phlegm or black
bile since both of them are cold (and it does not fit under blood as blood
does not associate with coldness). Granting that it can fit under either one,
there is still a problem of correspondence between blood, on the one hand,
and phlegm or black bile, on the other. Blood associates with the heart
while phlegm as coldness associates with the brain/bladder and black bile
with spleen. If one believes, as do Geeraerts and Grondelaers (1995: 163),
that blood here stands for yellow bile and phlegm because blood carries all
humors, then it can be argued that these expressions have come into being
under the influence of the humoral theory, and have subsequently been
reinterpreted physiologically later on in history. The same problem persists
with expressions using the heart as a landmark as in the following
expressions describing various degrees of heartburn: 3and-i n-naar 3ala
qalb-i (I have fire on my heart), qalb-i yaHraq ki n-naar (My heart is burning like fire), 3and-i sihraaja naar 3ala qalb-i (I have a flame of fire on my
heart). Fire (and its derivatives burning and flames) associates with liver
and stomach in the theory while in these expressions in present-day T. Arabic it is in/on to the heart.
There also exists in present-day T. Arabic the expression qalb-u baarid
(His heart is cold: He is a lazy person) discussed earlier in connection
with laziness/idleness. The laziness-as-coldness metaphor does not evoke
phlegmatic placidity, which is often contrasted to the choleric temper associated with yellow bile. Rather, coldness here is contrasted to dynamism
and activity. This may be attributed to the metaphor INTENSITY IS HEAT
(LACK OF INTENSITY IS COLDNESS), as discussed in Kövecses
(2005: 27). Coldness acts as a source domain for many experiential domains in present-day T. Arabic such as in riiq baarid (cold saliva: silly
talk), janab-ha baarid minn-u (Her side is cold about him: She does not
trust him), ydai-h baarda (His hands are cold: He does not have the courage to do anything), wja33 baarid (cold labor: intermittent pain during
labor), 3iiša baarda (cold life: spice-free food), wTaa baarda (cold land:
fairly infertile land), s-suq baarda (cold market: bear market), liqma
Zouhair Maalej
baarda (cold mouthful: food that one does not work or tire for), s-tiqbaal
baarid (cold welcome), and so forth. (Zouari and Charfi 1998: 33–4). Presumably, such expressions do not suggest phlegm or any synonym of it,
especially those expressions that talk about food, life, labor, market, and
land. The lack of correlation between coldness in these conceptualizations
and phlegm suggests cultural mappings between coldness and expected
qualities of food, welcome, life, labor, market, and land that are experienced and judged to be below a certain level of normalcy in the culture. As
a result, the humoral theory does not seem to motivate or predict emotions
and cultural values addressed in the current chapter.
Such a cultural explanation of these well-established correlations between the experiential domain of coldness and various experiences points
to cultural specificities. In other words, if it were the case that the four humors governed conceptualizations, all cultures would have had the very
same conceptualizations of experience, and we know this is true of only a
restricted number of experiences across cultures. For instance, Englishspeaking people conceptualize the present-day T. Arabic “cold talk” as
stupid or silly talk, “cold side” as distrust, “cold land” as fairly infertile
land, “cold labor” as having little labor pain, “cold market” as bear market,
and so on. These conceptualizations are evidence that our cognition is fundamentally “built for encultured variation” (Levinson 1996: 177). However, this does not mean that cultures do not share some conceptualizations
as in s-tiqbaal baarid and s-tiqbaal Haarr in present-day T. Arabic and
“cool welcome” and “warm welcome” in English.
The following sections present cultural conceptualizations of the heart
in present-day T. Arabic following Lakoff’s (1982, 1987) theory of categorization known as Idealized Cognitive Model.
The image-schematic model of the heart in T. Arabic
Lakoff and Johnson (1980) and Lakoff and Turner (1989) isolated four
semantically autonomous domains that serve as metaphoric grounding for
semantically non-autonomous concepts. Such cognitive domains, which
seem to be pervasive in many cultures, include spaces, substances, objects,
and containers. In many (if not all) cultures, the heart is not only associated
with emotions but receives them as its contents, which makes it a CONTAINER for them. The preposition fi (in) in present-day T. Arabic shows
the heart’s containment dimension in:
The heart in Tunisian Arabic
(9) a. qult
‘I said in my heart.’
I said to myself.
fi qalb-i
in heart my
b. yxalli/yxabbi/yaxzin
fi qalb-u
[he] keep/hide/store-IMPERF
in heart his
‘He keeps/hides/stores everything in his heart.’
He is too secretive.
c. HaaTiT/3aamil
[he] keep/do-IMPERF
‘He keeps things in his heart.’
He is anxious/worried.
fi qalb-u
in heart his
In (9a), things that are said to the self are kept in the heart as a secret chamber. In (9b-c), the heart is a storehouse or hiding place, tightly preserving
positive and negative emotions and information.
The logic of containers predicts that the heart can be full or empty of
some contents as in:
(10) a. qalb-u
heart his
‘His heart is full about me.’
He strongly picks at me.
on me
b. qalb-u
ma fi-š
heart his
no in not
‘There is no compassion in his heart.’
He is/is not compassionate/merciful.
In (10a), the heart is full of bias against the speaker while in (10b) the heart
is empty of mercy.
In Maalej (2004: 59–60), it was shown that in present-day T. Arabic the
heart, alongside the body, is a container for anger. Because anger is considered a liquid filling the body or the heart, anger as a liquid in a container
may slosh, fill up, or may explode as a consequence of incapacity to take it
in, etc, as in:
Zouhair Maalej
(11) a. qalb-i
heart my
‘My heart was sloshing with anger.’
b. qalb-I
t3abba minn-u
my heart
was full from him
‘I had had enough of him.’
c. qalb-I
heart my
‘My heart exploded.’
The logic of containers assumes that if the heart can be filled, it can also be
relieved of its contents by emptying one’s anger into someone else as in:
[I] empty-PERFECT
in him heart my
‘I emptied my heart’s contents into him.’
This expression is not equivalent to the English “to pour one’s heart out;”
its meaning has to do with retribution, that is someone angry finds an opportunity to take revenge on someone else. Emptying one’s heart in this
way seems to have a relieving/cleaning effect on the heart’s contents.
Congruent with the CONTAINER image schema, the heart can function
according to an IN-OUT schema, whereby beloved people and desired objects enter it and leave it as in:
(13) a. daxl-u
fi qalb-i
kiif niktit l-3asal
[they] enter-PERFECT in heart my
like drop the honey
‘They entered in my heart like a drop of honey does.’
I like them so much.
b. xarj-u
min qalb-i
[they] leave-PERFECT
from heart my
‘They left my heart.’
I was sad to lose/give/sell them.
c. sallit-l-i
[she] pull-PERFECT to me
heart my
‘She pulled out my heart.’
Her departure made me sad indeed.
The heart in Tunisian Arabic
Together with the preposition fi, the deictic verbs txall (enter) in (13a)
and xrajj (leave) in (13b) provide an excellent illustration of the heart as a
bounded space having an entrance and an exit, which people and objects
can enter and leave. However, as Niemeier (1997: 94) rightly suggests, “the
way from feelings to heart is no one-way street but works both ways, as
feelings may go in and go out of one’s heart.” Even though this also takes
place in T. Arabic, the way in is happy and difficult and the way out is
painful and easier. It takes a lot of time and energy to get in someone’s
heart, but it takes very little to leave it or be washed out of it.
In (13c), however, separation between two people profiles the heart as
an entity that can leave its place by being pulled out of the body. For the
target domain of separation, T. Arabic metaphorically conceptualizes the
heart as a MOVABLE OBJECT. Present-day T. Arabic culturally imagines
the physical separation of two people as a separation between the body and
the heart, in which the latter is pulled out from the former by exerting
force-dynamics. In English, such a state occasions the breaking of the heart;
in present-day T. Arabic the heart does not seem to be breakable as love is
in the mind or intellect. In other words, love affects the mind not the heart
in present-day T. Arabic. As such, love, like anger, tends to interfere with
accurate perception as in mahbul 3ali-ha ([He] is mad/crazy about her),
xarjit-tu min 3aql-u ([She] made him leave his intellect: She made him
crazy about her), and so forth.
Beside the container or the three-dimensional in-out schemas, the heart
in present-day T. Arabic admits conceptualizations using the one-dimensional UP-DOWN verticality schema as in:
(14) a. habbaT-l-i
[he] lower-PERFECT to me
the destruction
‘He lowered destruction in my heart.’
He managed to dishearten me.
fi qalb-i
in heart my
b. qalb-i
heart my
‘My heart fell.’
Fear took hold of me.
c. hazz-l-i
[he] lift-PERFECT to me
heart my
‘He lifted my heart for me.’
He encouraged me/He gave me a lot of encouragement.
Zouhair Maalej
d. qalb-i xrajj
min blast-u
heart my go out-PERFECT
from place its
‘My heart left its usual place.’
Panic took hold of me.
Sadness in (14a) is lowered into the bottom of the heart as is clear from the
verb habbaT (to lower). In (14b), the heart is conceptualized as dropping
out of fear. Someone who needs encouragement needs their heart to be
lifted as in (14c). It, thus, seems that these downward movements of the
heart are motivated by the conceptual metaphor DOWN IS BAD. In (14d),
the place for the heart in the body is spatially ambiguous. As Niemeier
(2000: 200) notes for English, the heart does not settle in one place or one
position, but is imagined as a “MOVABLE OBJECT.”
As noted above, the heart in present-day T. Arabic is filled with emotions different than those mentioned in the Koran such as faith, hypocrisy,
ignorance, indignation, peacefulness, perversity, rancor, regret, sickness,
terror. Some of the emotions addressed image-schematically in present-day
T. Arabic include compassion, fear, panic, sorrow, and others. The imageschema of Idealized Cognitive Model of the heart in present-day T. Arabic
includes three sub-models: CONTAINER, IN-OUT, and UP-DOWN. The
container presupposes contents, which are mostly emotions such as anger,
mercy, spite, and so on. The IN-OUT schema suggests that ENTERING
BAD (or OUT IS BAD) while the UP-DOWN schema suggests UP IS
GOOD and DOWN IS BAD. In most cases, cultural conceptualizations of
the heart as motivated by embodied schemas describe it as a MOVING
The metaphoric model of the heart in T. Arabic
In Western culture, the body-mind dichotomy has been understood as a
hindrance to making sense of the self, meaning, reason, and communication. In order to do so, it was urged to bring body and mind together (Johnson 1987: xxxvi; Varela et al 1991: 28). However, in the Arab-Islamic culture, as has been shown earlier on in this chapter, two dichotomies seem to
be active together. In religious matters, a Muslim is an earthly body contrasted to an eternal soul. In earthly, experiential matters, the self is seen as
divided between a 3aql (an intellect) and a qalb (a heart). The two are
The heart in Tunisian Arabic
thought to be hard to reconcile, because the former is rational while the
latter is sentimental.
This section will look into the following target domains: (i) the metaphoric conceptualizations of the heart in emotions, and (ii) the conceptualizations of the heart in cultural values. In almost all the metaphoric conceptualizations of the heart in present-day T. Arabic, the heart could be seen as
HEART FOR THE PERSON. And based on this metonymy, specific metaphoric conceptualizations will be spelled out below.
5.1. The heart in the target domain of emotions
A lot of different things can metaphorically happen to the heart in presentday T. Arabic depending on what emotion is involved. Such happenings
may range from leaving one’s heart behind, feeling pain in it, witnessing
various mechanical transformations to it, to having it cooked as illustrated
in the following examples:
(15) a. xallayt
[I] leave-PERFECT
heart my
‘I left my heart with him/her.’
It was so painful for me to leave him behind.
with him/her
b. Haal-u
state his
cause pain-IMPERF
the heart
‘His condition is causing pain to my heart.’
I feel pain in my heart for him.
c. qaTTa3-l-i
[he] cut-PERFECT to me
‘He cut up my heart.’
heart my
d. Haal-u
state his
cause to fall into pieces-IMPERF
the heart.
‘His condition is causing the heart to fall into pieces.’
e. qalb-i
heart my
‘My heart turned henna.’
Zouhair Maalej
f. Haal-u yDawwib
state his melt-IMPERFECT
the heart
‘His condition makes the heart melt.’
g. qalb-i
miswi (w miqli)
heart my
roast and fry-PERFECT-PASSIVE
‘My heart is roasted and fried about her.’
I am very sad about her condition.
on her
Caring for others in present-day T. Arabic is imagined to occasion a split
between the heart and the body or the self as in (15a), whose conceptual
PERSON, this conceptualization creates a Divided-Person metaphor (Lakoff 1996: 103).
In present-day T. Arabic, the mildest form of compassion for others is
represented by the conceptual metaphor, HAVING PITY IS FEELING
PAIN IN ONE’S HEART, whose linguistic counterpart is in (15b). Having
pity for someone is not something that one does for them but it is something that happens to one’s heart as a result of its being affected by people’s
states or situations. Various other ways to express one’s pity/compassion
towards people may include the conceptualizations in (15c-f) above. No
English equivalents are provided for them because these conceptualizations
are highly culturally-constructed. It takes a lot of imagination to conceptualize pity in the way it is done in present-day T. Arabic. In (15c), the kind
of pain felt as a result of pity is the result of a knife cutting the heart into
pieces, which presupposes the letting of blood that is at the origin of pain.
In (15d), the pain comes as a result of the heart turning into small crumbs,
which suggests a painful disintegration of the heart. In (15e), the heart undergoes a further transformation turning it into henna powder – a fine form
of grinding, suggesting extreme pain and concern. In (15f), the pain to the
heart caused by pity simply makes it melt. Clearly, these expressions reflect
the metaphor, PITY CAUSES CHEMICAL/MECHANICAL TRANSFORMATIONS TO THE HEART, where the degree of pain felt by the speaker
is proportional to the degree of sufferance the affected person endures.
Another transformation of the heart occurs to it in sadness/sorrow in
(15g), whereby it is profiled as undergoing a mutation that usually occurs to
food while it is cooking. Interestingly, roasting and frying presuppose heat
of fire in the heart, which is a way of imagining one’s heart as cooking by
The heart in Tunisian Arabic
roasting and/or frying. Such roasting and frying of the heart may evoke the
not in the sense that we eat it as food, but in the sense that what happens to
it in sorrow is similar to what happens to food as it is being prepared. As a
structuring domain, food has been attested in many areas of experience
such as sex and lust (Emanatian 1995), and women in many cultures
(Maalej 2001), and so forth.
While the image-schematic model of the heart in present-day T. Arabic
involves containment and movement in space, the metaphoric model with
emotions mainly describes transformations, which occasions changes of
state to the heart ranging from being cooked by roasting or frying, being cut
into pieces, or ground into powder, to completely melting away.
5.2. The heart in the target domain of cultural values
Apart from featuring as an important source domain in the conceptualization of emotions in present-day T. Arabic, the heart is at the center of the
conceptualization of many cultural values, which manipulate the heart according to various pairs of antonyms such as soft/tough, strong/weak,
small/big, black/white, cold/warm, live/dead, and so forth. Niemeier
(2000: 205) captures the transformations that occur to the heart in English
in the conceptual metaphor, THE HEART IS A MANIPULABLE OBJECT.
Before dealing with these pairs, it is useful to address the polysemy of
the heart in present-day T. Arabic as in the following metaphor:
ma 3and-him-š qalb
no with them not heart
‘They have no heart.’
They are heartless.
Contextualized, heartlessness represents either laziness or indifference.
Laziness is invoked in the following proverbs:
(17) a. l-qalb
ma ySiir
kaan l-ir-rHa
the heart
no become-IMPERF
only to the grinder
‘The heart can only be made to the hand-operated grinder.’
Zouhair Maalej
b. illi ma fii-h
qalb ymut
smiin m3aš3aš
who no in him heart die-IMPERF
fat fatten-PASSIVE
‘He who does not have a heart will die so fat.’
The moral of the proverb in (17a) is that love for work can only be selfgenerated. In (17b), an idle person is teased about his fatness, which is a
metonymy for lack of physical exercise.
However, to profile other moral/cultural values, the heart is manipulated
in various ways. Compassion, for instance, is conceptualized as softness of
the heart while cruelty is conceptualized as hardness or toughness:
(18) a. qalb-u rqiiq
heart his affectionate
‘His heart is affectionate.’
He is kind.
b. qalb-u SHiiH
heart his hard
‘His heart is hard.’
He is unfeeling/cruel.
Compassion and affection are, thus, correlated with softness of the heart in
present-day T. Arabic, and cruelty correlates with different degrees of
toughness. In (18b), the degree of toughness is mild, giving rise to a moderate kind of cruelty. But cruelty can be conceptualized as having qalb kaasaH (a tough heart) or qalb Hjarr (a heart of stone), which are shared by
English’s hardness of heart, heart of marble, heart of iron, heart of stone,
and so forth. (Niemeier 2000: 201) and Hungarian’s hardness or toughness
of the heart (Kövecses personal communication). The experiential mapping
of soft/tough things (such as foods and non-foods) in the socio-physical
environment onto affection/cruelty is captured in the conceptual metaphors,
Apart from softness and toughness, the heart is conceptualized as
changeable in degree of strength or weakness as in the following cases:
(19) a. qalb-u qwiyy
heart his strong
‘His heart is strong.’
He is courageous/He has a lot of courage.
The heart in Tunisian Arabic
b. qalb-u
heart his
‘His heart is weak.’
He lacks courage.
If the material the heart is made of is strong, a person is said to have
courage to confront hardships as in (19a). Weakness in the heart profiles
lack of courage as in (19b).
The heart in present-day T. Arabic is not only conceptualized as
changeable in texture (toughness/strength, softness/weakness), but also in
size as in the following cases:
(20) a. qalb-u kbiir
heart his big
‘His heart is big.’
He is generous.
b. qalb-u SRiir
heart his small
‘His heart is small.’
He is mean.
Bigness of the heart as in (20a) is conceptualized as generosity, and smallness as meanness as in (20b). This correlation between bigness and generosity and smallness and meanness owes its existence to the conceptual metaphors, BIG IS GOOD and SMALL IS BAD. The heart changing in size
was also noted for English by Niemeier (2000: 200), who captures it in
Beside the change of texture, strength, and size, the heart in present-day
T. Arabic is also conceptualized as changing in color as in:
(21) a. qalb-u abyaD
heart his white
‘His heart is white.’
He is tolerant.
b. qalb-u akHal
heart his black
‘His heart is black.’
He is spiteful (Maalej 1999).
Zouhair Maalej
In T. Arabic, just like in some Western cultures, white is associated with
tolerance as in (21a) and black is profiled as intolerance as in (21b). This
correlation of whiteness with tolerance and blackness with intolerance
comes from the conceptual metaphors, WHITE IS GOOD and BLACK IS
Black hearts, which are presupposed in (22a-b) as lacking in purity,
should undergo a process of purification to attain or approximate whiteness
as in:
(22) a. Saffi
‘Purify your heart.’
Be more lenient/tolerant.
heart your
b. qalb-u Saafi
heart his pure
‘His heart is pure.’
He is kind.
The heart can only be pure if its contents are purified, which can be captured as HEART IS A CONTAINER, where, by extension, THE CONTENTS OF THE HEART ARE SUBSTANCES. The process of purification that Tunisians map onto tolerance/kindness and intolerance is picked
up from the purification of substances in their experience. Indeed, both
liquid and solid substances undergo this purification process. A liquid such
as milk is purified from its skin using a filter. Substances such as corn or
olives are also purified, removing pebbles, seeds, and leaves with a sieve.
Thus, in this case, if someone is intolerant, their heart needs to be purified
to become tolerant and kind. Tolerance as purification of the heart is echoed in the present-day T. Arabic proverb:
qalb-u Saafi
the best
the believer
heart his pure
‘The best believer is one whose heart is pure.’
An interesting metonymy for purity of the heart is flaan qalb-u Saafi laban
(X’s heart is milk pure/white), where the whiteness of milk is a metonymy
for its purity.
The heart in Tunisian Arabic
Along with change of texture, strength, size, and color, the heart in present-day T. Arabic is also conceptualized as changing in temperature as in:
(24) a. qalb-u baarid
heart his cold
‘His heart is cold.’
He is idle/lazy.
b. qalb-u
heart his
‘His heart is burning for his job.’
He is a conscientious worker.
work his
In (24a), coldness is a metaphor for lack of life or death, which stands for
laziness. The phenomenological, felt sense of the physiological warmth of
the heart is turned into a cultural metaphor for laziness as coldness. The
laziness-as-coldness-of-the-heart metonymy-motivated metaphor dispenses
with the heart’s warmth as a physiological necessity, thus profiling lack of
warmth in the heart as a typically cultural value. As Fauconnier and Turner
(2002: 300) showed convincingly, HEAT OF THE BODY is not physiological, but a metaphor transferring heat to the human body.
In (24b), however, the conceptualization of industriousness takes advantage of the phenomenological, felt sense of physiological warmth of the
body, turning it into fire burning in the heart. The industriousness-as-firein-the-heart augments, so to speak, the heart’s warmth as a physiological
necessity, thus profiling it as a typically cultural value. Burning as industriousness, however, is sometimes profiled ironically as in:
heart his
‘His heart is burning a lot.’
He could not care less about work.
a lot
The ironical use of yaHraq barša (burning a lot) in fact suggests its total
opposite – that the heart is not burning with industriousness. Fire that metaphorically is supposed to power a person’s heart can be extinguished, extinguishing with it the cultural value of industriousness.
In all the aforementioned conceptualizations where the heart’s texture,
strength, size, color, and temperature are manipulated, the heart is concep-
Zouhair Maalej
tualized as effecting a change of state, which profiles it culturally as a passive participant. However, the heart can also assume a more active role,
thus controlling the self as in:
(26) a. qalb-i
heart my
eat-PERFECT me
‘My heart ate me.’
I had a pang of conscience.
b. qalb-i
heart my
‘My heart did not eat me.’
I had no pang of conscience.
eat-PERFECT me not
In (26a), the physiological experience of eating is mapped onto the more
mental experience of conscientiousness, where the heart becomes the eater
and the body the object of the eating process. Inferentially, the phenomenological, felt sense of the physiological rest (i.e. the non-eating state) of
the heart is when the self is doing things conscientiously. However, when
the self starts doing things non-conscientiously, the heart finds itself in the
physiological necessity of eating the self, profiling this physiological eating
as a typically cultural value, which can be captured in the conceptual metaphor CONSCIENCE IS WHEN THE HEART EATS THE SELF or CONSCIENCE IS WHEN THE SELF BECOMES EDIBLE TO THE HEART.
The counterpart of conscientiousness is rendered via the negative as in
(26b), where the self does not think that it is being lazy.
Another conceptualization of laziness versus conscientiousness/industriousness is profiled through the death/life of the heart, where
the heart stands for the person having that heart, as in:
(27) a. qalb-u mayyit
heart his dead
‘His heart is dead.’
He is idle/lazy.
b. qalb-u Hayy
heart his alive
‘His heart is alive.’
He is industrious.
The heart in Tunisian Arabic
Abiding by the metonymy of HEART FOR PERSON, the conceptual
metaphor in (27a) could be LACK OF ENERGY/INDUSTRIOUSNESS IN
To sum up this section, as Niemeier (2000: 200) captured regarding size
in CHANGEABLE IN SIZE for English, a characteristic of the Idealized
Cognitive Model of the heart in present-day T. Arabic is its manipulability
in terms of degree of texture, strength, size, color, temperature, status, and
vitality. Owing to the gradable nature of the linguistic categories used to
conceptualize cultural values metaphorically in present-day T. Arabic, the
values themselves should not be seen as absolute pairs with two poles, the
negative and the positive. Rather, the values are graded so that they constitute a cline, and are modified by quantifiers such as barša (a lot) and
šwayya (a little bit). For instance, laziness can be talked about in terms of
degree as in qalb-u baarid šwayya (He is a bit lazy), qalb-u baarid (He is
lazy), qalb-u baarid barša (He is very lazy). Sometimes, the quantifier
barša (a lot) is reduplicated to create another degree of laziness such as in
qalb-u baarid barša barša (He is extremely lazy).
The metonymic model of the heart Idealized Cognitive
Model in T. Arabic
As seen so far, the picture of the Idealized Cognitive Model drawn by the
heart in present-day T. Arabic profiles it image schematically not only as a
CONTAINER, but also as MOVING and MOVABLE in the bodily space,
capable of IN-OUT and UP-DOWN movements. This dynamism is captured via directional metaphors that extend the IN-OUT and UP-DOWN
image schemas metaphorically. Metaphorically, the heart’s characteristic
property is CHANGEABILITY and MANIPULABILITY. This kind of
understanding is termed “indirect understanding via metaphor” by Lakoff
and Johnson (1980: 178), who argue that directional structure is imposed
via directional metaphors as projections of image schemas such as the ones
dealt with in Section 4 above, whereas the structure of experience is imposed via structural metaphors as in Section 5 above.
To complement the discussion of the MOVABILITY and the
CHANGEABILITY or MANIPULABILITY of the heart Idealized Cognitive Model in present-day T. Arabic, we need to address its inherent metonymic model. But before doing that, some reflection about metonymy as a
Zouhair Maalej
conceptual phenomenon is needed. Metonymy is not simply a matter of
reference or words substituting for others in the lexicon as traditional accounts had it. Langacker (2000: 199) argues that “a metonymic expression
serves as a reference point affording mental access to the desired target (i.e.
the entity actually being referred to).” Kövecses and Radden (1998: 39)
define metonymy as “a cognitive process in which one conceptual entity, the
vehicle, provides mental access to another conceptual entity, the target,
within the same domain, or ICM.” Talking about the cognitive and communicative function of metonymy, Langacker (2000: 199) argues that “metonymy allows an efficient reconciliation of two conflicting factors: the
need to be accurate, i.e. of being sure that the addressee’s attention is directed to the intended target; and our natural inclination to think and talk
explicitly about those entities that have the greatest cognitive salience for
Thus, MENTAL ACCESSIBILITY realized via metonymy can be
added to the picture. Indeed, the most prevalent metonymy is the HEART
FOR PERSON, where the heart provides this mental accessibility to the
person possessing the heart as in:
(28) a. l-qalb
3al l-qalb
the heart
on the heart.
‘The heart is on the heart.’
Two hearts that beat as one.
b. qalb-u
heart his
‘His heart is good/fine.’
He is kind.
c. qalb-u xaayib
heart his bad/ugly
‘His heart is bad/ugly.’
He is unkind/cruel.
The HEART FOR PERSON metonymy is motivated by the fact that the
heart in (28a) is “salient and easily coded” (Langacker 2000: 199) in the
sense that the heart inhabits an individual, which it can evoke. In (28b–c),
the question is not about the metaphoricity of the heart as good or bad, but
the salience between the heart and its possessor.
The heart in Tunisian Arabic
In the context of emotional conceptualization, an important candidate
for the metonymy of HEART FOR PERSON is love in present-day T. Arabic as in:
qalb illi
With me
heart that
‘I have a heart that loves her.’
I love her so much.
love-IMPERF her
It is socially motivated to avoid talking directly about one’s love in public
in the Tunisian culture. Using a metonymy violates “the need to be accurate” (Langacker, 2000: 199), and allows speakers to hide behind it, knowing that the heart has “the greatest cognitive salience” with the person
(Langacker 2000: 199). Conversely, present-day T. Arabic does not have
the metaphor ‘breaking someone’s heart,” although Tunisians talk of “broken heart” in cases of disappointment such as in the proverb, ?in-naaSri lmaxSur w l-qalb l-miksur (lost money and broken heart), which means that
money wasted brings disappointment.
Very often the relation between metaphor and metonymy is indeterminate (Riemer 2002: 386), that is the demarcation line between the two may
be fuzzy. Metonymy and metaphor may co-occur, creating MENTAL ACCESSIBILITY and MANIPULABILITY of the heart in present-day T.
Arabic as in the conceptualization of greed and gratification (sexual or
(30) a. qalb-u jii3aan
heart his hungry
‘His heart is hungry.’
He is greedy/He is insatiable.
b. qalb-u šib3aan
heart his satiated
‘His heart is satiated.’
He is satiated.
MENTAL ACCESSIBILITY is captured through the metonymy, HEART
FOR PERSON. Metonymically, the heart’s hunger and gratification stand
for the hungry or gratified person. However, when the person is substituted
for the heart, this creates metaphors such as, The person is hungry. The
Zouhair Maalej
linguistic metaphor can be captured in the conceptual metaphor, GREED IS
HUNGER or the more generic metaphor DESIRE IS HUNGER. Conversely, social gratification is profiled in hunger terms as in (30a). The
negative evaluation of a socially greedy person is captured in the T. Arabic
proverb, xuð-ha min yidd šib3aan iða jaa3 w ma taaxiðhaaš min yidd
jii3aan iða šbi33 (Take it from the hand of a satisfied person if he gets
hungry and don’t take it from a hungry person if he becomes satisfied).
Inferentially, the heart here becomes the stomach for greed and satisfaction.
One dimension of this indeterminacy has been interpreted as metonymic
motivation for metaphoric mappings (Barcelona 2000). Forgetfulness is a
form of malfunction of the mind, leading up to a defective memory, but in
present-day T. Arabic one forgets with one’s heart as in:
qalb-i ?a3ma
heart my blind
‘My heart is blind.’
I am forgetful.
It should be noted that in the metaphoric interpretation the blindness of the
heart in present-day T. Arabic is forgetfulness, which presupposes that one
of the heart’s function is its capacity to remember. This can be captured in
the conceptual metaphor, REMEMBERING IS SEEING, which is related
to the more generic KNOWING IS SEEING; if my heart is blind, I do not
remember things. In the metonymic interpretation, the heart is interpreted
as contiguous with the person as in HEART FOR PERSON. This seems to
be consistent with the conception of blindness as encoded in the Koran in
(3b) above, which is repeated here for the sake of convenience:
Truly it is not their eyes that are blind, but their hearts which are in
their breasts.12
However, blindness of the heart in the Koranic conception is incapacity to
understand while this Tunisian conception has to do with forgetfulness.
Niemeier (2000: 208) expressed fascination as to how memory, which is
normally associated with the head/brain comes to be associated with the
heart in expressions like “learn something by heart.” If this unscientific
match between heart and memory means something, it serves to suggest
that this model of the heart in English and present-day T. Arabic has a cultural basis.
The heart in Tunisian Arabic
In sum, the metonymic model of the heart is realized via simple metonymy having potential metaphoric counterparts, or via a metaphormetonymy continuum. The correlative work that these do is ACCESSIBILITY via the HEART FOR PERSON metonymy or metonymic ACCESSIBILITY in conjunction with metaphoric CHANGEABILITY.
The chapter has tried to demonstrate that the heart in present-day T. Arabic
is a productive source domain, profiling most emotions and culture-specific
values. The cognitive/cultural model of the heart reflects these cultural
conceptualizations exploiting image schema, metaphor, and metonymy.
Logically, since the heart is seen as the locus of emotions and values, it is
culturally affected by these emotions and values.
The cultural model of the heart, therefore, qualifies as an Idealized Cognitive Model (Lakoff 1982, 1987). Its propositional structure shows the
heart to be an affected participant in interpersonal relations and an affecting
participant across the image schemas, metaphors, and metonymies that
profile it. As seen in the body of the chapter, the heart is conceptualized
image schematically as a CONTAINER and in UP-DOWN and IN-OUT
schemas. This has been captured in the directional metaphor, THE HEART
IS MOVING/MOVABLE. It also offers various metaphoric conceptualizations that profile emotions in terms of CHANGEABILITY or MANIPULABILITY of the heart. Apart from these conceptualizations, the heart
yields a HEART FOR PERSON metonymy, providing ACCESSIBILITY
of the body/self through the heart.
As a source domain for emotions and cultural values, the heart is an excellent illustration of the cultural embodiment of the mind. If Johnson
(1987) is right in claiming that the embodied mind yields embodied meaning, imagination, and reasoning, the present chapter extends embodiment to
culture, thus suggesting that cognition is not just embodied but culturally
embodied. Imaginative structures such as image schemas, metaphor, and
metonymy contribute to cultural imagination, which motivates what Maalej
(2004, 2007) called “cultural embodiment,” which is a kind of embodiment
mediated and motivated by cultural imagination.
To further corroborate the import of culture in conceptualization, reference has to be made to Palmer (1996: 36), who considers cultural linguistics as “primarily concerned not with how people talk about some objective
Zouhair Maalej
reality, but with how they talk about the world that they themselves imagine.” The present-day T. Arabic culture has imagined generosity to be bigness of the heart, meanness smallness, tolerance whiteness, spite blackness,
compassion/mercy softness, indifference toughness, and so forth. But cultures do not randomly talk about the world as they imagine it; each culture
organizes itself according to “its own priorities of grouping and differentiation” (Palmer 1996: 227).
I am thankful and grateful to the following friends and colleagues: René Dirven for
generous comments on the first and second drafts of the current chapter, which
made an impact on my analysis; Zoltán Kövecses for being generous with his time
and knowledge of metaphor and metonymy, which has greatly improved the quality
of my analyses; Farzad Sharifian for his help, patience, and encouragement; an
anonymous reviewer for insightful comments on the chapter. I owe also special
thanks to Jessica Cleary-Kemp (Monash University, Australia) for very useful
comments that greatly improved the quality of the language of the chapter. However, responsibility for the contents remains mine.
1. As far as I know, the only written documents in T. Arabic that exist are a few
plays by Taoufik Jebali (Night’s Talk, 1997), Mohamed Idriss (Ismail Pacha,
1997), Fadhel Jaidi (Familia, 1997), etc.
2. Sura VII (A’raaf, or Heights), translated by Abdullah Yusuf Ali (1938), pp.
3. Sura XXII (Hajj, or The Pilgrimage), translated by Abdullah Yusuf Ali (1938),
p. 863.
4. Sura L (qaf, or The Matter has been decreed), translated by Abdullah Yusuf Ali
(1938), p. 1417.
5. Sura VI (An’am, or Cattle), translated by Abdullah Yusuf Ali (1938), p. 289.
6. Sura XLVII (Muhammad, or The Prophet), translated by Abdullah Yusuf Ali
(1938), p. 1385.
7. Sura XVII (Bani Isra’il, or The Children of Israel), translated by Abdullah
Yusuf Ali (1938), p. 707.
8. Sura VII (A’raaf, or Heights), translated by Abdullah Yusuf Ali (1938), p. 371.
9. Sura XXII (Hajj, or The Pilgrimage), translated by Abdullah Yusuf Ali (1938),
p. 864.
The heart in Tunisian Arabic
10. Sura XXXIII (Ahzab, or The Confederates), translated by Abdullah Yusuf Ali
(1938), p. 1123.
11. Translation mine.
12. Sura XXII (Hajj, or The Pilgrimage), translated by Abdullah Yusuf Ali (1938),
p. 864.
Al-Jawziyya, Ibn Q.
Medicine of the Prophet. Cambridge: The Islamic Texts Society.
Barcelona, Antonio
On the plausibility of claiming a metonymic motivation for conceptual metaphor. In Metaphor and Metonymy at the Crossroads: A
Cognitive Perspective, A. Barcelona (ed.), 31–58. Berlin/New York:
Mouton de Gruyter.
Burnett, C.
Arabic Medicine in the Mediterranean. Retrieved 26-03-06, from
Emanatian, Michele
Metaphor and the expression of emotion: The value of cross-cultural
perspectives. Metaphor and Symbolic Activity, 10 (3): 163–182.
Geeraerts, Dirk & Stefan Grondelaers
Looking back at anger: Cultural traditions and metaphorical patterns. In Language and the Cognitive Construal of the World, J. R.
Taylor and R. E. MacLaury (eds.), 153–179. Berlin: Mouton de
Gibbs, Raymond W. Jr.
Embodiment and Cognitive Science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Ibn ManDur, M.
Lisaanu l-3arabi. 3rd ed. (The Tongue of Arabs). Beirut: Dar Saadir.
Johnson, Mark
1987 The Body in the Mind: The Bodily Basis of Meaning, Imagination, and
Reason. Chicago/London: The University of Chicago Press.
Kövecses, Zoltán
Metaphor and Emotion: Language, Culture and Body in Human
Feeling. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Metaphor: A Practical Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University
Zouhair Maalej
Metaphor in Culture: Universality and Variation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kövecses, Zoltan & Gunther Radden
Metonymy: Developing a cognitive linguistic view. Cognitive Linguistics, 9 (1): 37–77.
Lakoff, George
Categories: An essay in cognitive linguistics. In Linguistics in the
Morning Calm, The Linguistic Society of Korea (ed.), 139–193.
Seoul: Hanshin Publishing Company.
Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal about
the Mind. Chicago/London: The University of Chicago Press.
Sorry, I'm not myself today: The metaphor system for conceptualizing
the self. In Spaces, Worlds and Grammar, G. Fauconnier and E.
Sweetser (eds.), 91–123. Chicago/London: The University of Chicago
Lakoff, George & Mark Johnson
Metaphors We Live By. Chicago/London: The University of Chicago
Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and its Challenge to
Western Thought. New York: Basic Books.
Lakoff, George & Mark Turner
More than Cool Reason: A Field Guide to Poetic Metaphor. Chicago/London: The University of Chicago Press.
Langacker, Ronald W.
Grammar and Conceptualization. Berlin/New York: Mouton de
Levinson, Stephen C.
Relativity in spatial conception and description. In Rethinking Linguistic Relativity, J. J. Gumperz & S. C. Levinson (eds.), 177–202.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Maalej, Zouhair
Metaphoric discourse in the age of cognitive linguistics, with special
reference to Tunisian Arabic. Journal of Literary Semantics, 28 (3):
Of animals, foods, objects, and plants, or how women are conceptualized: A cross-cultural perspective. Paper presented at the 4th International Conference on Researching and Applying Metaphor (RAAM
IV): Metaphor, cognition, and culture, University of Manouba, Tunisia.
Figurative language in anger expressions in Tunisian Arabic: An extended view of embodiment. Metaphor and Symbol, 19 (1): 51–75.
The heart in Tunisian Arabic
The embodiment of fear expressions in Tunisian Arabic: Theoretical
and practical implications. In Applied Cultural Linguistics: Second
Language Teaching/Learning and Intercultural Communication, F.
Sharifian and G. B. Palmer (eds.), 87–104. Amsterdam/Philadelphia:
John Benjamins.
MacPhee, M.
Medicine for the heart: The embodiment of faith in Morocco. Medical
Anthropology, 22: 53–83.
Niemeier, Susanne
To have one's heart in the right place – metaphorical and metonymic
evidence for the folk model of the heart as the site of emotions in
English. In Human Contact through Language and Linguistics, B.
Smieja and M. Tasch (eds.), 87–106. Frankfurt: Peter Lang.
Straight from the heart – Metonymic and metaphorical explorations.
In Metaphor and Metonymy at the Crossroads: A cognitive perspective, A. Barcelona (ed.), 195–213. Berlin/New York: Mouton de
Palmer, Gary B.
Toward a Theory of Cultural Linguistics. Austin: University of Texas
Riemer, Nick
Remetonymizing metaphor: Hypercategories in semantic extension.
Cognitive Linguistics, 12 (4): 379–401.
Rohrer, Tim
When metaphors bewitch, analogies illustrate, and logic fails: Controversies over the use of metaphoric reasoning in philosophy and
science. Ph.D. dissertation: Department of Philosophy and the
Graduate School of the University of Oregon.
Pragmatism, ideology and embodiment: William James and the philosophical foundations of cognitive linguistics. In Language and
Ideology: Cognitive Theoretical Approaches, R. Dirven, B. Hawkins
and E. Sandikcioglu (eds.), 49–82. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
In press The body in space: Dimensions of embodiment. In Body, Language
and Mind (Vol. 1): Embodiment, T. Ziemke, J. Zlatev and R. M.
Frank (eds.). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Sharifian, Farzad
On cultural conceptualisations. Journal of Cognition and Culture, 3
(3): 187–207.
Sinha, Chris and Kristine Jensen de López
Language, culture and the embodiment of spatial cognition. Cognitive
Linguistics, 11 (½): 17–41.
Zouhair Maalej
Sweetser, Eve
From Etymology to Pragmatics: Metaphorical and Cultural Aspects
of Semantic Structure. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Varela, Francisco J., Evan Thompson, and Eleanor Rosch
The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience.
Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press.
Wilson, M.
Six views of embodied cognition. Psychological Bulletin and Review,
9 (4): 625–636.
Winsvold, B. S.
Arabian medicine in the Middle Ages: The Arabian world’s contribution to science and medicine. Retrieved 26-03-06, from
Yu, Ning
Metaphorical expression of anger and happiness in English and Chinese. Metaphor and Symbolic Activity, 10 (2): 59–92.
The Contemporary Theory of Metaphor: A Perspective from Chinese.
Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Metaphor, body, and culture: The Chinese understanding of gallbladder and courage. Metaphor and Symbol, 18 (1): 13–31.
Yusuf Ali, Abdallah
The Holy Qur’an (3rd edition). Syria: Dar Al-MuSHaf.
Ziemke, Tom
What is that thing called embodiment? In Proceedings of the 25th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society. Retrieved 10-02-05,
Ziemke, Tom, Jordan Zlatev, and Roselyn M. Frank (eds.)
In press Body, Language and Mind (Vol. 1): Embodiment. Berlin/New York:
Mouton de Gruyter.
Zouari, A. & Charfi, Y.
Mu3jamu l-kalimaati wa t-takaaliidi iš-ša3biyyati bi Safaaqusa (Dictionary of Words and Popular Traditions in Sfax). Sfax: Société générale d’imprimerie et de cartonnage (SOGIC).