A cognitive linguistics analysis of gikuyu euphemisms

Thumbnail Image
Gathigia, Moses Gatambaki
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Any natural language like Gikuyu is the result of human cognition whose structure and function is based on people's experiences. Some experiences are too intimate and dysphemistic to be discussed without linguistic interdiction. Cognitive Linguistics is, therefore, an approach to language that is based on such experiences of the world and the way we perceive and conceptualize them. It is from this background that this study set out with three objectives: to identify the lexical and semantic processes involved in the creation of euphemisms in G1kiiyii; to discuss the influence of gender in the usage of euphemisms and to account for the interpretation of euphemisms using the Conceptual MetaphorTheory (CMf). To achieve the objectives of the study, this research used qualitative and quantitative data research techniques. The research employed the services of two research assistants who were members of the local community in collecting data. The researcher purposively sampled 20 native G1kiiyii speakers for the study. 10 of the respondents were males and the other 10 were females. An interview schedule was used as the data collection instrument. The metaphors collected were mapped ~ into different kinds of conceptual mappings and image - schemas and descriptive analyses of the sub mappings or ontological correspondences between the source and target domains discussed using the Cognitive Metaphor Theory. All euphemisms identified, together with their lexical frequencies, were then assigned to their corresponding linguistic level(s) according to their method of formation. Pie charts, tables and statistical presentations (both descriptive and inferential) were also given to display the percentage of metaphorical euphemistic substitutes in each cognitive domain. The conceptual mappings were used to discuss the influence of gender on the usage of euphemisms in Gikiiyii. The findings of this study indicate that in spite of a few violations of the tenets of Conceptual Metaphor Theory, CMT gives us insights into the cognitive perspective of metaphorical euphemisms as a resource to attenuate the target domains of death; sexual intercourse; diseases; excretion and body effluvia and anatomy. We note that females generally use euphemisms more than males as indicated by their higher lexical frequencies in the conceptualization of the target domains. This study also identifies six dominant semantic processes namely: metaphor, metonymy, circumlocution I periphrasis, hyperbole, particularization and understatement I meiosis. The analysis of the lexical processes, on the other hand, reveals five major lexical devices namely: borrowing, substitution, the use of vague words and expressions, use of stories from religion and technicisms.
Master of Arts, Department of English and Linguistics 203p. 2010