It is widely held that the direction of mapping from the source to the target domain in metaphors derives directly from the conceptual relations between its members (e.g., from concrete to abstract, from salient to less salient). In contrast, the authors propose the following: (1) The relation between the same two concepts/domains can, in principle, be either bidirectional or unidirectional. Hence, even if there is a conceptual asymmetry between the metaphor concepts/domains (so that one of them is a better candidate for being assigned the source function than the other), this conceptual asymmetry in itself might not be sufficient to trigger a unidirectional mapping process. (2) Among those two potential relations, the bidirectional one is more basic than the unidirectional, in that it can be triggered by the mere presence of the two stimuli; in contrast, the unidirectional process requires an additional mechanism for it to be fully realized. The authors survey and analyze several empirical findings that can be accounted for by this proposal. Then the authors introduce and discuss the ways the linguistic structure in which the metaphor is embedded may function as the mechanism by which bidirectional metaphors may turn into unidirectional ones.

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