Grad Student Colloquium:  Touching Matters: Metaphorical Extensions of dotknąć and touch". 

Katarzyna Dziwirek
Friday, February 24, 2017 - 2:30pm
Padelford A216

Katarzyna Dziwirek, Professor and Chair of Slavic Languages and Literatures, will be giving a talk on Friday, February 24th at 2:30pm in Padelford A216 (Slavic conference room). The talk is titled "Touching Matters: Metaphorical Extensions of dotknąć and touch". I look forward to seeing you there! Best, Nathan Аbstract follows:

In metaphorical extensions of the verbs of sensory perception these verbs often stand for mental states, as meaning shifts typically involve the transfer from concrete to abstract domains. Concerning the metaphors of touch Sweetser (1991) points out that “the sense of touch is not only linked with the general sense perception, but is also closely tied to emotional “feeling”. Lakoff and Johnson (1980) claim that emotional effect is physical contact, which is related the sense of touch as in I was touched by this remark and propose a further metaphor affecting is touching.

However, research into English and Polish sentences with touch verbs show dramatic contrasts in interpretation. While sentences with touch are typically positive, sentences with dotknąć are uniformly negative:


(1)a. But my colleagues’ generosity has touched me more than anything else.

b. Ale ożenić się z tobą nie chce. Nie było to pytanie, lecz stwierdzenie, które głęboko

dotknęło Iwana.

But she does not want to marry you. It was not a question, but a statement, which deeply

hurt (lit. touched) Ivan.

Furthermore, the dimension of +/- human agent plays an important role in the meaning of “touch” sentences. In Polish active sentences with dotknąć if the subject is a person’s action or words, to touch means to hurt as in (1b). If the subject is construed as non-human, to touch means to adversely affect:


(2) Specjaliści twierdzą, że ta dolegliwość dotyka nawet kilku milionów Polaków.

The experts claim, that this ailment affects (lit. touches) up to a few million Poles.


In English the +/- human agent is not relevant in the active voice but very much so in the passive. If the agent is human the interpretation is positive, otherwise not.


(3)a. I was touched by his interest and concern.

b. There are so many people whose lives were touched by the recession.


Thus, agentive verbs of touch lend themselves to metaphorical extensions in both Polish and English. These extensions concern emotions and well-being of people and places. They instantiate the conceptual metaphor of affecting is touching, but ways in which they do so depend on the lexical semantics of the verbs in question and whether the agent is human or not. Based on the data presented in the paper inclusion of hurting is touching in the list of “touch” metaphors seems warranted. -------------------------