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Friday, November 23, 2007


Reba andi mafoto y'ibituba no guswera bishyushye hano
Amafoto Atandukanye y'Ibituba

Video zo Guswera Zitandukanye

Video zo Kunyaza

Video zo Guswera Igituba Kinini

Video zo Guswerana z'Abagande

Video zo Guswera z'Abahinde

Video za Rugongo nini

Video z'Abakobwa Barimo Kwikinisha
by Alexandre Kimenyi

Personification or anthropomorphism metaphors are known by grammarians to exist in all languages. Besides the pioneering work by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson there have been no attempts to study this phenomenon systematically or to discuss its implications to linguistic theory or the understanding of the nature and function of the mind. Although, body linguistic expressions are known to have provided many dead metaphors and idiomatic expressions, their " unconscious " use has escaped language scientists and language users. Native speakers use them as if they belonged to the primary plane of expression.

In Kinyarwanda expressions referring to senses, namely sight, sound, smell, taste, touch and feelings are extensively used as conceptual metaphors. The body being a primary source of conceptual metaphors should not come as a surprise if metaphors are used not only because of the asymmetry between language vocabulary which is finite and the real world which infinite but mostly to help us understand new experiences. The vocabulary is finite because the human mind doesn't have enough space to store all the vocabulary which refers to the infinite world and also because of its limited capacity to retrieve from its memory whatever is needed. Since human beings experience the same things as far as their bodies are concerned, the body as a conceptual metaphor is universal. Ofcourse there is a ranking and hierarchy in the respective use of these senses as conceptual metaphors depending on language users' environment and culture as expected and predicted in both cognitive and antropological linguistics. In American English, for instance, sight is a dominant metaphor as illustrated by the use of sports metaphors, whereas in Chinese it is taste which is dominant metaphor with its use of food metaphors. In Kinyarwanda also some senses play a more prominent role than others.

I. Dead metaphors

The majority of Kinyawanda words which refer to body parts are used metaphorically to refer to objects which have a physical or functional similarity with that specific part of the body, as the following examples show.

umubiri w'ínzu 'the house body', umubyíimba w'ínzu 'the trunk of the house', umutwé w'áaméezá/umurimá/umwaambi'… 'the head of a table/field/match'… umusatsi w'íbigóori 'corns' hair', umusatsi w'íisáahá 'watch's hair'>needle, uruhaánga rw'íngoma 'the forehead of the drum', ugutwí, amáaso y'íkibúno 'the eyes of behind,, ijíisho ry'íikáramú 'the eye of the pen', ijíisho ry'ígishyíimbo 'the eye of bean', umusayá w'ínzu 'the jaw of the house', itáma ry'íicúmu/umwaambi/ 'the cheek of the spear/arrow', ibitúgu by'íngabo 'the shoulders of the shield', ibitúgu by'úmuhoro 'the shoulders of the pruning knife', ibitúgu by'ínzu 'the soulders of the house', ibitúgu by'íshaáti 'the shoulders of the shirt', umugóongo w'íkibabi 'the back of a leaf', umugóongo w'íshaáti 'the back of a short', umukoóndo w'úmuvure 'the navel of beer brewing wood vase' , umukóondo w'índeége/w'úubwáato 'the navel of a plane/boat', inkokora z'uruzi 'the elbow of the river', indími z'úmuriro 'the tongues of the fire'>flames, umunwa w'ícupa/igicumá/ikibiíndi 'the mouth of the bottle/gourd/clay jar', ijosi ry'íkibiíndi 'the clay jar neck', agatuúza k'úmuhoro 'a pruning knife's chest', ibéere ry'ígitooki 'a banana's breast', inda y'íisi 'the stomach of the earth', ikibero cy'ínzu 'the thigh of the house', améenyo y'úrukero/igisókozo 'the teeth of a seesaw/a comb', ijigo ry'ígisoro 'the , ikijigo , izúuru ry'úmuvuba 'a bellows' nose, izúuru ry'úrushíingé 'the nose of the needle', izúuru ry'íisáro 'the nose of a bea', izúuru ry'ígitabo 'the nose of a book', izúuru ry'ínzu 'the nose of a house', ikireenge cy'ígaáre 'the foot of a bike', ino ry'ínaanga 'the toe of a cithare' , igituúza cy'ínaanga 'the chest of the cithare'> the third chord of the cithare, ino ry'ígitooki 'the toe of a banana', ikibúno cy'úmurimá 'the behind of a field', ugutwí kw'ígisoro 'the ear of the gisoro stone game', ugutwí kw'ígití 'the ear of a tree', umushahára w'ígihahá 'a salary of a lung'>a meager salary.

Body parts as a primary source of metaphors is not unique to Kinyarwanda. All languages all over the world use them.

II. Idiomatic expressions

Hundreds of idiomatic expressions come from words which refer to body parts. These idiomatic expressions are all either metaphors or metonymies.

kuryá umuuntu imitsí 'to eat somebody's veins' >to exploit somebody
guhúza umusayá 'to make the jaw busy' >to refuse to listen
gutérura intúgu 'to shrug shoulders'
gutégekeesha igitúgu 'to rule with a shoulder'>to rule with an iron fist
gukúura mu bitúgu 'to remove from the shoulders'>to hit very hard
guseeta ibireenge 'to drag feet'
kwooroosokwahó n'úmusatsi 'to have the hair pulled'>to send chills down the spine
gutéreka inzára n'umusatsi 'to seat nails and hair'>to be very poor
gukúuka umutíma 'to have a heart pulled'>to get scared
gutégekeesha igitúgu n'ígituúza 'to rule with shoulder and chest'>to rule with an iron fist
gukóra umuuntu ku iitáma 'to touch somebody on the cheek'>to provoke somebody
gukúbita umuuntu hó itáko 'to hit somebody with a thigh'>to be discreet
gukúbita umutwé ku iijuru 'to hit the head on the sky'>to lie
gutwáara mu mutwé 'to carry in the head'>to be angry at
gutéeka umutwé 'to cook one's head'> to do what it takes to manage
gushyíra umutwé heejuru 'to put the head in the air'>to rebel
gutá umutwé 'to lose one's head' >to lose control
kwúubura umutwé 'to lift one's head'>to recover from illness
kwíishima mu mutwé 'to scratch one's head'> to get angry
kuzúunguza umutwé 'to shake one's head' >to shake one's head because of anger or denying a request
kuryá umuuntu imitsí 'to eat somebody's veins'> to exploit somebody
gukomeza umutsí 'to strengthen a vein'> to resist death
kugwa umuuntu mu gituúza 'to fall in somebody's chest'>to hug somebody with warmth
gucá mu myaánya y'íntoki ' to pass between fingers'> to disappear mysteriously
gufátana agatoki 'to hold each other's hand >to be very close
guhina agatoki 'to fold one's finger'> to be stingy
gukóra umuuntu muu ntoki 'to touch somebody in the hands'> to congratulate
gutúunga agatoki 'to point a finger'>to provoke
gukóza urutoki mu jíisho 'to touch in the eye with a finger'> to provoke
gukúbita urutoki ku ruúndi 'to hit a finger on another'>to show one's resentment
guhúuza imitíma 'to have hearts meet'> to love each other
kwíiraabura umutíma 'to have a dark heart'> to be very angry/to suffer
gukúuka umutíma 'to have a heart pulled'>to have fear
gushyika ku mutíma 'to reach the heart'>to be satisfied
kugiisha imitíma ináama > to ask advice from the heart>to think deeply
gutá hó umutíma 'to throw a heart on'> to care about

gutwáara umuuntu umutíma 'to take somebody's heart'> to be passionated about something
gukúbitwa n'úmtíma 'to be hit by the heart' > to have fear for no reason
kugira imitíma myiínshi 'to have many hearts' >to have worries
kubúra umutíma 'to miss a heart'>to show lack of seriousness
kubora umutíma 'to rot on the heart'>to suffer morally
gusiimbukwa n'úmutíma 'to be jumped by the heart'>to be terrified
kubúuranya imitíma 'to have disputes with hearts'>to remain indecided
kuráaza imitíma iswá 'to make the hearts spend the night outside'>to have worries
gukóra mu muhogó 'to touch in the throat'>to start singing with a clear voice
kwíikora muu nda 'to touch oneself in the stomach'> to kill one's own child
kwáanga muu nda 'to refuse in the stomach'>to change one's mind
kuraambika inda ku muyaga 'to spread one's stomach on the wind'>to run very fast
kugwiira inda 'to fall on one's stomach'>to betray
gucá amabéere 'to cut breasts'>to commit a serious crime
gufáta ayagúuye 'to hold the sagging ones (breasts)'>to waste one's time for nothing
gushyíra ku iibéere 'to put on the breast'>to give favors
gusiigana umubiri 'to oil each other's body'>to be together all the time
gutá umubiri 'to lose one's body'>to become thin
kugarura umubiri 'to bring back the body'>to recover from illness
gufátanwa igihaánga 'to be caught with a skull'>to be caught the panths down
akabúno kabí 'a bad butt'> a bad luck
kwíiruka kibúno mpáa amaguru 'to run butt give me legs'>to run very fast
gutéera akabúno heejuru 'to throw one's butt in the air'>to rebel
gufáta umuuntu ku munywa 'to hold somebody on the mouth'> to silence somebody
gufuunga umunwa 'to close one's mouth'>to keep silent
gukurura iminwa 'to draw/pull/stregth mouths'>to stregth one's mouth because of discontent
kugeenza umunwa 'to walk one's mouth'>to be indiscreet
kuryá iminwa 'to eat mouths'>to be confused
kwíifata ku munwa 'to hold oneself on the mouth'>to be stupefied
akanwa kabí 'an ugly mouth'>a bad tongue
gukúura umuuntu amatá mu kanwa 'to remove milk from somebody's mouth'>to deprive somebody of things they are accustomed to'
gukúura umuuntu igitaka mu kanwa 'to remove mud from somebody's mouth'>to make somebody rich.
kwíirya akáara 'ton eat oneself with a little finger/'to pinch oneself'>to show discreetly one's satisfaction
kwíirema agatíma 'to create oneself a little heart' >to be hopeful
kwíikubita agashyí 'to hit onelf with a little hand'/'to slap oneself'>to remind onelf one's chores
kwíikora muu nda 'to touch oneself in the stomach'>to kill one's kith and kin
kwíiha améenyo 'to give oneself to the teeth'>to make oneself an object of mockery
These are few examples which show that body parts expressions are used as idioms. This is not unique to Kinyarwanda. All languages use them as both dead metaphors and idiomatic expressions.

III. The metaphoric use of the body physical and emotional conditions

Pleasant experiences are referred to by using expressions which denote the well being of the human body. Unpleasant experiences are expressed by human body linguistic expressions which denote the opposite. Thus expressions which denote the well being such as , alive, healthy, strong, … are used and those which refer to death, body decay, illness, … are metaphors for unpleasant experiences. Anything which is disfunctional, physically or socially is perceived as 'dead' in Kinyarwanda, and what is culturally normal as 'alive' and 'healthy'

Iyi módoká ntíigeendá, yarápfuuye.
this car doesn't-walk it-died
'This car doesn't move, it died.'
Telefoóni yaanjye ntíikorá, hashize iminotá itaanu ipfúuye
telephone of-me doesn't-work it-finished minutes five it-died
'My telephone doesn't work, it just died five minutes ago'
Amagaáre y'áabáana ní mazima.
bikes of children are alive
'The children's bikes are alive.'
Abáana baa Kagabo bóose ni abapfú umwé gusa ni wé muzima.
children of Kagabo all are dead one only is him alive
'All Kagabo's children are stupid, only one is good.'
Uríiya mugoré ni umupfú ahora a-pfú-ush-a amafaraanga ubusá
that woman is dead she-remains she-die-caus-asp money nothing
'That woman is stupid, she always wastes money.'
Aba bagabo bararwáaye bahora bákoreesha ibigaambo bibí
these men they-are-sich they-remain they-use words bad
'These men are sick they always use bad words.'
Kagabo yarákize
Kagabo has-recovered-from-illness
'Kagabo has become rich.'

People who misbehave or have low morals do it because they are 'dirty' or 'have been contaminated' and the failure to perform certain tasks is due to the body being tired.

Yohaáni, leeta iramushiinja icyáaha kaándi arí umweére.
John government accuses-him-of crime but he-is clean
'John is beeing accused of crime by the government but he is innocent.'
Kuva ahó itséembabwóoko ry'ábatuutsi ribeeréye abanyarwaanda beénshi baáraanduye.
from when genocide of Tutsi took-place Rwandans many got-dirty
'Since genocide of tutsi many Rwandans have have been contaminated.'
kugira ibikomére ku mutíma
to have wounds on the heart
inkovú z'ákabábaro afité ntizizáakíra
scars of pain s/he-has they-will-not-finish
'The scars of the pain that s/he has will not end.'
Kaliísa akazi kaamunaniye
Kalisa job has-tired-him
'Kalisa cannot do the job.'
Ikizaamíni cyaaruhije abáana
exam has-tired children
'The children failed the exam.'
gucíika integé
'to break the hollow of the knee' "to be discouraged
gutá umutwé
'to lose the head' >to lose control
gukúuka umutíma
to have a heart pulled >to get scared

It is also important to note that Kinyarwanda uses a lot of hyperboles when referring to body conditions. Thus to be thirsty is referred to as 'to die of thirst', to be hungry 'to die of hunger',
to be surprised 'to be thunderstruck', to laugh 'to burst into laughter', etc.

Abakoóbwa biishwe n'íinyóota
girls were-killed by thirst
'The girls are thirsty.'
Abáana baacyéererewe umwáarimú arabamara
children are-late teacher is-going-to-finish-them
'The chidren are late and the teacher will punish them.'
'We are in trouble.'
Murí kíno gihúgu hari abaantu beénshi baboréye mu munyurúru bázize politiíki.
in this country there-are people many who-rot in jail they-are victims-of politics
'In this c ountry, there many people who are rotting in jail because of politics.'
Kaliísa umugoré wé ahora amútuka nóone ubu yaráboze.
Kalisa wife of-him she-remains she-him-insult then now he-is-rotten
'Kalisa, his wife always insults him and he has now had enough.'
umubóre 'a rotten object'>a wreck of old man
Urwaanda rurabóshye, ntawe ushóbora kwíigobootora nó kwíinyagaambura.
Rwanda is-legs-and-arms-tied, nobody s/he-can release-oneself and move
'The country of Rwanda is taken prisoner, nobody can free themselves or move.'

In summary, any behavior, action, event or state which is viewed as culturally positive is referred to by human body metaphors which connote its good physical or mental state and traits which are considered negative are described or defined by expressions which connote the body's physical and moral decay.

III. Seeing metaphors

Visual metaphors refer to objects, concepts, events or states by giving them shape, form, color, size or light.

1. Form.

Expressions in English such as to get the whole picture, to connect the dots, to fit the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle, to imagine, to put on the map … are examples of form visual metaphors . Form visual metaphors give implicitly or explicitly a physical form to the referrent. Thus verbs such as kubóna 'to see', kugaragara 'to appear', kwéerekana, … used used.

Ibyo uvuzé biréerekana kó ntacyo uzí.
what you-just-said shows/demonstrates/indicates that there-is-nothing you-know
'What you just said shows that you don't know anything.'
Ndabóna ibyó utéekéreza.
I-see what you-think
'I see what you think'

2. Shape

Pleasant things are conceived as beautiful and in good shape and unpleasant ones are seen as ugly and in bad shape.

Indiriimbo nziizá
beautiful song
'a good song'
igitabo kibi
ugly book
'a bad book'

Like in English and French, a straight form is the embodiment of what is correct and right and a bad form is also synonymous with bad behavior, conduct or personality.

kugira ibitéekerezo bigorórotse.
to-have thoughts which-are-straight
'to hav e good ideas'
kugorora imyiítwaarire
to straighten behavior
'to correct one's behavior'
kukí uyu mugabo avugá ibiintu bigorámye?
why this man he-says things which-are-bent
'Why is this man saying incoherent things?
amagaambo ya báriíya báana igihe cyóose aba acúramye.
words of those-over-there children time all they-are they-are-upside down
'The words of those chidlren are always nonsensical.'
kuva ahó Kagabo abeeréye miniisítiri asigaye yáriibyiimbiishije.
to-come when Kagabo he-become minister he-remains he-made-himself-swell
'Since Kagabo became minister, he has become arrogant.'
gutáanga ikigaaniiro kiráambuuye
to-give talk which-is-stretched
'to give a long speech/speech'
amagaambo ahínnye
words which-are-folded
'few words'
Nkuunda kó ibigaaniiro byaa Mugabo usaangá bínoze.
I-like that conversations of Mugabo you-find they-are-polished
'I like that Mugabo's conversations are always good.'

3. Size

Size is used as a visual metaphor to show the importance or lack of it of an object.

umushahára muníni
salary big
'a big salary'
igihe kiníni
time big
'a long time'
ibibázo bireebire
questions long
'big questions'
It is interesting to note that Kinyarwanda doesn't have a word for " small ", " young " is used instead to refer to this concept.
igihe gitó
time young
'short time'
inzu ntó
house young
'a small house'

4. Color

Kinyarwanda doesn't use color expressions as metaphors because words for color in Kinyarwanda are already metaphors, borrowed from cows' coat colors, whereas others come from natural objects.

green > 'raw grass' icyaátsi kibísi, white> 'roch' igitáre, gray > 'anthill' urugina, light skin > 'swamp antilope' inzóbe, …

5. Light

Like in other languages, light is the symbol of knowledge and the lack of light ignorance.

Light as knowledge :

gufuungura amáaso 'to open eyes', kugaragara 'to be visible/clear', kuboneka 'to be visible', gukaanguka 'to wake up', umucyó 'dawn'>transparency, gukórera mu mucyó/ahagáragara 'to work in the dawn/where it is visible'> 'to work in transparency', umuuntu ucyéeye 'a person who dawns'>somebody who looks sharp/clean/correct, kwéerekana 'to show/indicate, kubéera abaantu urumuri 'to be people's light'>to be people's guide, guhumiriza 'to close eyes', gukanura 'to open eyes', kubóna 'to see', kureeba kure 'to see far', gushíshooza 'to look at something very attentively', gukórana ubushíshoozi n'úbushobozi 'to work with looking at things very carefully and capacity'>to work with wisdom and competency, kuziikuura ubuzima bw'umuuntu 'to unearth somebody's life', gushyíra ibiintu haanzé/ahagáragara/ahabóna 'to put things outside/where there is clarity/where there is visibility' > 'to put things in the open'

Lack of light as ignorance :

igicúku 'middle of the night'>ignorance, igicúucu 'shadow'>stupid, umwíijima 'darkness'>ignorace, impumyi 'blind'>to be incapable of understanding certain things, igihu cyaa Nyáantáago 'the fog of the Nyantango mountain'>stupid, kubá mw'iijoro ry'íicúraburiíndi 'to be a very dark night'>to be ignorant/uninformed, ,gusiinziira 'to be sleepy'>to lack understanding, kuróota 'to dream'>not be realistic', kuríindagira 'to walk in a dark night' >not to know what to do,

IV. Hearing metaphors

Hearing metaphors are used to mean understanding and following advice. Those who don't respect the law and advice are seen as having problems of ears or hearing. First it is important to realize that the verb kwúumva 'to hear' also means 'to listen', 'to taste', 'to understand', 'to think' and 'to feel'. Obviously all these secondary meanings are metaphors which derive from the primary meaning 'to hear'.

Umva iyi nzogá, umbwiíre níibá iryóoshye
hear this alcoholic beverage tell-me if it-tastes-good
'Taste this alcoholic drink and tell me if it tastes good.'
Kora uyu mwáana wuumvé kó arwaayé
touch this child hear if s/he-is-sick
'Touch this child and feel if s/he is sick.'
Politiíki y'iíyi leeta abatuúrage barayúumva/barayíbona gúte?
politics of this government dwellers they-hear-it/they-see-it how
'How do people understand/see/view this government?'
Ndúumva nániwe
I-hear I-am-tired
'I feel tired'
Abáana ntíbuumvá ibyó umwáarimú ababwiíra barakomeza gukúbagana.
children they-don't-hear what teacher he-them-tells they-continue to-disturb
'The children don't listen to what the teacher is telling them, they continue to disturb.'
Umwáana utúumvíye sé na nyina yuumvira ijeri.
child who-does-not-hear father and mother s/he-hears cricket
'A child who doesn't respect the father and the mother listens to the cricket.'
Abahuúngu baa Kabaanda baápfuuye amatwí, ináama abaantu babagiíra ntibazíitahó
sons of Kabanda they-died ears advice people they-them-give they-don't-themselves at them.'
'Kagabo's children are ear-dead, they don't listen to the advices that people give them.'
gutá mu gutwí 'to throw in the ear'> to listen carefully
guhuunza amatwí 'to make the ears escape' >to refuse to listen
gufuunga amatwí 'to close ears'> to refuse to listen
kwíica amatwí 'to kill the ears'> to refuse to listen

Words without meanings or without listeners' interest are considered as just noises.
Abatuúrage barasákuza gusa ntaa bitéekerezo byuubáka bataangá.
dwellers they-make-noise only there-is-no thoughts which-build they-give
'The citizens are only making noises, they don't give any constructive ideas.'
Ndabóna múvuza indúurú ntáa kiintu cyiizá mufité.
I-see you-cause-to say scream there-is-no think good you-have
'I realize that you are screaming, there is nothing good you have (to offer).'
Arakomeza kutúmena umutwé avúga amahoómbo.
s/he-keeps to-us-break head s/he-says nonsense
'S/he keeps giving us a headache saying nonsense.'

V. Touching metaphors

Touching metaphors use expressions which have to do with body contact, temperature, weight, and taction.

1. Body Contact

Body contact shows understanding or strong effect whereas the lack of it indicates the opposite.

Ibyó umwáarimú yiigíishije, abanyéeshuúri baabifáshe.
what teacher he-taught students they-ha ve-held-them
'The students have kept what the teacher taught them.'
gufáta mu mutwé
to-hold in head
'to memorize'
Igisúbizo cy'iícyo kibázo naagitóoye.
answer of that question I-picked-it-up
'I found a solution to that question.'
Iyo nkurú baayúumvise bakubitwa n'ínkubá
that news they-heard-it they-were-struck by thunder
'When they heard the news they were shocked.'
imyiítwaarire yaawe izagukorahó
hehavior of-you it-will-touch-you
'your behavior will have negative consequences on you'
Kagabo yiita ku báana bé cyaane.
Kagabo throws-himself on children of-him a-lot
Kagabo cares very much about his children.
'Ináama wabagiíriye zaabaceengeyemó.'
advices you-them-gave they-them-penetrated-in
'The advice that you gave penetrated them.'
Ibyó waambwiíye byaanyúze.
what you-me-told it-me-passed
'What you told me has pleased me.'
Inyígiisho zaabiinjiyemó.
teachings they-them-entered-in
'The teachings have penetrated them.'
Ibyó waantumyé byaancíitse
what you-sent-me-for it-escaped-me
'I forgot your mission.'
Bahora bámwiibutsa aríko ntáa kajyámó.
they-remain they-him/her-remind but no(thing) goes-in
'They always remind him/her but s/he never gets it.'
kumúbwiira ni ugutá inyuma ya Huuye.
to-him/her-talk is throw-away behind of Huye mountain
'to talk to him is a waste of time.'
Byaanciiyehó kó twaagoombága kubónana uyu muúnsi.
it-passed-by-me that we-had to see-each-other this day
'I forgot that we had to meet today.'
Icyo kibázo yagiciiye iruhaánde yiivugira ibiíndi.
that question/problem s/she-passed-it next s/he talked-about other (things)
'That question s/he ignored it and talked about something else.'
Ibisóbaanuro umúha biramúreenze.
explanations that-you-him/her-give they-him/her-surpass
'The explanations that you are giving him/her are beyond his/her comprehension.'
Kabaanda yamáze gukíra araréengwa.
Kabanda he-has-finished to-recover he-got-surpassed
'After he became rich Kabanda became carefree.'
Byaatunyuzehó kó ubukwé bwaa Máriyá arí ejó.
it-us-passed-by that wedding of Mary is tomorrow
'It escaped us that the wedding of Mary is tomorrow.'

As examples show, this metaphor is similar to the English metaphor
to strike, to catch, to get, to grasp, to be tied, linked, connected, …

2. Taction

Taction metaphors describe how the body feels in contact with external objects. Roughness connotes something difficult or important and softness something which is easy.

umuuntu ukómeye,
person who-is-hard
'A strong/important person'
ikibázo gikoméye,
question/problem which-is-hard
'a hard/difficult question/problem'
ikibázo cyooróshye
question which-is-soft
an easy question
'to be humble'
ibiintu byaakomeye
things they-become-hard
'the situation is becoming serious',
kugira ibitéekerezo binozé
to have ideas that-are-smooth
'to have good ideas'
Sharpness, unlike in English in which it means 'intelligent/elegant' as in 'a sharp child', 'cutting-edge technology, in Kinyarwanda it means 'meaniness', 'unsociability', 'suffering'.
gutyáara 'to be sharp'> to be mean

3. Weight

The weight metaphor connotes importance, great effect, gravity, or seriousness.

Ibibázo biramuremeereye
problems are-heavy-on-him/her
'S/he has serious problems.'
Amatégeko arusha amabuye kuremeera
'Laws are heavier than stones'
Aba bagabo ntíbuumviise ubureméere bw'aáriiya magaambo
these men they-didn't-hear the weight of those words
'These men didn't understand the gravity of those words.'
kuryáamira 'to lie on the top of' >'to cheat'/'to oppress'
gukáandagira 'to put one's foot on'> 'to be unfair to somebody'
guhónyoora 'to trample on'> 'to oppress'

4. Temperature

Warmth denotes something interesting or exciting and cold something boring.

Impaká zirashyúushye.
discussion is-hot
'The discussion is hot.'
Igitáramo kirakóonje.
party is-cold
'The party is cold.'
intaambara y'úbutita.
war of cold
'a cold war'

VI. Taste metaphors

Good taste metaphors are used to refer to events, things or experiences which are pleasant to body senses.

igitabo kiryooshyé
book which-tastes-good
'a good book'
umwaanditsi yatáanze umusógoongero ku gitabo cyé
writer he-gave sip on book of-him
'the author gave a sip to his book'
gushyíramó umúunyu
to-put-in salt
'to embellish the story',
umúunyu w'ámatwí
salt of ears
'good story teller'
kugira akarími karyooshyé
to-have tongue which-tastes-good

Bad taste metaphors are used mostly to show anger, meaniness, unfriendilness or unsociability.

ikigaaniiro kibiishyé
conversation which-tastes-bad
'a bitter conversation'
amagaambo atéeye iseséme
words which-cause nausea
'words which are disgusting'
kurura 'to have a bitter taste'>'to be mean'
gushaariira 'to taste sour'> 'to have a terrifying look'
gukáriha 'to taste bitter/sour'>'to be unapproachable/unsociable or have a bad temperament'
kuruungurirwa 'to have a heartburn'>'to be angry/moody'
gukaraata 'to be bitter/sour'> 'to be very excited/furious/angry'
gukara 'to taste hot/bitter'> to have a bad character/to be mean'
ibaamba 'bitter and inedible'> 'cantankerous/mean'
kubéera undí ibaamba
to-be-for another (person) bitter-raw-plant (or vegetable)
'to be mean/angry/cantankerous to another person'

VII. Smelling metaphors

Smell metaphors are used to designate bad or good things that one intuitively feels are going to happen.

guhúumurirwa n'ámahóro
to-get-a-good-smell from peace
'to smell peace'
Háno haranuuka intaambara.
here it-stinks war
'War stinks here'>there are signs trouble might erupt here
The 'stink' metaphor is used mostly to refer to hatred and in the following expressions :

kunuuka uruunturuuntu
to-stink human-presence
'to smell fishy/to suspect something abnormal'
kwáanga urunúuka
to-hate which-stinks
'to have a visceral hatred'


Since as it was pointed out in the introduction, metaphors exist because of the asymmetry between the finite nature of linguistic signs and the infinite character of the real world that they refer to and to make new concepts understandable to the mind, body metaphors are found in all languages. Individual speakers, dialects of the same language, and different languages may use the different body sense metaphors to refer to the same concept. This is expected because people don't use the same senses the same way. In English, for instance,'a thick accent ' and 'a heavy accent', are synonymous. The former uses a visual metaphor dealing with size and the latter a touching metaphor having to do with weight.

The following Kinyarwanda examples show that different concepts are referred to by different sense metaphors.
indíriimbo nziizá 'a beautiful song' (visual metaphor/shape)<> indíriimbo iryóoshye 'a delicious song'(taste metaphor)
ikibázo kiníni 'a big problem'(visual metaphor/size) <> ikibázo gikoméye 'a hard problem'(touching metaphor/taction) <> ikibázo kireméereye 'a heavy problem'(touching metaphor/weight)

The same body metaphors in different languages may not have the same referrent also. For instance the equivalent of the English expressions 'to break laws' is 'to kill laws' 'kwíica amatégeko' and 'heartbreaking' as 'backbreaking' 'incáamugóongo'. Synonymy, polysemy and asymmetry in the use of body metaphors are not restricted to language but to all sign systems because the nature and the power of the mind is to do more with less.

Although all senses are expected to provide these metaphors in all languages, because of environmental and social factors, some senses might be more prominent than others. For instance, languages spoken in open spaces such plains, plateaus may use more visual metaphors such as landscape metaphors than those spoken in closed and narrow spaces. People living in basins surrounded by mountains or people living in rainforest areas may use smelling and hearing metaphors because their scope vision is very much limited.


Kimenyi., Alexandre. Body
Kimenyi, Alexandre. 1999. Cow metaphors. Paper read at Yale at 29 Annual Conferennce on
African Linguistics.
Kimenyi, Alexandre. 2000. Journey metaphors. Paper read at Boston University at 31st
Annual Conference on African Linguistics. Published in the Proceedings. Also posted on
Lakoff, Georges and Mark Johnson. 1980. Metaphors we live by. Chicago : University of
Chicago Press.
Lakoff, Georges and Mark Johnson. 1999. The philosophy of the flesh.New York : Basic
Peirce, Charles. 1949-56. Collected writings.Vol1-4. Cambridge : Harvard University Press.

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