AWEJ for Translation & Literary Studies, Volume 7, Number 1. February  2023                                Pp.21-32

 Full Paper PDF

            The Cognitive Mechanisms Underlying the Concept of سرعة (Speed) in Arabic 

Hicham Lahlou
Department of English Language Studies
School of Humanities, Universiti Sains Malaysia
Penang, Malaysia


Received:11/24/2022              Accepted: 02/01/2023             Published: 02/24/2023


Despite the wide range of studies on how students’ past knowledge influences their understanding of scientific terminology, few studies were conducted to compare non-scientific language with scientific language, or rather everyday language with scientific language, from a cognitive linguistic perspective. The present paper aims to determine the cognitive mechanisms, i.e., image schemas, conceptual metaphor, and conceptual metonymy, which underpin the conceptualisation of the Arabic term سرعة (speed), using a conceptual metaphor theory framework. Thus, the research question guiding this study is: What cognitive mechanisms underlie the concept of سرعة (speed) in Arabic? The findings of this study will shed light on how Arab speakers conceptualise this term, demonstrating their background knowledge of the term compared to its scientific meaning. The article adds to the growing body of cognitive linguistics research on the conceptual processes behind physics terms. The data was collected from the Arabic Web Corpus (arTenTen) using the Sketch Engine. The findings demonstrated that VERTICATLITY and SCALE schemas are the most dominant image schemas that anchor the conceptual meaning in Arab speakers’ perceptions of the term under investigation and the discourse in which it is employed, as well as offer the concrete basis for conceptual metaphors. The conceptual metaphor CHANGE IS MOTION (LOCATION) was also shown to be active in motivating the conception of SPEED in Arabic.
Keywords: Arabic, conceptualisation, conceptual metaphor, image schemas, cognitive mechanisms, speed 

Cite as: Lahlou, H. (2023). The Cognitive Mechanisms Underlying the Concept of سرعة (Speed) in Arabic. Arab World English
Journal for Translation & Literary Studies
7 (1). 21-32.


Barcelona, A. (2003). Metaphor and Metonymy at the Crosswords: A Cognitive Perspective. Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter. (Original work published 2000)

Bourou, D., Schorlemmer, M., & Plaza, E. (2021, September). Image Schemas and Conceptual Blending in Diagrammatic Reasoning: The Case of Hasse Diagrams. In International Conference on Theory and Application of Diagrams (pp. 297-314). Springer, Cham.

Carey, S. (2000). Science Education as Conceptual Change. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 21(1), 13–19.

Cienki, A. (2007). Frames, Idealized Cognitive Models, and Domains. In D. Geeraerts, & H. Cuyckens (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Linguistics (pp. 27-47). New York: Oxford University Press.

Cameron, L. (2003). Metaphor in educational discourse. Continuum.

Cameron, L. (2008). Metaphor shifting in the dynamics of talk. In M. S. Zanotto, L. Cameron, & M. C. Cavalcanti (Eds.), Pragmatics and beyond new series (pp. 45–62). John Benjamins.

Duit, R., & Haeussler, P. (2012). Learning and teaching energy. In P. J. Fensham, R. F. Gunstone, & R. T. White, (Eds.), The Content of Science: A Constructive Approach to Its Teaching and Learning (pp. 197-212). London and New York: Routledge.

Ennaji, M. (2005). Multilingualism, Cultural Identity, and Education in Morocco. New York: Springer.

Evans, V. (2011). Language and Cognition: The View from Cognitive Linguistics. In V. Cook, & B. Bassetti, (Eds.), Language & Bilingual Cognition (pp. 69-107). New York: Taylor and Francis.

Evans, V., & Green, M. (2018). Cognitive linguistics: An introduction. New York: Routledge. (Original work published 2006.

Fuchs, H. U. (2013). Designing and Using Stories of Forces of Nature for Primary Understanding in Science. In F. Corni (Ed.), Le scienze nella prima educazione – Un approccio narrativo a un curricolo interdisciplinare (pp. 59-84). Trento: Erickson.

Geeraerts, D. (2006). Words and Other Wonders: Papers on Lexical and Semantic Topics. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Gibbs, R. W. Jr. (1994). The poetics of mind: Figurative thought, language, and understanding. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Hedblom, M. M. (2020). Image schemas and concept invention: cognitive, logical, and linguistic investigations.  Switzerland: Springer Nature.

Hewitt, P, G., Suchocki, J. A., & Hewitt, L. A. (2014). Conceptual Physical Science. Obeikan Publishing.

Johnson, M. (2008). Philosophy’s Debt to Metaphor. In J. Raymond & W. Gibbs (Ed.), The Cambridge Handbook of Metaphor and Thought (pp. 39–52). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Johnson, M. (2013). The body in the mind: The bodily basis of meaning, imagination, and reason. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Jones, A. T. (1983). Investigation of students’ understanding of speed, velocity and acceleration’. Research in Science Education, 13(1), 95-104.

Kecskes, I. (2014). Intercultural pragmatics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Koller, V. (2006). Of critical importance: Using electronic text corpora to study metaphor in business media discourse. In A. Stefanowitsch & S. Th. Gries (Eds.), Corpus-based approaches to metaphor and metonymy (pp. 237-266). De Gruyter Mouton.

Kövecses, Z., & Radden, G. (1998). Metonymy: developing a cognitive linguistic view. Cognitive Linguistics, 9(1), 37-77.

Kövecses, Z. (2010). Metaphor: A Practical Introduction (2nd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.

Kövecses, Z. (2015). Where metaphors come from: Reconsidering context in metaphor. Oxford University Press.

Lahlou, H. (2018). The conceptualisation of science terminology: A cognitive linguistic analysis of the categories ELECTRICITY and LIGHT in Arabic. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science Research4(2), 75-80.

Lahlou, H. (2019). Students’ Views of Science Education Challenges in Morocco: A Focus Group Study. Language in India, 19(12).

Lahlou, H., & Rahim, H. A. (2020). The Influence of Prior Knowledge on Learning Scientific Terminology: A Corpus-Based Cognitive Linguistic Study of ACCELERATION in Arabic and English. Arab World English Journal for Translation and Literary Studies, 4(1), 148–160. doi:

Lahlou, H. (2021). Concepts in physics: A comparative cognitive analysis of Arabic and French terminologies. Institut Terjemahan & Buku Malaysia (ITBM).

Lakoff, G. (1993). The contemporary theory of metaphor. In A. Ortony (Ed.), Metaphor and thought (2nd ed.) (pp. 202-251). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lakoff, G., & Johnson, M. (2003). Metaphors we Live by. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (Original work published 1980).

Lakoff, G. (2008). Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal About the Mind. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press. (Original work published 1987)

Lakoff, G., & Turner, M. (2009). More than Cool Reason: A Field Guide to Poetic Metaphor. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press. (Original work published 1989)

Langacker, R. W. (1987). Foundations of Cognitive Grammar: Theoretical prerequisites (Vol. 1). California: Stanford University Press.

Langacker, R. W. (1993). Reference-point constructions. Cognitive Linguistics, 4, 1-38.

Salah, H. I. (2010). At-tarjamah l-ʿArabiyah wa l-injiliziya al-mushkilah wa l-hal [Arabic and English Translation: The Problem and the Solution]. Cairo: Atlas Publishing House.

Sardinha, T. B. (2008). Metaphor probabilities in corpora. In M. S. Zanotto, L. Cameron, & M. C. Cavalcanti (Eds.), Confronting metaphor in use: An applied linguistic approach (pp. 127–48). John Benjamins.

Strömdahl, H. (2007). Critical Features of Word Meaning as an Educational Tool in Learning and Teaching Natural Sciences. Paper presented at the 13th International Conference on Thinking, 2007, Linköping.

Trowbridge, D. E., & McDermott, L. C. (1980). Investigation of student understanding of the concept of velocity in one dimension. American Journal of Physics, 48(12), 1020-1028.

Trowbridge, D. E., & McDermott, L. C. (1981). Investigation of student understanding of the concept of acceleration in one dimension. American Journal of Physics, 49(3), 242-253.

Trumper, R. (1990). Energy and a constructivist way of teaching. Physics Education25(4), 208-212.

Yıldız, A. (2016, April). A discussion on velocity–speed and their instruction. In Journal of Physics: Conference Series (Vol. 707, No. 1, p. 012040). IOP Publishing

Received: 11/24/2022 
Accepted: 02/01/2023
Published: 02/24/2023

Hicham Lahlou (Ph.D.) is a Senior Lecturer in the English Language Studies Department of Universiti Sains Malaysia’s School of Humanities. Through practical education, students are better equipped for the next learning level and the future. This pedagogical approach is intertwined with Dr Lahlou’s research interests in cognitive linguistics, semantics, corpus linguistics, and scientific terminology. ORCiD: