Do Chinese and English speakers think about time differently? Failure of replicating Boroditsky (2001)

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English uses the horizontal spatial metaphors to express time (e.g., the good days ahead of us). Chinese also uses the vertical metaphors (e.g., 'the month above' to mean last month). Do Chinese speakers, then, think about time in a different way than English speakers? Boroditsky [Boroditsky, L. (2001). Does language shape thought? Mandarin and English speakers' conceptions of time. Cognitive Psychology, 43(1), 1-22] claimed that they do, and went on to conclude that 'language is a powerful tool in shaping habitual thought about abstract domains' (such as time). By estimating the frequency of usage, we found that Chinese speakers actually use the horizontal spatial metaphors more often than the vertical metaphors. This offered no logical ground for Boroditsky's claim. We were also unable to replicate her experiments in four different attempts. We conclude that Chinese speakers do not think about time in a different way than English speakers just because Chinese also uses the vertical spatial metaphors to express time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)427-436
Number of pages10
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2007 Aug 1



  • Chinese
  • English
  • Linguistic relativity hypothesis
  • Time

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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