Of the Passage to the Other World A Cognitive Linguistics Perspective on Near-Death Experience (NDE) or NDEs as Stories of the Other World

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Donna-Alexandra Ursu


The article focuses on the language employed by the people who went through a near-death experience (NDE) when depicting their journey to the other world, the Afterlife, as well as on C. S. Lewis’s essay ‘On Stories’ (1965) in an attempt to draw a parallel between the world that opens up after death, on the one hand, and the world of stories, on the other. Using Raymond A. Moody’s Life after Life (1975/2015) and Eben Alexander’s Proof of Heaven (2012) as my NDE corpus, I explore the linguistic vehicles and the underlying conceptual metaphors and image schemas used by NDErs when depicting the typical stages that make up their near-death experience. Starting from the assumption that the lexis provides us with points of access to the conceptual content and ultimately to a cognitive world, I use the analytical tools provided by Conceptual Metaphor Theory, namely conceptual metaphors and image schemas, so as to unveil the passage of the soul the other world. To this end, I uncover a ten-stage idealized cognitive model of NDE, based on Lakoff’s concept of ICM (1987) and Barsalou’s model of a frame (1992). One of the aims of the article is to evince that, despite the unanimous claim made by NDErs that their experience is ineffable, they do succeed in providing a depiction—as imperfect as it may be—of this passage between worlds, which results in a world in itself. At the discursive level, I argue that the true ‘creators’ of this world are the kinesthetic image schemas which are pre-conceptual in nature and inherently meaningful. What is more, I aim to unveil the convergences between the NDE narratives and stories as they are analyzed by C. S. Lewis in his essay ‘On stories’.


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How to Cite
Ursu, D.-A. “Of the Passage to the Other World: A Cognitive Linguistics Perspective on Near-Death Experience (NDE) or NDEs As Stories of the Other World”. Linguaculture, vol. 13, no. 1, June 2022, pp. 179-96, doi:10.47743/lincu-2022-1-0305.
Author Biography

Donna-Alexandra Ursu, Independent scholar

Donna-Alexandra URSU has just finished her Ph.D. thesis at The University of Bucharest. Her doctoral research explores the language of death and dying in English and Romanian. She is particularly interested in NDEs (near-death experiences) and the way these ‘ineffable’ experiences are put into words. Apart from her keen interest in the Afterlife, she is passionate about teaching and methodology, having been teaching English and French to adults for more than 20 years. Her book on how to teach a foreign language, entitled Supercalifragilisticmetodologistic—Ghid metodologic de facilitare a învățării limbilor străine—is about to be published. The book is meant to provide young teachers (and not only) with the main principles, some practical advice, sample lessons, as well as various methods and approaches in language teaching.