In her doctoral dissertation Technology, language and thought: Extensions of meaning in the English lexicon, Marlene Johansson Falck. Luleå University of Technology, in Sweden, treats the impact of technological inventions and discoveries on how we structure our thoughts and our language. The three technological spheres she has looked at are the steam engine, electricity, and vehicles and roads.
Since these have played, or still play, a major role in our lives, they constitute familiar reference points that we make use of in structuring our experiences of what is abstract to us.
Just as we use abacuses, fingers, and pebbles, etc., to learn how to count, we utilize clear, concrete objects in our environment to structure abstract concepts like time, feelings, and actions. With the aid of the steam machine, for instance, we can structure our experiences of, and speak about, economic growth, people exerting themselves to the limit, and people’s anger.
“Electricity and our experiences of it help us sort out our impressions of, and to speak about, people’s actions and feelings, such as tense feelings and excitement. Vehicles and roads make it possible for us to see our lives and the actions we carry out as a journey: to start something is to get the show on the road, and to terminate something is to reach the end of the road,” says Marlene Johansson Falck.
Further examples of English expressions are:
Steam up the economy
Electrify the audience
Take to the road