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Metaphor and its role in

categorization and conceptualization


in language
FIGURATIVE
LANGUAGE/METAPHORS

Metaphors are very powerful and natural


cognitive processes, which help us to
understand the complex issues in nature and
society.
Metaphors can be described as mediators
between the human mind and culture.
New metaphors change both the ordinary
language we use and the ways in which we
perceive and understand the world.
Metaphors cause people to see things in a new light.
In politics, the explanatory function of metaphors is
often subjected to the goal of manipulation, which
means that metaphors are often primarily selected
for their emotional and strategic effect.
Prime candidates in political speeches in general are
metaphorical links with familiar words, e.g. WIND
(e.g. the new breeze, wind of change), ILLNESS,
NATURAL DISASTERS metaphors, e.g.
Our country can be healthy; EARTHQUAKE in the
Romanian Parliament, etc.
Cognitive Linguistic theories see metaphor as basic to
human cognition and language behavior (Lakoff and
Johnson 1980; Lakoff 1987)
Metaphors are necessary for our basic grasp of time,
evaluation, emotions and so on
Go back in time
in the distant future
in a black mood
their hot love cooled
What is a metaphor?
Metaphor is usually used to compare two unlike
things, which in result improve our understanding.

Metaphor can be used as filter for our perceptions.


If inaccurately used, they may distort information or
cause false generalizations.
FRAMES
G. Lakoff: (Lakoff and Johnson 1980; Lakoff 1987)
Lakoff argues that our worldviews are based largely on
different frames that provide us with structure for
our thinking.
Because conservatives have framed political debate
in their own terms for the past few decades, our
countryand its politicsare now based on a
conservative worldview. In order for progressives to
create change, they must re-frame the way we think
about politics, ourselves, and America.
Every word evokes a frame. A frame is a conceptual
structure used in thinking. The word elephant evokes a
frame with an image of an elephant and certain
knowledge: an elephant is a large animal (a mammal)
with large floppy ears, a trunk that functions like both
a nose and a hand, large stump-like legs, and so on.

Every frame is realized in the brain by neural circuitry.


Every time a neural circuit is activated, it is
strengthened.
The more abstract the idea, the more layers of
"framing" or analogy are required to explain the
concept.
Definition of metaphor
The essence of metaphor is understanding one kind of
thing in terms of another.
It has been described in terms of transfer from one
cognitive domain (SOURCE) to another (TARGET)
domain: People tend to draw upon experiences in one
area of life in order to give fresh insights and
understanding to experiences in another, creating new
conceptual realities, e.g.
Life is battle.
the wolf in a sheeps clothing.
.
Examples in Conventional
Language
the ARGUMENT IS WAR metaphor
She attacked every weak point in my
argument.
Your claims are indefensible.
They had to surrender to the force of
our arguments.
Ive never won an argument with him.

Other terms: strategy, barrage of words,


Two important points about
metaphor:
is a tool of cognition, i.e. helps
us to conceptualise the world
Allows us to deal with
abstractions by
conceptualising them in terms
of something more
Metaphorical Mapping
(terminology)
A metaphor is a relation between
two disparate domains
(Conceptual) Domain any kind of
coherent organization of
experience
Source domain from which the
metaphors are drawn
Target domain that we are trying
to understand , or where the
Source/Target relations

A target domain can be conceptualised


from more than one source domain.
ARGUMENT IS A BUILDING metaphor

Source domain Target domain

ARGUMENT BUILDING
Your argument has a strong
foundation
We demolished their theory
Time Examples
REMEMBER: direction of metaphors
typically go from basic/perceptual
domains to more abstract domains
Concept of time is abstract
TIME is MONEY metaphor
Yourewasting my time.
You need to budget your time.
How do you spend your time these
days?
You dont use your time profitably.
UP is MORE metaphor

VERTICAL SPACE QUALITY/QUANTITY

up more
vertical

MORE IS UP
LESS IS DOWN

down less

SOURCE DOMAIN TARGET DOMAIN


MORE is UP
CONSCIOUS IS UP - UNCONSCIOUS IS DOWN
Wake up - He fell asleep

HEALTH AND LIFE ARE UP - SICKNESS AND DEATH


ARE DOWN
He's at the peak of health - He came down with the flu.

HAVING CONTROL OR FORCE IS UP - BEING SUBJECT


TO CONTROL OR FORCE IS DOWN
I am on top of this situation - He fell from power.

MORE QUANTITY IS UP - LESS QUANTITY IS DOWN


The number of books printed every year keeps going up - The
number of errors he made is incredibly low.

HIGH STATUS IS UP - LOW STATUS IS DOWN


HIGH STATUS IS UP - LOW STATUS IS DOWN
She'll rise to the top - She fell in status.

GOOD IS UP - BAD IS DOWN


Things are looking up - Things are at an all-time low.

VIRTUE IS UP - DEPRAVITY IS DOWN


She is an upstanding citizen - That was a low-down thing
to do.

UNKNOWN IS UP - KNOWN IS DOWN


That's up in the air - The matter is settled.
Metaphor in categorisation
and conceptualisation
Metaphors are most of the time
below our level of conscious
awareness.
Metaphor is pervasive in everyday
life, not just in language but in
thought and action. Our ordinary
conceptual system, in terms of
which we both think and act, is
Summary of Metaphor in
Language
Metaphors are mappings across
conceptual domains. Each mapping is a
fixed set of correspondences between
entities in a source domain and entities in
a target domain.

Mappings are not arbitrary, but grounded


in the body and in everyday experience
and knowledge.
Body metaphors
Man is the measure of all things (proverb)

When the body is mentioned in literature,


philosophy or similar disciplines, it is often
conceptualized as a plant, an animal, a cage or
confinement of the soul, a machine, a container of
emotions, a computer, a communication network,
etc.
Plato describes humankind as a heavenly plant.
(family tree, the root of the tooth...). Women are
often perceived as fragile flowers.
The human body is often addressed as a metaphor
for society (e.g. the head of the state, the face of the
law, a legislative body, etc.)
Abstract accessed through
Concrete
Metaphor allows us to understand a relatively
abstract or inherently unstructured subject
matter in terms of a more concrete, or at least a
more highly structured subject matter.
Metaphor is the main mechanism through
which we comprehend abstract concepts and
perform abstract reasoning.

(From George Lakoff. The Contemporary


Theory of Metaphor)
Heart
Metaphorically, it refers to a persons character, or the
place within a person where their feelings or emotions
(sadness, surprise, fear, love) are considered to
come. It is also the center of bravery/courage:
You are doing really well-dont lose heart now.
(=courage),
to break someones heart (=to cause emotional pain)

In some languages heart is considered as the centre of


the soul (heart=soul), e.g. Croatian: On je prava dusa
(= soul). > She is all heart.
Embodiment (1)
When the body is mentioned in literature, philosophy
or similar disciplines, it is often conceptualized as a
plant, an animal, a cage or confinement of the soul, a
machine, a container of emotions, a computer, a
communication network, etc.
Plato describes humankind as a heavenly plant.
(family tree, the root of the tooth...). Women are often
perceived as fragile flowers.
The human body is often addressed as a metaphor
for society (e.g. the head of the state, the face of the
law, a legislative body, etc.)
Embodiment (2)
The body parts have individual functions. They can
become symbolic models of stable meanings in
different parts of ones experience, e.g.
head> the seat of the intellect; director, leader; a
container of thoughts, ideas, memories.
heart >the seat of emotion (sadness, fear, and love)
and the center of bravery
hand > power/control, e.g. to have someone in ones
hands
Heart
Metaphorically, it refers to a persons character, or the place
within a person where their feelings or emotions (sadness,
surprise, fear, love) are considered to come. It is also
the center of bravery/courage:
You are doing really well-dont lose heart now.
(=courage),
to break someones heart (=to cause emotional pain)

In some languages heart is considered as the centre of the


soul (heart=soul), e.g. Romanian: E numai suflet (= soul).
> She is all heart.
Conclusion: Generic metaphors
Linguistic categorization of the body reveals that all
human beings have a common set of conceptual
metaphors (universal/generic level metaphors) that
are based on the following:
common body structure
basic sensory experiences
common features of social organization and
behaviour>common cultural environment
common features of the natural environment
globalization (e.g. global village)
See you at the exam!