Metáfora | Metaphor | Semantics

Lindquist, Hans (2009). Corpus Linguistics and the Description of English. Edinburgh: University Press. 6 Metaphor and metonymy 6.1 Introduction Traditionally, metaphor was something dealt with by literary scholars and philosophers who were concerned mainly with creative metaphors in fiction. The literature on the topic is enormous, and only a few refer- ences can be made here. Metonymy, on the other hand, has not been studied quite to the same extent. Since th

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  111 6  Metaphor and metonymy 6.1 Introduction Traditionally, metaphor was something dealt with by literary scholars and philosophers who were concerned mainly with creative metaphors in fiction. The literature on the topic is enormous, and only a few refer-ences can be made here. Metonymy, on the other hand, has not been studied quite to the same extent.Since the 1980s there has been a huge upsurge of interest in the cognitive aspects of both metaphor and metonymy, i.e. how we use metaphorical and metonymic processes when we think. Much of this is inspired by a book by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson called Metaphors We Live By   (1980). This chapter will begin with general defi-nitions of metaphor and the related concepts of simile and metonymy, followed by an explanation of Lakoff and Johnson’s cognitive theory of metaphor. We will then go on to see how metaphors can be studied by means of corpus linguistic methods. 6.1.1 Metaphor  We will start by establishing what distinguishes metaphors from non-metaphors. Take a look at the phrases down the drain   in (1) and (2).(1) On the average, each pound contains about 40% phosphate, which does a fine job of cleaning dishes and clothes. But once flushed down   the   drain , it begins its environmental dirty work. ( Time  )(2) A fruit cannery was finished before it dawned on its builders that there was no local fruit to can. All in all, $660 million went down   the   drain . ( Time  )In (1), down the drain   is used literally, since the text is about something concrete which is actually flushed out in the drainage system. The preposition down   refers to downwards motion and the noun drain   refers Lindquist, Hans (2009). Corpus Linguistics and the Description of English. Edinburgh: University Press.   112 CORPUS   LINGUISTICS to a sewage pipe of some sort. In (2), however, the money referred to was clearly not flushed down the toilet – but through the builders’ bad planning it was lost as definitely as if it had been. Went down the drain   in (2) is a metaphor. In a metaphor, language from one semantic sphere is used to describe something in a different sphere – in this case a process in the sphere of waste disposal is used to describe a process in the sphere of business. For a metaphor to work, there must be some aspects of the processes in the two spheres that are similar. In this case it is the fact that something disappears and is lost (although environmentalist have long made us aware that what is flushed down the drain in fact does not disappear at all; it is just transported somewhere else).A metaphor thus has three parts: the expression ( down the drain  ), the meaning (‘loss’) and the connection between the expression and the meaning (when something is flushed down the drain it is irretrievably lost, at least in a sense). In traditional metaphor theory, these three ele-ments are called ‘vehicle’ (expression), ‘tenor’ (meaning) and ‘ground’ (connection). As we shall see below, however, modern cognitive meta-phor theory uses different terms.The motivation for using a metaphor is usually either to explain something abstract and complicated which is difficult to grasp by means of something concrete and more straightforward, or to express some-thing common and pedestrian in a more colourful and striking way. An example of the former can be seen in (3).(3) When something dies, its immune system (along with everything else) shuts down . In a matter of hours, the body is invaded  by all sorts of bacteria, microbes, parasites . . . (http://www.howstuff this explanation of the immune system on a webpage for young people, the immune system is metaphorically said to shut down  , like a business or a shop, and the bacteria, microbes and parasites are metaphorically said to invade   the body like an enemy army. This way of putting it makes it easier to grasp and remember. In (4) we see an example of how a metaphor is used to create a striking image (and to amuse the reader). A movie reviewer describes the music of the Swedish pop group Abba.(4) Those shimmery, layered arrangements, those lyrics in a language uncannily like English, those symmetrical Nordic voices – they all add up to something alarmingly permanent, a marshmallow monument on the cultural landscape . ( New York Times  , 2008)Obviously, the music is not really a monument constructed out of marshmallows in a real landscape, so the reader is forced to find a tenor    METAPHOR    AND   METONYMY  113 (meaning) by looking for the ground (the connection between vehicle and the possible meaning). Perhaps the writer wants to say that the music is soft and sweet and easy to consume like a marshmallow? At the same time it is said to be a permanent monument, so maybe it is also rather grand. It is up to the reader to make his or her interpretation.We now need to make one more distinction: between creative (or novel) metaphors, conventional metaphors and dead metaphors. Creative metaphors are made up by speakers on the spur of the moment, or by skilful writers at their desk who rack their brains for just the right phrase. Creative metaphors are often surprising and striking and they usually demand a certain amount of effort to interpret. Marshmallow monument   is a creative metaphor. There is not a single instance of this phrase in the 360-million-word COCA, and the only four hits I found on Google led to the same srcinal movie review. Down the drain  , on the other hand, is a conventional metaphor. In COCA, there are 441 instances of down the drain   and roughly two thirds of those are metaphorical. Most native speakers and many non-native ones know the metaphor and can easily interpret it when they come across it. The meaning is even given in the OED  : “Colloq. fig. phr., to go    (etc.)   down the drain  , to disappear, get lost, vanish; to deteriorate, go to waste” ( OED   s.v. drain, n  . e). Once upon a time, someone must have used down the drain   metaphorically for the first time, other people must have liked it and started using it too, and even-tually it was ‘conventionalised’. The very first citation in the OED   is (5).(5) All his savings are gone down the drain . (W. S. MAUGHAM Breadwinner   i. 52, 1930)We do not know if Somerset Maugham invented the phrase or perhaps picked it up from current colloquial language at the time.Dead metaphors, finally, are called dead because they are no longer perceived as metaphors at all. Typical examples are leg   (of a table) and hard   (meaning ‘difficult’). All dead metaphors were born as creative metaphors and grew up to become conventional metaphors before they ended up as dead metaphors. It could be argued that the term ‘dead metaphor’ is not ideal since the expressions actually live on in everyday use. It is just the metaphoricity that has worn off, and even that can be revived by will in many cases. The demarcation lines between creative, conventional and dead metaphors are not hard and fast, and individual metaphors can be placed at different points on a cline from creative to conventionalised to dead. Some scholars see dead metaphors as a subtype of conventionalised metaphors. In the rest of this chapter, we will only deal with creative and conventional metaphors. Before we go on with metaphors, however, we need to get similes out of the way.   114 CORPUS   LINGUISTICS 6.1.2 Simile Metaphors are sometimes confused with similes, since similes are also based on similarities between two objects or two processes. The classic way to explain the difference is to use examples like (6) and (7).(6) He, like you say, is   a   lion  in New Jersey politics, incredibly char-ismatic. (COCA Spoken)(7) The visit by a foreigner to their home is a first – a foreigner is   like   a   lion  to the family, Olga comments. (COCA News)A metaphor, such as (6), is always untrue (it is not the case that “he” is an animal), and has to be interpreted metaphorically in some way or other (here a clue to the intended meaning is given in the added adjec-tive phrase incredibly charismatic  ). A simile, on the other hand, is always either true or false and has a word that explicitly says that there is a comparison, such as like   in (7) or resembles   in (8).(8) How do I politely tell her she resembles   a   stuffed sausage ? (COCA Magazines)Most researchers claim that metaphors have greater impact than similes, and it is probably true that it is much worse to be told that you are a stuffed sausage than that you resemble one. In any case, in this chapter we will study only metaphors. 6.1.3 Conceptual metaphors One of Lakoff and Johnson’s fundamental tenets is that metaphors are not limited to “poetic imagination and rhetorical flourish” but rather that “metaphor is pervasive in everyday life, not just in language but in thought and action” (1980: 3). So metaphors are not only a way of putting words on thoughts in an efficient or striking manner; they are also the means by which we are actually able to understand the world. Lakoff and Johnson used the term ‘conceptual metaphor’ to describe general structures of our cognitive system. Such conceptual metaphors, then, lie behind whole series of more detailed linguistic metaphors. According to Lakoff and Johnson’s theory, the conceptual metaphor ARGUMENT IS WAR lies behind metaphorical linguistic expressions like Your claims are indefensible  , He attacked every weak point in my argument   and many more. We think according to the conceptual metaphor, and when we express our thoughts we use metaphorical expressions accord-ingly. Lakoff and Johnson suggest many more conceptual metaphors. Table 6.1 gives some examples from their book.
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