Metaphor

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A political cartoon by illustrator S.D. Ehrhart in an 1894 Puck magazine shows a farm woman labeled "Democratic Puck sheltering from a tornado of political change. OZ5-2-94.JPG
A political cartoon by illustrator S.D. Ehrhart in an 1894 Puck magazine shows a farm woman labeled "Democratic Puck sheltering from a tornado of political change.

A metaphor is a figure of speech that, for rhetorical effect, directly refers to one thing by mentioning another. [1] It may provide (or obscure) clarity or identify hidden similarities between two ideas. Metaphors are often compared with other types of figurative language, such as antithesis, hyperbole, metonymy and simile. [2] One of the most commonly cited examples of a metaphor in English literature comes from the "All the world's a stage" monologue from As You Like It :

Contents

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances ...
William Shakespeare, As You Like It , 2/7<ref> "As You Like It: Entire Play". Shakespeare.mit.edu. Retrieved 4 March 2012.</ref>

This quotation expresses a metaphor because the world is not literally a stage. By asserting that the world is a stage, Shakespeare uses points of comparison between the world and a stage to convey an understanding about the mechanics of the world and the behavior of the people within it.

According to the linguist Anatoly Liberman, the use of metaphors is relatively late in the modern European languages; it is, in principle, a post-Renaissance phenomenon. [3] At the other extreme, some recent linguistic theories view all language in essence as metaphorical. [4]

Etymology

The English metaphor derived from the 16th-century Old French word métaphore, which comes from the Latin metaphora, "carrying over", in turn from the Greek μεταφορά (metaphorá), "transfer", [5] from μεταφέρω (metapherō), "to carry over", "to transfer" [6] and that from μετά (meta), "after, with, across" [7] + φέρω (pherō), "to bear", "to carry". [8]

Parts of a metaphor

The Philosophy of Rhetoric (1937) by rhetorician I. A. Richards describes a metaphor as having two parts: the tenor and the vehicle. The tenor is the subject to which attributes are ascribed. The vehicle is the object whose attributes are borrowed. In the previous example, "the world" is compared to a stage, describing it with the attributes of "the stage"; "the world" is the tenor, and "a stage" is the vehicle; "men and women" is the secondary tenor, and "players" is the secondary vehicle.

Other writers[ which? ] employ the general terms ‘ground’ and ‘figure’ to denote the tenor and the vehicle. Cognitive linguistics uses the terms ‘target’ and ‘source’, respectively.

Psychologist Julian Jaynes coined the terms ‘metaphrand’ and ‘metaphier’, plus two new concepts, ‘paraphrand’ and ‘paraphier’. [9] [10] ‘Metaphrand’ is equivalent to the metaphor-theory terms ‘tenor’, ‘target’, and ‘ground’. ‘Metaphier’ is equivalent to the metaphor-theory terms ‘vehicle’, ‘figure’, and ‘source’. In a simple metaphor, an obvious attribute of the metaphier exactly characterizes the metaphrand (e.g. the ship plowed the seas). With an inexact metaphor, however, a metaphier might have associated attributes or nuances – its paraphiers – that enrich the metaphor because they “project back” to the metaphrand, potentially creating new ideas – the paraphrands – associated thereafter with the metaphrand or even leading to a new metaphor. For example, in the metaphor "Pat is a tornado”, the metaphrand is "Pat”, the metaphier is "tornado". As metaphier, "tornado" carries paraphiers such as power, storm and wind, counterclockwise motion, and danger, threat, destruction, etc. The metaphoric meaning of “tornado” is inexact: one might understand that ‘Pat is powerfully destructive’ through the paraphrand of physical and emotional destruction; another person might understand the metaphor as ‘Pat can spin out of control’. In the latter case, the paraphier of ‘spinning motion’ has become the paraphrand ‘psychological spin’, suggesting an entirely new metaphor for emotional unpredictability, a possibly apt description for a human being hardly applicable to a tornado. Based on his analysis, Jaynes claims that metaphors not only enhance description, but "increase enormously our powers of perception...and our understanding of [the world], and literally create new objects”. [9] :50

As a type of comparison

Metaphors are most frequently compared with similes. It is said, for instance, that a metaphor is 'a condensed analogy' or 'analogical fusion' or that they 'operate in a similar fashion' or are 'based on the same mental process' or yet that 'the basic processes of analogy are at work in metaphor'. It is also pointed out that 'a border between metaphor and analogy is fuzzy' and 'the difference between them might be described (metaphorically) as the distance between things being compared'. A metaphor asserts the objects in the comparison are identical on the point of comparison, while a simile merely asserts a similarity through use of words such as "like" or "as". For this reason a common-type metaphor is generally considered more forceful than a simile. [11] [12]

The metaphor category contains these specialized types:

Metaphor, like other types of analogy, can be distinguished from metonymy as one of two fundamental modes of thought. Metaphor and analogy work by bringing together concepts from different conceptual domains, while metonymy uses one element from a given domain to refer to another closely related element. A metaphor creates new links between otherwise distinct conceptual domains, while a metonymy relies on the existing links within them.

Subtypes

A dead metaphor is a metaphor in which the sense of a transferred image has become absent. The phrases "to grasp a concept" and "to gather what you've understood" use physical action as a metaphor for understanding. The audience does not need to visualize the action; dead metaphors normally go unnoticed. Some distinguish between a dead metaphor and a cliché. Others use "dead metaphor" to denote both. [17]

A mixed metaphor is a metaphor that leaps from one identification to a second inconsistent with the first, e.g.:

I smell a rat [...] but I'll nip him in the bud" — Irish politician Boyle Roche

This form is often used as a parody of metaphor itself:

If we can hit that bull's-eye then the rest of the dominoes will fall like a house of cards... Checkmate.

Futurama character Zapp Brannigan. [18]

An extended metaphor, or conceit, sets up a principal subject with several subsidiary subjects or comparisons. In the above quote from As You Like It, the world is first described as a stage and then the subsidiary subjects men and women are further described in the same context.

An implicit metaphor has no specified tenor, although the vehicle is present. M. H. Abrams offers the following as an example of an implicit metaphor: “That reed was too frail to survive the storm of its sorrows.” The reed is the vehicle for the implicit tenor, someone's death, and the “storm” is the vehicle for the person's “sorrows.” [19]

Metaphor can serve as a device for persuading an audience of the user's argument or thesis, the so-called rhetorical metaphor.

In rhetoric and literature

Aristotle writes in his work the Rhetoric that metaphors make learning pleasant: "To learn easily is naturally pleasant to all people, and words signify something, so whatever words create knowledge in us are the pleasantest." [20] When discussing Aristotle's Rhetoric, Jan Garret stated "metaphor most brings about learning; for when [Homer] calls old age "stubble", he creates understanding and knowledge through the genus, since both old age and stubble are [species of the genus of] things that have lost their bloom." [21] Metaphors, according to Aristotle, have "qualities of the exotic and the fascinating; but at the same time we recognize that strangers do not have the same rights as our fellow citizens". [22]

Educational psychologist Andrew Ortony gives more explicit detail: "Metaphors are necessary as a communicative device because they allow the transfer of coherent chunks of characteristics -- perceptual, cognitive, emotional and experiential -- from a vehicle which is known to a topic which is less so. In so doing they circumvent the problem of specifying one by one each of the often unnameable and innumerable characteristics; they avoid discretizing the perceived continuity of experience and are thus closer to experience and consequently more vivid and memorable." [23]

As style in speech and writing

As a characteristic of speech and writing, metaphors can serve the poetic imagination. This allows Sylvia Plath, in her poem "Cut", to compare the blood issuing from her cut thumb to the running of a million soldiers, "redcoat s, every one"; and enabling Robert Frost, in "The Road Not Taken", to compare a life to a journey. [24] [25] [26]

Metaphors can be implied and extended throughout pieces of literature.

Larger applications

Sonja K. Foss characterizes metaphors as "nonliteral comparisons in which a word or phrase from one domain of experience is applied to another domain". [27] She argues that since reality is mediated by the language we use to describe it, the metaphors we use shape the world and our interactions to it.

A metaphorical visualization of the word anger. Anger Symbol.jpg
A metaphorical visualization of the word anger.

The term metaphor is used to describe more basic or general aspects of experience and cognition:

Conceptual metaphors

Some theorists have suggested that metaphors are not merely stylistic, but that they are cognitively important as well. In Metaphors We Live By , George Lakoff and Mark Johnson argue that metaphors are pervasive in everyday life, not just in language, but also in thought and action. A common definition of metaphor can be described as a comparison that shows how two things that are not alike in most ways are similar in another important way. They explain how a metaphor is simply understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another, called a "conduit metaphor". A speaker can put ideas or objects into containers, and then send them along a conduit to a listener who removes the object from the container to make meaning of it. Thus, communication is something that ideas go into, and the container is separate from the ideas themselves. Lakoff and Johnson give several examples of daily metaphors in use, including "argument is war" and "time is money". Metaphors are widely used in context to describe personal meaning. The authors suggest that communication can be viewed as a machine: "Communication is not what one does with the machine, but is the machine itself." [28]

As a foundation of our conceptual system

Cognitive linguists emphasize that metaphors serve to facilitate the understanding of one conceptual domain—typically an abstraction such as "life", "theories" or "ideas"—through expressions that relate to another, more familiar conceptual domain—typically more concrete, such as "journey", "buildings" or "food". [29] [30] For example: we devour a book of raw facts, try to digest them, stew over them, let them simmer on the back-burner, regurgitate them in discussions, and cook up explanations, hoping they do not seem half-baked.

A convenient short-hand way of capturing this view of metaphor is the following: CONCEPTUAL DOMAIN (A) IS CONCEPTUAL DOMAIN (B), which is what is called a conceptual metaphor. A conceptual metaphor consists of two conceptual domains, in which one domain is understood in terms of another. A conceptual domain is any coherent organization of experience. For example, we have coherently organized knowledge about journeys that we rely on in understanding life. [30]

Lakoff and Johnson greatly contributed to establishing the importance of conceptual metaphor as a framework for thinking in language, leading scholars to investigate the original ways in which writers used novel metaphors and question the fundamental frameworks of thinking in conceptual metaphors.

From a sociological, cultural, or philosophical perspective, one asks to what extent ideologies maintain and impose conceptual patterns of thought by introducing, supporting, and adapting fundamental patterns of thinking metaphorically. [31] To what extent does the ideology fashion and refashion the idea of the nation as a container with borders? How are enemies and outsiders represented? As diseases? As attackers? How are the metaphoric paths of fate, destiny, history, and progress represented? As the opening of an eternal monumental moment (German fascism)? Or as the path to communism (in Russian or Czech for example)?[ citation needed ]

Some cognitive scholars have attempted to take on board the idea that different languages have evolved radically different concepts and conceptual metaphors, while others hold to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. German philologist Wilhelm von Humboldt contributed significantly to this debate on the relationship between culture, language, and linguistic communities. Humboldt remains, however, relatively unknown in English-speaking nations. Andrew Goatly, in "Washing the Brain", takes on board the dual problem of conceptual metaphor as a framework implicit in the language as a system and the way individuals and ideologies negotiate conceptual metaphors. Neural biological research suggests some metaphors are innate, as demonstrated by reduced metaphorical understanding in psychopathy. [32]

James W. Underhill, in Creating Worldviews: Ideology, Metaphor & Language (Edinburgh UP), considers the way individual speech adopts and reinforces certain metaphoric paradigms. This involves a critique of both communist and fascist discourse. Underhill's studies are situated in Czech and German, which allows him to demonstrate the ways individuals are thinking both within and resisting the modes by which ideologies seek to appropriate key concepts such as "the people", "the state", "history", and "struggle".

Though metaphors can be considered to be "in" language, Underhill's chapter on French, English and ethnolinguistics demonstrates that we cannot conceive of language or languages in anything other than metaphoric terms.

Nonlinguistic metaphors

Tombstone of a Jewish woman depicting broken candles, a visual metaphor of the end of life. Tombe juive de femmes - Jewish tombstone of women.jpg
Tombstone of a Jewish woman depicting broken candles, a visual metaphor of the end of life.

Metaphors can map experience between two nonlinguistic realms. Musicologist Leonard B. Meyer demonstrated how purely rhythmic and harmonic events can express human emotions. [33] It is an open question whether synesthesia experiences are a sensory version of metaphor, the “source” domain being the presented stimulus, such as a musical tone, and the target domain, being the experience in another modality, such as color. [34] .

Art theorist Robert Vischer argued that when we look at a painting, we "feel ourselves into it" by imagining our body in the posture of a nonhuman or inanimate object in the painting. For example, the painting The Lonely Tree by Caspar David Friedrich shows a tree with contorted, barren limbs. [35] [36] Looking at the painting, we imagine our limbs in a similarly contorted and barren shape, evoking a feeling of strain and distress. Nonlinguistic metaphors may be the foundation of our experience of visual and musical art, as well as dance and other art forms. [37] [38]

In historical linguistics

In historical onomasiology or in historical linguistics, a metaphor is defined as a semantic change based on a similarity in form or function between the original concept and the target concept named by a word. [39]

For example, mouse: small, gray rodent with a long tailsmall, gray computer device with a long cord.

Some recent linguistic theories view all language in essence as metaphorical. [40]

Historical theories

Friedrich Nietzsche makes metaphor the conceptual center of his early theory of society in On Truth and Lies in the Non-Moral Sense. [41] Some sociologists have found his essay useful for thinking about metaphors used in society and for reflecting on their own use of metaphor. Sociologists of religion note the importance of metaphor in religious worldviews, and that it is impossible to think sociologically about religion without metaphor. [42]


See also

Related Research Articles

<i>Where Mathematics Comes From</i> book by George Lakoff

Where Mathematics Comes From: How the Embodied Mind Brings Mathematics into Being is a book by George Lakoff, a cognitive linguist, and Rafael E. Núñez, a psychologist. Published in 2000, WMCF seeks to found a cognitive science of mathematics, a theory of embodied mathematics based on conceptual metaphor.

George Lakoff American linguist

George P. Lakoff is an American cognitive linguist and philosopher, best known for his thesis that lives of individuals are significantly influenced by the central metaphors they use to explain complex phenomena.

In cognitive linguistics, conceptual metaphor, or cognitive metaphor, refers to the understanding of one idea, or conceptual domain, in terms of another. An example of this is the understanding of quantity in terms of directionality or the understanding of time in terms of money.

Cognitive linguistics is an interdisciplinary branch of linguistics, combining knowledge and research from both psychology and linguistics. It describes how language interacts with cognition, how language forms our thoughts, and the evolution of language parallel with the change in the common mindset across time.

Metonymy figure of speech where a thing or concept is referred to inderictly by the name of something closely associated with it

Metonymy is a figure of speech in which a thing or concept is referred to by the name of something closely associated with that thing or concept.

Synecdoche Use of a term for a part of something to refer to the whole or vice versa

A synecdoche is a figure of speech in which a term for a part of something refers to the whole of something or vice versa. A synecdoche is a class of metonymy, often by means of either mentioning a part for the whole or conversely the whole for one of its parts. Examples from common English expressions include "suits", "boots", and "America".

Literal and figurative language is a distinction within some fields of language analysis, in particular stylistics, rhetoric, and semantics.

Image schema

An image schema is a recurring structure within our cognitive processes which establishes patterns of understanding and reasoning. Image schemas are formed from our bodily interactions, from linguistic experience, and from historical context. The term is explained in Mark Johnson's book The Body in the Mind; in case study 2 of George Lakoff's Women, Fire and Dangerous Things; by Rudolf Arnheim in Visual Thinking; and more recently, by Tim Rohrer's 2006 book chapter Image Schemata in the Brain.

Conceptual blending, also called conceptual integration or view application, is a theory of cognition developed by Gilles Fauconnier and Mark Turner. According to this theory, elements and vital relations from diverse scenarios are "blended" in a subconscious process, which is assumed to be ubiquitous to everyday thought and language. Conceptual blending is an emerging field of studies for computer scientists wishing to pursue researches in artificial intelligence.

An extended metaphor, also known as a conceit or sustained metaphor, is an author’s exploitation of a single metaphor or analogy at length through multiple linked tenors, vehicles, and grounds throughout a poem or story. Tenor is the subject of the metaphor, vehicle is the image or subject that carries the weight of the comparison, and ground is the shared proprieties of the two compared subjects. Another way to think of extended metaphors is in terms of implications of a base metaphor. These implications are repeatedly emphasized, discovered, rediscovered, and progressed in new ways.

Rhetoric of science is a body of scholarly literature exploring the notion that the practice of science is a rhetorical activity. It emerged following a number of similarly-oriented disciplines during the late 20th century, including the disciplines of sociology of scientific knowledge, history of science, and philosophy of science, but it is practiced most fully by rhetoricians in departments of English, speech, and communication.

Cognitive rhetoric refers to an approach to rhetoric, composition, and pedagogy as well as a method for language and literary studies drawing from, or contributing to, cognitive science.

1979 in philosophy

Genre criticism, a method within rhetorical criticism, analyzes texts in terms of their genre: the set of generic expectations, conventions, and constraints that guide their production and interpretation. In rhetoric, the theory of genre provides a means to classify and compare artifacts in terms of their formal, substantive and contextual features. By grouping artifacts with others which have similar formal features or rhetorical exigencies, rhetorical critics can shed light on how authors use or flout conventions for their own purposes. Genre criticism has thus become one of the main methodologies within rhetorical criticism.

Metaphoric criticism is one school of rhetorical analysis used in English and speech communication studies. Scholars employing metaphoric criticism analyze texts by locating metaphors within texts and evaluating those metaphors in an effort to better understand ways in which authors appeal to their audiences.

Metaphor, the description of one thing as something else, has become of interest in recent decades to both analytic philosophy and continental philosophy, but for different reasons.

Experientialism is the philosophical theory that experience is the source of knowledge. It was originally formulated by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson and its first widely known formulation is to be found in the book Metaphors We Live By.

In cognitive linguistics, the invariance principle is a simple attempt to explain similarities and differences between how an idea is understood in "ordinary" usage, and how it is understood when used as a conceptual metaphor.

In linguistics, the conduit metaphor is a dominant class of figurative expressions used when discussing communication itself (metalanguage). It operates whenever people speak or write as if they "insert" their mental contents into "containers" whose contents are then "extracted" by listeners and readers. Thus, language is viewed as a "conduit" conveying mental content between people.

References

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