October 1, 2012

Metaphorically Speaking

As English students we have become accustomed to using metaphors to express creative alternatives of literal ideas. Thanks to past rhetoricians we have even discovered the importance and usefulness of metaphors in arguments and discourse. According to George Lakoff and Mark Johnson in their text, Metaphors We Live By, metaphors make thoughts more vivid and structure our perceptions and understandings. They are pervasive in everyday life; not just in language, but in thought and action.

Lakoff and Johnson used multiple examples of metaphors including Argument is War. This metaphor is relevant to our culture due to the fact that our culture's discourse form is structured in terms of battle. "He attacked every weak point in her argument." In our culture we either win or lose an argument. In order to do so we attack our opponents position and defend our own by planning and using strategies. However, this metaphor (like most) is not meant to be taken literally. Argument is not the same thing as war, but the concept, activity, and language are both metaphorical structured in the same way causing the metaphor to make sense in our culture.

A second metaphorical concept of our culture is Time is Money. In this metaphor we recognize that both time and money are limited resources and valuable commodities. "Is this worth your while? In our society most jobs will pay you by the hour, and when convicted of a crime you must pay your debt my serving your time. Similarly, time and money can be spent, budgeted, saved, or invested poorly/wisely.

Sometimes metaphors can be difficult to recognize. Lakoff and Johnson use the Conduit Metaphors as examples of this. A linguistic aspect of conduit metaphors entails words and sentences have meanings in themselves, independent of concept or speaker. "It is difficult to put my ideas into words." Without context different sentences will mean different things to different people. Conduit metaphors does not fit cases where context is required to discover meaning.

Orientational Metaphors have a metaphorical concept that does not structure one concept in terms of another, but instead organizes a whole system of concepts with respect to one another. A main feature of orientational metaphors is their spatial orientation: up-down, in-out, front-back, etc.. These directions are not arbitrary; they have basis in both physical and cultural experience and are physical in nature. Happy is up; Sad is down. "My sprints rose." " I fell into a depression." Both of these examples rely on the physical basis that erect posture reflects a positive emotional state, while a drooping posture reflects sadness or depression.

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