October 1, 2012

we are intrinsically metaphorical.

I think it's fascinating to think about how language is used everyday. To think about words and how they can either mean nothing or everything is something that's always intrigued me and so when I read through Lakoff and Johnson's piece on metaphors, I was captivated. You hear about the functions of language with their technical terms and their basic examples but to see such an intricately wound language practice that we're not even aware we're using? Absolutely fascinating.

The argument really began to take effect when they emphasized the different war metaphors we're constantly using when discussing arguing:
Your claims are indefensible.
He attacked every weak point in my argument.
His criticisms were right on target.
I demolished his argument.
I've never won an argument with him.
Seeing it so blatantly put out like that? It's a little off-putting; we seem so dramatic when we employ
(had to!) metaphors like this but they come out so naturally, so easily. And then, when he asks us to think of a world where arguments are not seen as war but as a dance? It seems so strange; an argument is an attack, a fight, a battle where we are meant to take sides and argue until your opponent either gives up, takes another offensive/defensive, or comes over to your side. To think of arguments as a dance seems strange and wrong because dance is beautiful and artistic while war is rough and cruel, the way arguments are.

Which drives home the point that we're constantly being shaped by our culture; we're unaware of our "conceptual system" but it's so important, so fundamental to our understanding of the world. We are almost intrinsically metaphorical, using them without even so much as a thought on how they're shaping our language, our perceptions our meanings. If we weren't taught to think of arguments as a war, thinking of it like a dance wouldn't be so strange. And if you think about it, it is like a dance with the give and take, dancing around your argument.

 I just think to see language so fantastically crafted is amazing and...cool, for lack of a better word. Am I the only one?


Zach van Dijk said...

In some degree I agree with your understanding of the article, that metaphor shapes our culture through our language, it permeates into how we think. However, I do not feel that is the only way we create conceptions about an activity, and often, metaphors are created in response to a concept (retroactively). Yes they influence our culture, but to what degree? I feel experience more so creates these conceptions, rather than metaphor (we know argument from arguments, not from metaphors that define argument).

Jenny said...

We are being shaped by our culture and sometimes I think we lose the true meaning of words based off of us being shaped in this way. It is mind blowing to think that we use these metaphors and throw around some of these words to the point that they can lose their true meaning. In your examples, with the case of war, those are all typically words that are used in a serious context and focus on the seriousness of the word, but with metaphors I think we tend to lose that. I don't think that metaphors are necessarily a bad thing that remove all meaning and importance of words, but we must remember that this language is something that has evolved because of our society, not because of a true meaning.

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