In this paper I shall discuss how metaphors are ubiquitous in the language, and what influence they gave on our mind and acts.
According to the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, metaphor is “a figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them”. In other words, metaphor is a linguistic tool used in order to describe an object or concept by using an alternative and often very different word. For example, the title of this essay asks that the author, “illustrate the view”, the author is not expected to draw a picture, but instead must expound and explain “the view”. Linguists, meanwhile, find that metaphors not only act as a stumbling block in theories of meaning, they also frequently underlie the historical processes of meaning change.
As stated above, metaphor is a tool. However, it is an everyday tool in constant use. What is remarkable is the ease with which we make unconscious and automatic use of metaphor. It is also not in anyway limited to poets or abstract thinkers, as Lackoff and Turner state in their book, “More than Cool Reason”, metaphor, “is accessible to everyone: as children, we automatically, as a matter of course, acquire a mastery of everyday metaphor. ” Lackoff and Turner go on to say metaphor is conventional, in that it is an essential part of normal thought and language. Thirdly, they claim, metaphor helps “us to understand ourselves and our world in ways that no other modes of thought can” and that metaphor is “indispensable not only to our imagination but also to our reason. ” That is to say, without metaphor as part of our language, we would not cogitate or rationalise in the same manner as we do without it. The use of metaphor occurs in every corner of life and society where language is present. In economics, we talk about inflation, when discussing the environment, the greenhouse effect could come up and in sport we can talk about a player being out.
One of the characteristics that metaphor shares with language is the we all understand metaphors, just as we understand language. There may be cases where individuals do not see the connection between, but generally, if someone were to construct a metaphor, its meaning could be easily, and unconsciously, be determined by someone else.
To further discuss this topic we must identify the particular view that metaphors influence thought and action. According to “A Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics”, by David Crystal, Cognitive Metaphor is the theory that “metaphor is viewed as performing an essential role in human language and cognition, encoding world views in all forms of linguistic activity, including everyday conversation. Higher-level concepts as causality, time and the emotions are seen to be semantically grounded in lower-level domains of physical experience…”. Although we have already discussed the first part of the definition, the second part needs to be explained. The “higher-level” concepts are expressed, so they can be better understood, in terms of “lower-level” concepts. An example is, “life is a journey”. Through this metaphor we can understand all that it is to live by simply thinking in terms of our experiences on a journey. Of course, in order to comprehend metaphor it is essential to understand the non-literal nature of it.
In addition to being made concrete, metaphors can bestow “life” upon a concept. The “life of a government” brings to mind the stages of a human life, birth, adolescence, death etc. , and superimposes them upon the temporal existence of a government. In this way we are given a reference from which to analyse and discuss the government. For instance, political analysts can discuss how a government “matured” over the course of its “life”.
As has been hinted at before, the specific metaphor used to describe a concept will shape how we view that concept. For instance, if a person is described as being “sly as a fox”, that means he is very sly. This is a natural conclusion because fox are considered sly, and successfully so, whether it is attacking protected poultry, or escaping hounds. However, the same word, can have different meanings, even in metaphors. If a female is described as being a “fox”, it suggests a great beauty accompanied by an elegant demeanour and a certain aloofness. This is similar to the attitude of the fox. However, even the meanings of metaphors can change, and the label “she is a fox” is now often attributed simply to a beautiful female.
The fact that the same abstract concept can be metaphorically structured in different ways suggests that the choice of metaphor can have far reaching ideological and cognitive consequences. For instance, “he is a red” and “he is a comrade”. Although they can have the same meaning, i. e. , the man in question is a communist, they have very different connotations. This is an example of how metaphor can influence thought.
In conclusion, according to the view that metaphors influence thought and action, we see the world around us in terms of concepts we are familiar with and quantify. When we then discuss a new or unfamiliar concept, we bring our knowledge in as a reference with which to compare, and then quantify and define the new concept. In addition, the followers of Lackoff believe that metaphor is not just a way of structuring human experience of the world, but also a pertinent aspect of the act of communication itself. This belief, combined with the theory that language does not just replicate thought mean that it is important that any “metaphoric regularities in conceptions of human communication be investigated. ”
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