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Metaphor as a Cognitive Process

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Metaphor as a Cognitive Process
Iordache Delia
Master: Limba engleza. Studii teoretice si aplicate
Anul II. Sem. I Introduction From the perspectives of construction, poetic and cognitive function and working mechanism, this paper makes a comprehensive analysis of metaphor as a cognitive process, where metaphor is constructed from human perceptual experience and is extended through imaginative processes An important feature of cognitive stylistics has been its interest in the way we transfer mental constructs, and especially in the way we map one mental representation onto another when we read texts. Cognitive linguists have consistently drawn attention to this system of conceptual transfer in both literary and in everyday discourse, and have identified important figures of speech, through which this conceptual transfer is carried out. Conceptual Metaphor, also called Cognitive Metaphor, was developed by researchers within the field of cognitive linguists. It became widely known with the publication of Metaphors We Live By, by Lakoff and Johnson, in 1980. Conceptual metaphor theory has since been developed and elaborated.

Definition and Construction of Metaphor As we know, metaphor is a type of figurative language in which one thing is described in terms of some other thing. The word metaphor comes from Greek ‘metapherein’ which means carry over. Another translation is transference, a term more familiar to us from psychoanalytic theory. In a metaphor, one of the basic senses of a form, the source domain, is used to grasp or explain a sense in a different domain, called target domain. (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980: 12). The idea that we take attitudes from one area of experience and use them to approach and understand another is fundamental to human interactions with the world. In cognitive linguistics, conceptual metaphor, or cognitive metaphor, refers to the understanding of one idea, or conceptual domain, in terms of another, for example, understanding quantity in terms of directionality (e.g. "prices are rising"). A conceptual domain can be any coherent organization of human experience. The regularity with which different languages employ the same metaphors, which often appear to be perceptually based, has led to the hypothesis that the mapping between conceptual domains corresponds to neural mappings in the brain. Some theorists have suggested that metaphors are not merely stylistic, but that they are cognitively important as well. In “Metaphors We Live by” 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 a 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 for understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another. The authors call this concept a ‘conduit metaphor.’ By this, they meant that a speaker can put ideas or objects into words or containers, and then send them along a channel, or conduit, to a listener who takes that idea or object out of the container and makes meaning of it. In other words, communication is something that ideas go into. The container is separate from the ideas themselves. Lakoff and Johnson give several examples of daily metaphors we use, such as “argument is war” and “time is money.” Metaphors are widely used in context to describe personal meaning. The authors also suggest that communication can be viewed as a machine: “Communication is not what one does with the machine, but is the machine itself.” (Johnson, Lakoff, 1980)
Concerned with its construction, metaphor is made up of three elements:
• tenor- the subject under discussion
• vehicle –what the subject is compared to
• ground- what the poet believes the tenor and vehicle have in common
For instance, the metaphor “ he’s a live wire”, “he” is the tenor, “ live wire” is the vehicle and “is full of energy / is very lively/is potentially dangerous” is the ground. So far, many linguists have been attempting to elucidate the ways in which language reflects the manner in which human beings perceive, categorize and conceptualize the world. The result is like this: the more accurate, objective and literal the description is, the more elusive it may be. According to the linguist George Lakoff (1980: 38), we use our basic bodily understanding of places, movements, forces, paths, objects and containers as sources of information about life, love, mathematics and all other abstract concepts. Cognitive linguists suggest that we use metaphor intuitively and unconsciously to understand the mind, emotions and all other abstract concepts. Such metaphors enable us, as embodied beings, to make sense of a concept such as mind, which we cannot see with our eyes or grasp with our hands. It allows us to take a view on the debate and to get to grips with the subject. Cognitive linguists suggest that, without such conventional metaphors, there would be no abstract thought. It also suggests that metaphors may privilege some understandings exclude others. Through field research, Lakoff has collected large numbers of metaphorical expressions. It is believed that these are derived from a smaller number of conceptual metaphors. Both creative, novel metaphors and dead, conventional metaphors are derived from conceptual metaphors. For Lakoff, the locus of metaphor is not in language at all, but in the way we conceptualize one mental domain in terms of another. For example:
1) Love is a journey. (We are not getting anywhere. This marriage is in a rut.) The idiomatic expressions above, exemplifying two conceptual metaphors, are commonplace, unpoetic and do not, perhaps, strike us as particularly metaphorical. We can say this marriage is in a rut and this statement is taken at literal value. If someone were to say, “Even a Massey Ferguson wouldn‘t have salvaged my marriage”, we hear the statement as something new. Metaphorically, an impediment to the continuation of a marriage is an impediment to a journey continuing, such as a rut. On a real journey, we might ask the local farmer to haul our car out of a rut with a tractor. To create a novel metaphor, essential for poetry and humor, the speaker has taken an aspect of the source of the conceptual metaphor that is not usually associated with the target. In doing so, the speaker has made the metaphor explicit and brought it back to life. In other words, metaphor is describing one thing in terms of some other. Its tenor and vehicle have similarities as well as difference. The most significant difference is that the two belong to different domains: tenor belongs to the source domain while vehicle belongs to the target domain.
2) The encyclopedia is a Gold mine. Here the encyclopedia and Gold mine are totally different, but they have similarity in a certain aspect. To say the encyclopedia is a gold mine is because both of them deserve hard digging thus forming a metaphor. Such kind of similarity should be limited to certain aspects otherwise, it cannot form a metaphor, e.g.:
3) The encyclopedia is a dictionary. In this sentence, the encyclopedia and dictionary belong to the same category. Actually, the former is a subcategory of dictionary; therefore, it is not a metaphor. Theoretically speaking, the possibility of forming a metaphor depends on the difference between the two things. The more different they are, the more possible a metaphor they can be form. However, the extent of difference should also be restricted by its similarity. The more different they are, the more difficult it will be for people to understand the metaphor. Because of this, a ground is needed to offer necessary explanations. Generally speaking, vehicles’ characteristics are more specific and familiar to people. Take this sentence for example:
4) Architecture is solid music. As we know, music cannot be seen or touched but people still can understand it. By employing an abstract and invisible thing to define a concrete and specific object, this sentence gives the readers a sense of distance as well as a poetic conception. Therefore, a metaphor is a process of mapping between two different conceptual domains. The different domains are known as the target domain and the source domain. The target domain is the topic or concept that you want to describe through the metaphor while the source domain refers to the concept that you draw upon in order to create the metaphorical construction. In his influential study of the poetic structure of the human mind, Gibbs (1994) highlights the important part metaphor plays in our everyday conceptual thought. Metaphors are not some kind of distorted literal thought, but rather are basic schemes by which people conceptualize their experience and their external world. Figurative language generally, which also includes irony, is found throughout speech and writing; moreover, it does not require for its use any special intellectual talent or any special rhetorical situation (Gibbs 1994: 21). Indeed, the fact that many metaphors pass us by in everyday social interaction is well illustrated by this unwitting slip by a venerable British sports commentator: We didn’t have metaphors in my day. We didn’t beat about the bush. Metaphor is simply a natural part of conceptual thought and although undoubtedly an important feature of creativity, it should not be seen as a special or exclusive feature of literary discourse.

Conclusions In other words, metaphors are a cognitive process being seen in language in our everyday lives; metaphors shape not just our communication, but also shape the way we think and act. Conceptual metaphors are used very often to understand theories and models. A conceptual metaphor uses one idea and links it to another to better understand something. For example, the conceptual metaphor of viewing communication as a conduit is one large theory explained with a metaphor. So not only is our everyday communication shaped by the language of conceptual metaphors, but so is the very way we understand scholarly theories. These metaphors are prevalent in communication and we do not just use them in language; we actually perceive and act in accordance with the metaphors. A metaphor is simply for understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another, and the speaker could put ideas or objects into words or containers, and then send them along a channel, or conduit, to a listener who takes that idea or object out of the container and makes meaning of it. In other words, communication is something that ideas go into. The container is separate from the ideas themselves. Therefore, metaphors are matter of thought and not merely of language: hence, the term conceptual metaphor. The metaphor may seem to consist of words or other linguistic expressions that come from the terminology of the more concrete conceptual domain, but conceptual metaphors underlie a system of related metaphorical expressions that appear on the linguistic surface. Similarly, the mappings of a conceptual metaphor are themselves motivated by image schemas which pre-linguistic schemas are concerning space, time, moving, controlling, and other core elements of embodied human experience. Conceptual metaphors typically employ a more abstract concept as target and a more concrete or physical concept as their source. For instance, metaphors such as 'the days [the more abstract or target concept] ahead' or 'giving my time' rely on more concrete concepts, thus expressing time as a path into physical space, or as a substance that can be handled and offered as a gift. Different conceptual metaphors tend to be invoked when the speaker is trying to make a case for a certain point of view or course of action. For instance, one might associate "the days ahead" with leadership, whereas the phrase "giving my time" carries stronger connotations of bargaining. Selection of such metaphors tends to be directed by a subconscious or implicit habit in the mind of the person employing them. Many linguists including Lakoff, Johnson, Jakobson, Eco, etc. have made magnificent contribution to this field. Their theories provide a bridge between linguistics and our understanding of the body and brain, which has been acknowledged as coherent with other studies in cognitive language. Bibliography:
• Gibbs, Ray. W. (1994). The Poetics of Mind: figurative thought, language and understanding. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
• Jakobson, Roman. (1985). Closing Statements: Linguistics and Poetics. In Innis, R.E.
• Kövecses, Zoltan. (2002) Metaphor: A Practical Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press.
• Lakoff, G. &. Johnson, M. (1980). Metaphors We Live by. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
• Oxford English Dictionary Online (http://oed.com).…...

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