Metaphor: A Practical Introduction

Metaphor: A Practical Introduction

Metaphor: A Practical Introduction

Metaphor: A Practical Introduction

Synopsis

This clear and lucid primer fills an important need by providing a comprehensive account of the many new developments in the study of metaphor over the last twenty years and their impact on our understanding of language, culture, and the mind. Beginning with Lakoff and Johnson's seminal work in Metaphors We Live By, Kövecses outlines the development of "the cognitive linguistic theory of metaphor" by explaining key ideas on metaphor. He also explores primary metaphor, metaphor systems, the "invariance principle," mental-imagery experiments, the many-space blending theory, and the role of image schemas in metaphorical thought. He examines the applicability of these ideas to numerous related fields.

Excerpt

For most of us, metaphor is a figure of speech in which one thing is compared to another by saying that one is the other, as in He is a lion. Or, as the Encyclopaedia Britannica puts it: “metaphor [is a] figure of speech that implies comparison between two unlike entities, as distinguished from simile, an explicit comparison signalled by the words ‘like’ or ‘as.’” [emphases in the original]. For example, we would consider the word lion to be a metaphor in the sentence “Achilles was a lion in the fight.” We would probably also say that the word is used metaphorically in order to achieve some artistic and rhetorical effect, since we speak and write metaphorically to communicate eloquently, to impress others with “beautiful,” esthetically pleasing words, or to express some deep emotion. Perhaps we would also add that what makes the metaphorical identification of Achilles with a lion possible is that Achilles and lions have something in common, namely, their bravery and strength.

Indeed, this is a widely shared view—the most common conception of metaphor, both in scholarly circles and in the popular mind (which is not to say that this is the only view of metaphor). This traditional concept can be briefly characterized by pointing out five of its most commonly accepted features. First, metaphor is a property of words; it is a linguistic phenomenon. The metaphorical use of lion is a characteristic of a linguistic expression (that of the word lion). Second, metaphor is used for some artistic and rhetorical purpose, such as when Shakespeare writes “all the world’s a stage.” Third, metaphor is based on a resemblance between the two entities that are compared and identified. Achilles must share some features with lions in order for us to be able to use the word lion as a metaphor for Achilles. Fourth, metaphor is a conscious and deliberate use of words, and you must have a special talent to be able to do it and do it well. Only great poets or eloquent speakers, such as, say, Shakespeare and Churchill, can be its masters. For instance, Aristotle makes the following statement to this effect: “The great-

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