Academic journal article International Journal of Linguistics

A Study of Two Qur'anic Counterfactuals: An Application of a Model of Conceptual Projection and Integration

Academic journal article International Journal of Linguistics

A Study of Two Qur'anic Counterfactuals: An Application of a Model of Conceptual Projection and Integration

Article excerpt


This paper examines two Qur'anic counterfactuals from the perspective of the Combined Input Hypothesis. This is a model of figurative meaning construction developed by Ruiz de Mendoza and others between 1999 and 2003 as an alternative model to Conceptual Blending Theory (see Fauconnier & Turner 2002, 2003). The purpose of the study is twofold: 1) to demonstrate the adequacy of the Combined Input Hypothesis for studying Qur'anic counterfactuals and 2) to draw attention to the need to approach non-literal Qur'anic language from a perspective that is broader than Conceptual Metaphor Theory (c.f. Lakoff & Johnson 1980) or Conceptual Blending Theory; namely, one that offers a psychologically realistic account of conceptual mapping and integration by taking into account content and formal cognitive operations involved in the processes.

Keywords: Qur'anic counterfactuals, Conceptual metaphor, Conceptual blending, Conceptual projection and integration

1. Introduction

The field of Qur'anic language studies has witnessed the emergence of work approaching Qur'anic metaphors from the perspective of Conceptual Metaphor Theory (CMT) (see Lakoff & Johnson 1980) for the purpose of exploring the encoding of religious reasoning. CMT is based on the view that metaphor is not only a rhetorical device, but also an important part of the way we think and express our thoughts. In this way, the metaphorical expressions we use reflect the metaphorical structuring of our conceptual system, or our regular conceptualisation of more abstract concepts in terms of more concrete ones. For instance, an expression like It is time to get on with your life may be explained as motivated by the LIFE AS A JOURNEY conceptual metaphor. This metaphor is a stable knowledge structure, in the sense that we regularly think and talk about life as a journey (see Lakoff1993). Studying Qur'anic metaphors from this cognitive perspective is a step in the right direction because it represents a departure from the traditional Arabic linguistics approaches based on "Ilm al-Bayan - the study of figures of speech - which was established by Abdul Qahir al-Jurjani in the ninth century, and which is still playing an influential role in Arabic language studies (see Abu Libdeh 2011).

However, not enough steps seem to have been taken to study Qur'anic language in terms of more recent cognitive approaches that focus on the construction of discourse-bound meaning. A case in point is Fauconnier and Turner's Conceptual Blending Theory (CBT) (see, e.g., Fauconnier & Turner 2002). CBT adds a dynamic aspect to CMT, showing that the construction of a discourse-bound model of a metaphor does not rest on mapping one concept onto another, but on mapping partial source and target concepts (i.e. concepts containing elements related to the situated meaning) and selectively blending structure from these concepts which gives rise to a novel structure. There is work in the literature exploring conceptual blending in the Qur'an. An example (examined below) is Newby's (2003) study of the binding of subjects that underlies the Qur'anic narratives creating the Islamic apocalyptic discourse. However, no analysis has been provided for conceptual blending involved in the understanding of metaphorical language or other types of figurative language in the Qur'an. That is, work in the field is still focused on examining non-literalness in the Qur'an in terms of CMT.

This paper aims at making a contribution to the field by studying the construction of two Qur'anic counterfactuals, verse 109 of chapter 18, Surah AlKahf (The Cave'), and verse 21 of chapter 59, Surah AlHashr (Exile, Banishment), in terms of a model of conceptual integration known as the Combined Input Hypothesis (CIH). This hypothesis, which is considered as an alternative model to CBT, was developed in Ruiz de Mendoza ([1999] 2002), Ruiz de Mendoza & Peña Cervel (2002) and Ruiz de Mendoza & Pérez (2003), and elaborated on in Ruiz de Mendoza & Santibáñez Sáenz (2003). …

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