INTRODUCTION

WHY IS METAPHOR IMPORTANT?

Common-sense traditional teaching often presents metaphor as an anomaly, an unusual or deviant way of using language, a minority interest, or something you do in literature class. Taking a similar view, philosophers have often wanted metaphor strictly confined to literature, rhetoric and art, because of its supposed dangers to clear thinking. Locke, for example, denounced figurative language as follows:

But yet, if we would speak of things as they are, we must allow that… all the artificial and figurative application of words eloquence hath invented, are for nothing else but to insinuate wrong ideas, move the passions, and thereby mislead the judgment, and so indeed are perfect cheat.

(Essay concerning Human Understanding, Book 3, ch. 10, p. 105)

He is explicit about the desirability of metaphorless language, and implicitly assumes the possibility of a philosophical language without metaphor.

Over the last thirty years, however, philosophers, psychologists and linguists have begun to agree that metaphor is not something that can be easily confined, but is an indispensable basis of language and thought. The quote from Locke paradoxically provides evidence for this. Arguably “move”, “mislead” and “cheat” are being used metaphorically, “eloquence hath invented” is a case of personifying metaphor, “insinuate” depends upon a metaphor borrowed from Latin, where its literal meaning is ‘work its way in, penetrate’, and literally we “allow” actions rather than propositions.

If, as I believe, metaphor and the mental processes it entails, are basic to language and cognition, then a clearer understanding of its working is relevant, not just to literature students, but to any students. Flick through the index of any of your textbooks and you will find plenty of terms which are metaphorical when you stop to think about them. An economics text, taken at random off my shelves, provides in its index balance of trade,

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The Language of Metaphors
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations ix
  • Tables x
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Abbreviations xv
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Metaphorical and Literal Language 14
  • 2 - Metaphor and the Dictionary 41
  • 3 - Metaphor and the Dictionary 82
  • 4 - How Different Kinds of Metaphors Work 107
  • 5 - Relevance Theory and the Functions of Metaphor 137
  • 6 - The Signalling of Metaphor 168
  • 7 - The Specification of Topics 198
  • 8 - The Specification of Grounds 229
  • 9 - The Interplay of Metaphors 255
  • 10 - Metaphor in Its Social Context 283
  • Notes 329
  • References 335
  • Texts Used for Examples and Analysis (and Abbreviations Used in References) 342
  • Index 347
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