Linguistics, the LIFE IS A GAME
Metaphor, and the Late Twentieth-Century Southern Novel
For the better part of two decades, cognitive linguists have investigated the ways in which conceptual metaphors structure language use. Conceptual metaphors, it has been argued, provide the basic and essential structure of language, causing individual speakers and listeners to understand the messages they receive because they unconsciously perceive and process the larger concepts underlying those messages. As George Lakoff and Mark Johnson have demonstrated, “metaphor is pervasive in everyday life, not just in language but in thought and action. Our ordinary conceptual system, in terms of which we both think and act, is fundamentally metaphorical in nature” (3). The linguistic implications of conceptual metaphors “serve to reveal aspects of higher-level mental representation” (Sweetser and Fauconnier 1). Michael Blasenstein has noted that
[c]onceptual metaphors have become so commonplace in our everyday language that
they pass unnoticed by the average speaker. Their transparency in daily life invisibly
influences the way we think and speak about most subjects. Indeed, this influence often
leads us to take certain concepts for granted, as if they could not possibly be thought
about in any other way. However, conceptual metaphors have meaning only through
some sort of shared experience between speaker and listener underlying the discourse.
Furthermore, Lakoff and Mark Turner have argued that “basic conceptual metaphors are part of the common conceptual apparatus shared by members of a culture” (51). To a significant extent, conceptual metaphors can transcend ethnic, and even national, boundaries in ways that allow generalized concepts, as well as their specific linguistic manifestations, to be understood crossculturally.