Metaphor - The Structure of the Domain "Anger"

Term Paper (Advanced seminar) 2003 23 Pages

English Language and Literature Studies - Linguistics


Table of Content's

1 Introduction
1.1 Definitions of metaphor
1.1.1 Dictionaries
1.1.2 Lakoff and Johnson
1.1.3 Turner’s approach
1.2 Terminology
1.2.1 Conceptual Metaphor
1.2.2 Metonymy
1.2.3 Folk Theory

2 Theoretical background
2.1 Introduction
2.2 Internal structure of Domains
2.3 Mapping
2.4 Experiential basis
2.5 Folk theory and Metonymy

3 Case study: The structure of ANGER
3.1 The concept ANGER
3.2 Stages of anger
3.3 The prototype scenario
3.4 The conceptual structure of ANGER

4 Conclusion

1 Introduction

The general idea of this paper is to compare different approaches to metaphor, viz. lexicographical definitions by means of dictionaries, specialists’ definitions by means of Lakoff and Johnson’s definition, theoretical background (Turner, Langacker and Sweetser) and lexical definitions by Kövecses. These approaches seem to be quite contradictory at first glance and the question whether it is a contradiction or not will be addressed in the conclusion in the fourth chapter. The definitions will be discussed in the first chapter, together with a short definition of the crucial terminology.

An important aspect of metaphors according to Lakoff and Johnson is the transfer of meaning form a target domain to a source domain. The second chapter is about the internal structure of domains, based on Langacker’s approach, and about the process of the transfer of meaning used in metaphors. This transfer is called mapping and the description rather than definition is based mainly on Turner and Sweetser. Another important aspect of metaphor according to Lakoff and Johnson is the experiential basis used in the meanings expressed, which will be based mainly on Sweetser.

The case study is about Kövecses’ concept of the conceptual metaphor ANGER, a sub-category of the higher-up domain EMOTION, is based upon what Kövecses calls the prototype scenario – i.e. the probable way anger builds up, is conceived of and expressed in language and bodily experience.

1.1 Definitions of metaphor

1.1.1 Dictionaries

The definitions of metaphor given in dictionaries and by specialists do not have much in common at a first glance. Common definitions in dictionaries represent what, loosely speaking, laymen think of metaphors. The OALD defines metaphor the following way:

“(example of) the use of words to indicate sth different from the literal meaning, as in ‘I’ll make him eat his words’ or ‘He has a heart of stone ’.

The COD speaks of

1a the application of a name or descriptive term or phrase to an object or action to which it is imaginatively but not literally applicable (e.g. a glaring error) b an instance of this.

2 (often foll. by of or for) a symbol of a usu. abstract thing (the lark was a metaphor for release)”

The OED describes metaphor the following way:

“The figure of speech in which a name or descriptive term is transferred to some object different from, but analogous to, that to which it is properly applicable; an instance of this, a metaphorical expression.”

The Greek translation of metaphor simply means ‘transfer’.

1.1.2 Lakoff and Johnson

Lakoff and Johnson’s take these definitions into consideration when they develop their own definition:

“Metaphor is for most people a device of the poetic imagination and the rhetorical flourish – a matter of extraordinary rather than ordinary language. Moreover, metaphor is typically viewed as a characteristic of language alone, a matter of words rather than thought and action.” (LAKOFF and JOHNSON: 3)

They define metaphor the following way: “The essence of metaphor is understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another.” (5)

The dictionaries define metaphor as a figure of speech, which reflects laymen’s notions, a rhetoric and stylistic means employed particularly by writers. The concept of transfer is elaborated by Lakoff and Johnson who take aspects of experience and understanding into account, i.e. an apparently completely different approach.

1.1.3 Turner’s approach

Turner offers a way out of the apparently diametrically opposed approaches of the dictionaries and Lakoff and Johnson:

“Aristotle wanted to know how figures of diction connect with figures of thought. […] Rhetoric degenerated […] when it abandoned thought for style. Inattentive to mind underlying surface forms of language, rhetoric reduced itself to cataloguing what it took to be kinds of surface wordplay as if they had no analogues in cognition. Rhetoric thereby lost its ability to tell us anything about thought and language and so became peripheral.” (TURNER: 3)

Turner’s approach shows that cognition and rhetoric are not as far apart as might appear at first sight. In fact, there seems to be an implicit common ground between the different definitions given: the underlying assumption of the dictionary definitions is that something is indeed understandable by transferring, without mentioning the experiential basis as explicitly as Lakoff and Johnson do. It might be said that the definitions in the dictionaries and the one by Lakoff and Johnson emphasise different aspects of the same phenomenon. They are rather complimentary than exclusive of each other. Common definitions emphasise the importance of the stylistic function of metaphor, Lakoff and Johnson’s definition emphasises the underlying processes – they are combined by some kind of family resemblance like the example of games Wittgenstein has given (cf. LAKOFF: 16f, TAYLOR:133); interestingly enough, the Greek origin transfer still holds true in its basic form.

1.2 Terminology

1.2.1 Conceptual Metaphor

Following Lakoff and Johnson, Taylor (TAYLOR:133) claims, that much of our understanding of everyday experience is structured in terms of metaphor. He uses the examples of the use of military language used in intellectual arguments: we set up positions, we attack and retreat, and we end up by winning or losing the argument. These metaphorical expressions result in a conceptual metaphor (always written in capital letters), viz. ARGUMENT IS WAR. The domain of intellectual argument is understood in terms of war. Elements from the domain of war are projected onto the abstract domain of intellectual argument.

1.2.2 Metonymy

Metonymy, just like metaphor, was considered more of a rhetorical device than a linguistic means of expressing meaning. The traditional view is that “the name of an entity e1 is used to refer to another entity e2 which is contiguous with e1 (TAYLOR: 122)”. We have a process of transferred reference where the most important feature is contiguity. Some examples of metonymies are:

- The kettle is boiling. Þ the name of a container refers to the contents of the container
- Does he own a Picasso Þ the name of the producer refers to the product
- The Government has stated… Þ the name of an institution stands for an influential person or group

Contiguity is an important feature, but “the essence of metonymy resides in the possibility of establishing connections between entities which co-occur within a given conceptual structure.” (123)

Metonymies are important for Kövecses’ investigation of the conceptual field of emotion. He states the following general metonymic principle in his investigation: THE PHYSIOLOGICAL EFFECTS OF AN EMOTION STAND FOR THE EMOTION (KÖVECSES: 12).

1.2.3 Folk Theory

Lakoff (LAKOFF: 118) calls Folk Theory the implicit or explicit knowledge of ordinary people about every important aspect of life, without any technical knowledge of the subject matter. To know, for example, what gold is, we do not have to know about the chemical properties of gold.

2 Theoretical background

2.1 Introduction

To understand the concept of the implicitly assumed transfer from “one kind of thing to another”, it is important to look at the origin, the destination and the process itself. Metaphors or rather metaphorical mappings are not completely unmotivated and underlie certain restrictions; it is not possible to employ each linguistic expression imaginable to express a certain metaphor. The origin of a metaphor consists of one or more linguistic expressions and is called source domain, the destination of the metaphor sought to be understood is called the target domain. Certain characteristics are mapped from the source domain on the target domain. These terms will be discussed after a description of some characteristics of domains, because “most concepts require specifications in more than one domain for their characterisation” (LANGACKER: 154) to understand the meaning of a concept.

2.2 Internal structure of Domains

First we have to look at the human cognitive apparatus and how we conceive of reality to form concepts. Langacker[1] claims that we perceive and understand concepts as holistic entities. The concept of [KNUCKLE], for example, is defined by its correlation to the next higher entity, in this case [FINGER]. Lakoff refers to this phenomenon in a similar way, he speaks of the perception of a gestalt:

“Thought has gestalt properties and thus is not atomistic; concepts have an overall structure that goes beyond merely putting together conceptual ‘building blocks’ by general rules.” (LAKOFF: xiv)

Langacker’s example goes ‘up’ in the ‘hierarchy’ to understand the concept of [KNUCKLE]: [KNUCKLE] ® [FINGER] ® [HAND] ® [ARM] ® [BODY], where the next higher-level concepts “serve as domain for the characterisation of another” (LANGACKER: 148), although it is not necessarily the only domain which is or has to be used to understand a concept. Lakoff explicitly stresses the importance of the PART-WHOLE schema as necessary for our basic-level perception (LAKOFF: 273). [BODY] forms the end of this hierarchy, because it is a configuration in three-dimensional space and not reducible anymore, and better regarded as “a basic field of representation grounded in genetically determined physical properties of the human organism and constituting an intrinsic part of our inborn cognitive apparatus” (LANGACKER: 148).


[1] The description of domains follows Langacker I ch. 4 except where stated otherwise


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Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg – Anglistics
1 (A)
Metaphor Structure Domain Anger Metonymy




Title: Metaphor - The Structure of the Domain "Anger"