Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Metaphors We Live By :: George Lakoff Mark Johnson Language Essays

Metaphors We Live By In the book Metaphors We Live By, authors George Lakoff and Mark Johnson address the traditional philosophic view denouncing metaphor's influence on our world and our selves (ix). Using linguistic and sociological evidence, Lakoff and Johnson claim that figurative language performs essential functions beyond those found in poetry, clichà ©, and elaborate turns of phrase. Metaphor permeates our daily experiences - not only through systems of language, but also in terms of the way we think and act. The key to understanding a metaphor's effect on behavior, relationships, and how we make sense of our environment, can be found in the way humans use metaphorical language. To appreciate the affects of figurative language over even the most mundane details of our daily activity, it is necessary to define the term, "metaphor" and explain its role in defining the thoughts and actions that structure our conceptual system. According to Lakoff and Johnson, "the essence of metaphor is understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another" (5). This definition extends to any symbolic type of expressions, like the concept of hate, the spatial direction "up", or the experience of inflation. When our most important life experiences are often too abstract for basic understanding, we attempt to capture the nature of the experience by placing it in a relevant and more easily recognizable context. Three basic types of metaphor are used to, "conceptualize the less clearly delineated in terms of the more clearly delineated"(59). These are: the orientational metaphor, the ontological metaphor, and the structural metaphor. Orientational metaphor organizes concepts by giving them a spatial orientation. These metaphoric representations are not random; they are based on the structure of our bodies, and how we physically interact in a specific culture or environment. Metaphors like "I'm falling asleep," "he dropped dead," and, "You are under my control" provide a spatial relationship between the human subject and something found in the world. The authors explain that, while directional oppositions (up-down, in-out, front-back, etc.) are physical in nature, they aren't always the same for every culture. For example, while some cultures may see the future as ahead of us, others view it as behind us (14). Ontological metaphors involve ways of viewing intangible concepts, such as feelings, activities, and ideas as entities. When we identify these experiences as substances, we can "refer to them, categorize them, group them, and quantify them - and, by this means, reason about them" (25).

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