Makah Cultural Metaphors Research Paper

On By In 1

Journal of Linguistic and Language Teaching

Volume 6 (2015) Issue 1

Addressing CMT Problems:

Toward a Cognitive Stylistic Model of CM Analysis

Hasan Said Ghazala (Makkah Al-Mukarramah, Saudi Arabia)


The term metaphor was traditionally defined in aesthetic and rhetorical terms as the fundamental figure of speech and major form of figurative language. Now this approach no longer holds in the light of the latest monolithic developments of conceptual approaches to metaphor. Yet, dispute is going on about some issues that have not been covered yet by Conceptual Metaphor Theory (CMT) regarding aesthetic and other basic functions of metaphor. The present paper is an attempt to investigate and pay tribute to the latest developments and contributions made by CMT to the conceptual studies of metaphor and its functions and scope, viewing it basically as a matter of cognitive, social, cultural and ideological conceptualization of topics, objects and people. All metaphors are, in principle, reflections and constructions of concepts, attitudes, mentalities, and ideologies on the part of the speaker. Hence, any metaphor is conceptualized in terms of target domain and source domain in different discourses and contexts, literary and non-literary. This means that the aesthetic-rhetorical line of argument - though essential - is left out in favour of a recently developed cognitive conceptualizationof metaphor. And this is regarded by some as a major loophole in the CMT. The ultimate objective of this paper is to find out about the CMT partial failure to address some basic functions of metaphor, aesthetic or other. To handle these problems, a cognitive stylistic model of analysis of conceptual metaphor is put forward. It is based on recent cognitive arguments, models and theories. This would open new avenues of analysis, comprehension, interpretation and appreciation of metaphor in language in general.

Key words:Metaphor, CMT, conceptual metaphor, cognitive stylistics, conceptualization

1   Introduction

Metaphor is the process of 'transporting' qualities from one object to another, a person to another or a thing to a person or animal. Metaphorwas originally a Greek word meaning ‘transfer’ (The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 1993: 1756). Understanding a metaphor as a sort of transport implies that it transports a concept from its normal location to somewhere else where it is not usually used. Conventionally, the term metaphor was defined in aesthetic and rhetorical terms as the fundamental figure of speech and major form of figurative language, or trope. It was analysed and approached in terms of its rhetorical constituent components (i.e. vehicle, image, object or sense) and types (such as dead, recent, extended or compound metaphors). Now this approach no longer holds in the light of the latest developments in the conceptual and cognitive studies of metaphor. Accordingly, metaphor has received greater attention from an entirely different cognitive perspective of conceptualization and ideologization.

The present paper represents an attempt to investigate metaphor from a mainly conceptual perspective, viewing it basically as a matter of conceptualization of topics, objects, and people in cognitive social, cultural, metal, and ideological terms. All metaphors are, in principle, reflections and constructions of concepts, attitudes, mentalities and ideologies on the part of the speaker. Hence, any metaphor is conceptualized in terms of target domain and source domain in different types of context and discourse, both literary and non-literary. This means that the aesthetic-rhetorical line of argument - though traditionally essential - is attended to only cursorily in favour of shifting focus onto its cognitive conceptualization. This shift of focus has exposed the Concept Metaphor Theory (CMT) to criticism for not attending satisfactorily to essential functions of metaphor such as aesthetic, rhetorical and other functions.

The ultimate objective of the present paper is to find out about the CMT failure to address some basic functions of metaphor, aesthetic, or other. To handle these problems, a cognitive stylistic model of analysis of conceptual metaphor is put forward. It is based on recent cognitive arguments, models, and theories. This approach would open new opportunities of analysis, comprehension, interpretation and appreciation of metaphor in language in general.

To begin with, definitions and comparisons between approaches to metaphor, past and present are introduced.

2   Definitions: Conventional vs. Conceptual Metaphor

In the past few years, an enlightening trend in the approaches to the study of metaphor has been established. A surge of tremendous work hasyieldednumerous explorations about the conceptual metaphor. There has been what Gibbs (2008: 4) describes as an "explosion of research" on metaphor lately, due to “enthusiasm for uncovering the messy reality of metaphor use and the implications of such findings, rather than retreat back to made-up, isolated examples" [in reference to conventional approaches to metaphor] (Gibbs 2008: 4). Hence, in the past twenty years, much has changed in the world of metaphor, which is no longer seen as "an ornamental aspect of language, but a fundamental scheme by which people conceptualize the world and their own activities" (Gibbs 2008: 3). Thus, Semino (2008: 1) defines it as "... the phenomenon whereby we talk and, potentially, think about something in terms of something else". Richie (2013: 8) provides an initial definition of metaphor as "seeing, experiencing, or talking about something in terms of something else". He also points out that metaphor can be defined in terms of what it is not (Richie 2013: 10). On the other hand, Geary (2011) declares that metaphor "shapes the way we see the world". Cameron (2008) points out that metaphors are used by people in talk to think with, explain themselves to others and organize their talk (also Goatly 1997 / 2011, Glucksberg 2001, and others for detailed definitions of metaphor).

Hence, the conventional approaches to metaphor that viewed it in the first place as an aesthetic and rhetorical formal structure of language are no longer in the spotlight of contemporary CMT. Traditional studies on metaphor were conducted within traditional disciplinary frameworks of rhetoric with the aim to locate it more as a part of language and culture than mind, and "a mere decorative device, simply involving the substitution of a literal term for a concept with a nonliteral one (Semino 2008: 9). As Turner rightly remarks, rhetoric degenerated by conceding thought for style and, by declining to attend to mind underlying surface forms of language, it reduced itself to a mere cataloguing of "... kinds of surface word play as if they had no analogues in cognition" Turner (2000: 9). These approaches were unproductive "for traditional scholars defended their 'turf' and methods of analysis as being the best way to understand metaphor", as rightly pointed out by Gibbs (2008: 5). They failed to go through metaphor in depth and consider its conceptual implications and mental representations, and how it reconstructs our thoughts, attitudes and ideologies in a new, insightful way. According to what Turner terms as 'basic conceptual metaphors', it is true that metaphorical ideas are linguistic expressions expressed in words, yet they are themselves conceptual matters, "matters of thoughts that underlie the particular words that express them" (Turner 2000: 17-18). The following section of the present article provides a general account of the types of conceptual metaphor suggested by CMT practitioners.

3 Types of Conceptual Metaphor

As Lakoff & Turner (1989) state, cognitive (or conceptual) metaphor theorists do not owe any intellectual debt to their conventional counterparts, as the latter's work is described by them "as entirely misconceived, and present their approach as a radical corrective to the errors of the past" (Semino 2008: 9). This is true despite Semino's objection to it, describing it as 'unfortunate' due to sketchy bits and pieces here and there in the history of metaphor study (Semino 2008: 9). To Gibbs (1994), metaphor is not a distorted literal thought, but a basic scheme by which human experience and the outside world are conceptualized. Newmark, on the other hand, argues that metaphor is a mental process or state that has primarily a cognitive purpose, and an aesthetic purpose in the second place (Newmark 1988: 104). However, he does not apply this idea to practice. Furthermore, his notion of metaphor as an illusion, deception and a kind of lie “where you are pretending to be someone you are not” (Newmark 1988: 104) is dismissed in cognitive stylistics as irrelevant and untrue.It is primitive and misleading for, according to it, metaphor should be seen only in terms of literal vs. non-literalfictitious vs. factual, and true vs. false language (for further objections, Kövecses 2002 and Davidson 1990 in Nogales 1999: 45). We do not lie when we use metaphors; we make concepts and realities clearer and sharper.

In the light of recent approaches to metaphor, classifying metaphors traditionally into 'dead', 'fossilized', 'cliché', 'mixed or 'standard' is distortive, partial, loose, prescriptive, and therefore of little use. In contrast, the newly defined types of conceptual metaphor are comprehensive and insightful. Studies on conceptual metaphors pay due respect to all types of conceptual metaphor which are set in terms of a conceptualization of the world (as suggested later in the list of the scope of contexts of the metaphor prices are on fire.

The contemporary scholarship of conceptual metaphor has revolutionized the whole traditional legacy of metaphor in language and style. Therefore, new types of metaphor are put forward in terms of cognitive conceptualization. Here are a number of them (for a fuller account of other types, e.g, Gibbs 2008, Semino 2008, Richie 2013, Radden 2000, Barcelona 2000,  Silaški 2012):

  • Primary conceptual metaphors (i.e. Universal metaphors: e.g. purposes are destinatinations) (Steen 2007: 40, Kövecses 2008, and Yu 2008);

  • Complex conceptual metaphors (cultural metaphors: e.g. a purposeful life is a journey, actions are motions) (Gibbs 1999, 2003, Kövecses 2005, Ning Yu 2008, and Kintsch 2008);

  • Complex (vs. simple) metaphor (e.g. the world is a small villagethe universe is a computer) (Kintsch 2008: 130);

  • Simple analogy based metaphor (e.g. She shot down all my arguments) (Kinsch 2008: 130);

  • Ideology-loaded conceptual metaphors (Semino, 2008: 33, and Deignan, 2008: 290);

  • Ideology-neutral conceptual metaphors (e.g. 'emotion metaphors') (Kövecses, 2008,also Semino, 2008: 33);

  • Emotion metaphor (of love, anger, etc. e.g. Love is insanity) (Kövecses 2008: 380-382);

  • Subordinate / hyponymic metaphor (like the metaphors of basic, or primary emotions including fearsadness, and lust, compared with master metaphors of love and angerabove) (Kövecses, 2008: 380-381);

  • Security, cold war, depression, path / journey, war, container, health / illness, religion, sex, etc. conceptual metaphors (Semino 2008: 81-112), Chilton 1996, Mio 1997, Musolff 2004 and Charteris-Black 2004, in Semino 2008: 10);

  • Reconciliation metaphors (e.g. building a bridge. (Cameron, 2008 198);

  • Deliberate metaphors (e.g. big political picture. (Cameron, 2008: 202);

  • Synaesthetic metaphor (a sensory modality described in terms of another: e.g. ' sweet silence, 'guilty feelings') (Shen 2008: 302);

  • Monomodal metaphor: either verbal, or nonverbal metaphor (see pictorial metaphor below. (Forceville, 2008: 464-482);

  • Multimodal/complex concept metaphor (e.g. emote control pad is swiss army knife)(Forceville, 2008: 464-482);

  • Contextual metaphor: an object metaphorized in its visual context (e.g. hair-silk is icecream) (Ster, 2008: 269-274, Forceville, 2008: 464-465);

  • Pictorial / visual / non-verbal metaphor: two objects represented in such a way that they look similar (e.g. nokia mobile phone is a matchstick) (Forceville, 2008: 464);

  • Hybrid metaphor (subtype of pictorial metaphor): two physical objects merged into a single 'gestalt' (e.g. clogs are running shoes) (Forceville, 2008: 464);

  • Integrated metaphor (subtype of pictorial metaphor): a unified object represented in its entirety as to resemble another object even without contextual cues (e.g. A coffee machine's curved shape and a plateau on which the cups are placed represents a servant courteously serving coffee) (Forceville, 2008: 468);

  • Verbalized metaphor (contrasted with non-verbalized metaphor) (e.g. exchanging business cards is a knife duel) (Forceville, 2008: 477-478);

  • Meta-metaphor / key metaphor: a key metaphorical notion that functions as a backbone of  a whole text e.g. 'a battle of metaphors' (as a title of an article indicating a series of related 'war metaphors') (Semino, 2008: 32);

  • Literary, etc. conceptual metaphors (e.g. we are the eyelids of defeated caves) (Kintsch 2008).

Obviously, these types need further elaboration. However, they are intended here to stand for a sketchy representation of the complex reticulum of the new corpus of conceptual metaphor today rather than an exhaustive account of its new types. Compared to traditional types, these are primarily deeply conceptual-based types (i.e. master, dominant, culturally sensitive, ideology-loaded, ideology-free, neutral, primary, universal metaphors). More specifically, conceptual metaphors are sets of 'mappings', across conceptual domains, whereby a 'target' domain "is partly structured in terms of a different 'source' domain" (Lakoff and Johnson (1980b) (in ibid.: 5). The Target Domain (TD) is defined as the concept to be described by the metaphor; whereas the Source Domain (SD) is identified as the concept drawn upon, or used to create the metaphorical construction. Thus, in the metaphor Time is money, the target domain (TD) is TIME, and the source domain (SD) is MONEY.

Conceptual mappings of metaphor have recently resulted in great insights especially at the level of language. Conceptual mapping has proved to be a rich method for discovery. This is declared by Fauconnier & Turner to be a

a blooming field of research [that] has as one consequence the rethinking of metaphor. We have a richer and deeper understanding of the processes underlying metaphor than we did previously (Fauconnier & Turner 2008).

Further, according to CMT, metaphor enables us to talk and think about abstract, complex and/or poorly defined areas of experience in terms of concrete, simpler, physical and/or better defined areas of experience. This means that metaphor is a crucial linguistic and cognitive phenomenon (Fauconnier & Turner 2008 : 30, also Simpson, 2004). Hence the next point.

4 Cognitive Stylistics

A hugely influential, and updated development in contemporary stylistics is cognitive stylistics (or 'mind stylistics'). It has profoundly affected the direction of the whole discipline in the twenty-first century. Cognitive stylistics is a new approach that regards the mind as the basis for any model of stylistic analysis. Generally, ‘cognitive’ means having to do with knowledge and the mind. Recent cognitive stylistics explores the concept of style as mind. The notion of mind as a mediator between the world and the text has always been important for stylistics. The term, 'mind style' is introduced by Fowler (1977: 76, 103). Mind style has been seen by him as “any distinctive linguistic representation of an individual mental self” (Fowler 1977: 103). More precisely, he defines the term as “cumulatively consistent structural options, agreeing in cutting the presented world to one pattern or another, give rise to an impression of a world-view, what I shall call a ‘mind style’” (Fowler 1977: 76). Boase-Beier has not gone too far from this notion of mind style by distinguishing it “as a textual feature from the corresponding cognitive state which can be attributed to it …” (Boase-Beier 2006: 76).

The orientation towards social, mental and psychological backgrounds and surroundings of discourse takes it into a new area. Boase-Beier (2006: 10) points out that cognitive stylistics regards the concept of context as cognitive entity and “involves a concern with social and cultural factors”. Hence, cognitive stylistics views context as a cognitive entity that encompasses knowledge about “text-types, institutions, sociological roles and settings”. It relies on the “interplay of the individual, the cultural and the universal” (Semino 1997 in Boase-Beier 2006 : 73). Phillips (2005, in Boase-Beier 2006: 73) states  that “environment shapes the brain”, which is perhaps true of all experiences .

On the other hand, individuals vary in the scope of their knowledge, ideologies, political attitudes, social commitments, cultural and historical backgrounds. That is why they have variations in their readings, analyses, understanding and interpretations of texts. Further, individuals vary in their disposition to accept change and new developments, and this is another reason for their cognitive, mental differences1

5 Cognitive Stylistic Approaches to Conceptual Metaphor

"Metaphor is not merely a matter of words but is rather a fundamental mode of cognition affecting human thought and action..." (the author's emphasis) (Turner, 2000: 9). The relationship between cognitive stylistics and conceptual metaphor (which is also termed as cognitive metaphor) is that of overlap and interdependence. Both meet at the point of conceptualization of reality about the world which is made up of cultural, social, ideological and cognitive / mental representations. Black (2006: 103) suggests a pragmatic and cognitive approach to metaphor. She agrees with Cooper (1986) that metaphor is a creative use of language and has a social function in the first place. To her, the principal power of metaphor is to open up new lines of thought, of original thinking. Further, she culturalizes metaphor that readers may understand if they share the same cultural experiences, the ability to reason analogically, and familiarity with the tradition of metaphorical expressions. By appreciating the metaphor, readers demonstrate their belonging to a certain sub-set of the human race. By this, she narrows down the possible universality of metaphor. Black extends her discussion of metaphor to side with Lakoff and Johnson (1980), Lakoff (1987), and Lakoff and Turner (1989), who view metaphor as a part of the human cognitive system. So she perceives metaphors as mainly conceptual, based on concepts (e.g. time is money, death is departure). The conceptual/mental notion of metaphor brings us to the heart of the cognitive stylistic view of metaphor.

In cognitive stylistics, metaphor has been reconsidered from a conceptual point of view. A cognitive view of metaphor does not take it as a rhetorical by-product of objective thinking, but as the basis of the human conceptual system. Metaphors may be expressed in language accurately, for human thought processes are fundamentally metaphorical. There are a number of common expressions which demonstrate how metaphors structure our everyday concepts. This is a kind of metaphorical structuring, or conceptualization, of our thinking which is culturally and ideologically determined. Metaphors as such explain how we project our experiences with physical objects in the world on to non-physical experiences such as activities, ideas, emotions or feelings, so as to be able to refer, quantify and identify them; in short, ‘to reason them out’ (see Weber, 1995: 33). Indeed, many examples of dead, or ossified, metaphors structure the conceptualization of everyday reality both culturally and ideationally.

Further evidence for this strong interrelation are the functions of conceptual metaphors which interface with those of cognitive stylistics.

6 Relevance of CMT to Recent Cognitive Theories

Relevant to cognitive stylistic research is the ambitious theory, the ‘Reader-Response Theory’ ( especially Iser, 1971f, 1974; Boase-Beier 2006). This theory is derived from the Reception Theory, and Reader Response Criticism which focus on the text-reader relationship, and the reader’s activities in the interpretation of texts. The reader has accordingly been granted an imperial position in the interpretation of texts. His responses to the language of the text determine to a great extent its interpretation and meanings

The relevance theory, to start with, is developed by Sperber and Wilson (1986 / 1995), a review of which is done by Blakemore (1992) and Fawcett (1997). Relevance to Sperber and Wilson is a general cognitive principle, for relevance theory is a cognitive theory in the first place. It is concerned with how utterances can be relevant in a cognitive environment of communication. Communication is viewed as the joint responsibility of speaker and hearer. It is a psychological construct, a subset of the hearer’s assumptions about the world. (Black, 2006: 80-101 for more discussion).

As to Text World Theory, it is introduced by Paul Werth in reaction to the limited context of reader-response theory. It is an ambitious approach concerned with human discourse processing and context parameters (1994, 1995a, 1995b and 1999) (see also Gavins, 2000 and 2005). Werth argues that a proper engagement with the problems of context is a pivotal foundation for a full understanding of the complexities of texts, real texts in particular, not artificially constructed texts. The reasons for singling out real texts are various, among which is – which is relevant to our discussion of conceptual metaphor frames – that real text requires the reader to be able to draw on stored information from the preceding text and general knowledge. Werth suggests three levels for his text world theory:

  • Discourse World

  • Text Worlds and

  • Sub-worlds

The discourse world contains the personal and cultural background knowledge. This baggage of background knowledge is vital to the discourse world, for it has the potential to effect the choice of language used as much as how each participant receives and interprets discourse. The solution proposed to this apparently ungainly context is what Werth terms ‘text-drivenness’ based on Fillmore’s frames, stored as coherent schematizations of experience, based on Schema Theory (1982 and 1985).

The second level of text world theory, Text Worlds, is mental representations that bear resemblance to Fauconnier’s mental spaces (1994). ‘Mental Space Theory’, and the ‘Possible World Theories’ which preceded it, are different from Text World Theory. That is, although the text world and all its contents are mental constructs, they are realistic and rich in details as the discourse world from which they spring. Once the boundaries of text world are defined and discourse is processed, further conceptual layers may be distinguished. These are termed Sub-worlds, the third level of Text World Theory. These sub-worlds are three main types: (i) ‘deictic sub-worlds’; (ii) ‘attitudinal sub-worlds’; and (iii) ‘epistemic sub-worlds’ (Werth, 1999; Gavins, 2000 and 2005; Black, 2006; Simpson, 2004 for further argument, objections, applications and details).

All the theories and models proposed by their practitioners fall within the cognitive stylistic approaches to understanding and interpreting language and texts, including metaphor. They represent various brave attempts to establish well-grounded criteria, models and strategies to base and develop their arguments. The common features shared by these theories and models are:

  • Background knowledge

  • Bringing together conventional and current approaches

  • Cognitive stylistic background

  • Conceptualization

  • Mental activities

  • Social, cultural and ideological factors

  • Centrality of readers' responses and responsiveness

  • Integrity of models, theories and arguments

  • Inevitability of individual differences and how to deal with them

  • Indispensability of individual experience

  • Comprehensiveness

  • Persuasiveness

  • Impressiveness

  • Courageous tendency to creativity and novelty

  • Potential contributions

  • Covering a wide range of cases, or examples in the field concerned

  • Creating effect on readers

  • Establishing for future developments, modifications and changes

  • Establishing evidence for any theoretical claims

  • Insistence on practice more than theorization

Hence, the model of analysis of metaphor suggested below for incorporating aestheticity and other shortcomings of the CMT outlined earlier is based on a number of these common concepts.

7 Cognitive Scopes of Conceptual Metaphors: Nano-Metaphoricity

The recent explosion of research on conceptual metaphor has widened its cognitive scope vastly and with variation, ideologically, pragmatically, linguistically, socially, culturally, politically, idiolectally, religiously and situationally. They have opened the door for a wide range of possibilities of conceptualization of metaphor. What has triggered this in me is Semino's provocatively productive example for illustrating her definition of metaphor on the very first page of her book (2008): "The war against drugs", i.e. her suggestion that one implication of this metaphor is the reduction of the number of people who take drugs. This opens the way for other implications possible in the scope of the metaphor concerned (e.g. the reduction of the number of drug traffickers). This scope is sometimes referred to as 'implications', 'context of co-text' (ibid.: ch. 1), 'interpretations' (Sperber and Wilson, 2008), 'interactions', open-ended implicational range (Lakoff, 1993, in Ortony, 1993) scope (but perhaps in a different sense) (Kovecses, 2000, in Barcelona, 2000) 'subtleties' or 'forces' of different types (Gibbs: 2008: 5). Even in talk, Cameron (2008) remarks that the people's choice of metaphor reveals not only their conceptualizations, but also, and more significantly, "their attitudes and values". Gibbs (2008) also says: "Contemporary metaphor studies seek out language-mind-culture interactions. They offer the best hope for understanding the prominence of metaphor in human understanding, yet one that appreciates the subtleties of human meaning-making practices ...".

Interestingly, the multifacetedness of mental representations, the interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary nature of conceptual metaphor and human cognition and mind (ibid.), its diversifications and potential revitalizations (Goatly, 1997) and, more remarkably, its ideologization within cognitive contexts of different types would make its metaphoric scope really enlightening. Hence, my introduction of 'nano-phoricity' (by analogy to nanotechnology: 'the branch of technology dealing with the manufacture of the tiniest molecules and atoms of objects', Collins, 2000) to indicate the concern of conceptual metaphor studies of today with the tiniest of details of conceptualization of the world. This in some way goes in line with O'Halloran's (2010) objection to the CMT's claim of the singleness of the meaning of metaphor in all texts and contexts (see 8 below). Geary (2011), on the other hand, is fascinated by the many ways metaphors allow us "to communicate thoughts and feelings by analogy to shared knowledge" (see also Kaal, 2012).

Therefore, and by way of extending Gibbs' claim of '...the simultaneous presence of neutral, linguistic, psychological and cultural forces" revealed by the analysis of specific metaphors, I put forward some of the potential cognitive conceptualizations of ideological and other implications of one and the same metaphor in a wide range of different texts and contexts2

Prices are on Fire

  1. Prices are fire (inconceivable conceptualization of flaming the inflammable abstract (i.e. prices) by the concrete (fire))

  2. Prices are set on fire (action (of fire-engine extinction) is called upon)

  3. Beware of prices, they burn you (safety first)

  4. Keep off prices (precaution recommended)

  5. Prices are untouchable (warning against physical hurt)

  6. Prices are unattainable (far-fetchedness)

  7. Prices are unaffordable (levelling complaints against income)

  8. Protest against high prices (political attitude)

  9. Inability to purchase / buy (income problems)

  10. Government is careless about us (political provocation)

  11. Low-income public (economic problems)

  12. Prices were lower (worse living conditions)

  13. Unexpected rise in prices (frustration)

  14. Prices are as burning as fire (unusual means of burning)

  15. Be economical from now on (belt-tightening policy)

  16. Bitter criticism of prices and those responsible for them (political fiasco)

  17. Fire attacks prices (war on prices)

  18. Prices are a victim of fire (vicious attack on innocent prices)

  19. Prices are fire and fire is a dangerous animal (a combination of metaphors) (politico-economic)

  20. Feeling of dissatisfaction on behalf of the public (negative signs to politicians)

  21. People are worried (socio-political unrest)

  22. Government collapse (political change urgent)

  23. The government is in enormous trouble (political failure)

  24. Customers are disappointed (economic fears)

  25. Customers are helpless (inaction, oppression and lack of power and influence)

  26. Repercussions of political crisis (political struggle)

  27. Repercussions of financial crisis (financial problems)

  28. Political crisis is looming (political instability)

  29. Financial collapse is lurking (economic instability)

  30. Symptoms of monopoly (trade and traders corruption)

  31. Customers rush to buy (fears of political, economic or military crisis to come)

  32. Customers are required to rush to buy (threats from the worse to come)

  33. Customers have zero option (surrender; take-it-or-leave-it situation)

  34. Less commodity is available (fears of selling-out crisis)

  35. Sellers are greedy (public's socio-cultural dissatisfaction)

  36. Call for the public to revolt against oppressive regimes (political / military conflict)

  37. Injustice is prevalent (social corruption and oppression)

  38. Sense of astonishment (disbelief)

  39. A prohibited act of monopolization (Islamic / religious culture)

  40. The Country is in a state of war (prices are no exception; they are on fire, too)

  41. The fire of war burns everything in the Country (including inflammable prices)

  42. Blazing prices may cause burns that require to be excised to heal (excision)

Many of these implications are metaphorical entailments and have metonymic connections between the metaphorical target and source, and the implicated proposition (especially 8-14 & 19-24). It goes without saying that the list is tentative and not exhaustive. Further, newly created cognitive contexts and scopes of conceptualization of this metaphor may be appended to those suggested in the list. They are made on the following bases:

  • dramatization of events (e.g. 1-7) (also Semino, 2008: 31);

  • bringing together and, at the same time, marking inconceivable conceptualization of an abstract target domain (i.e. prices) into a concrete source domain (i.e. fire);

  • asserting the newly created conceptualized meaning of the metaphor; (also Semino, 2008: 19, 21-22)

  • relating that to a more specific contemporary tendency to construct a sharp rise in prices in terms of blazing fire;

  • a particular patterning of high prices as fire;

  • cultural implications;

  • social implications;

  • contingent, ephemeral contexts (similar to Giora's 'temporal priority of context effects' (2008: 145) (e.g. 40 and 41 are conceptualized over an all-out war in Syria launched by the there dictator against his people for over two years, 2011-2012);

  • political implications (many examples pointed out above);

  • ideological implications (all of the above examples);

  • commonsensical implications (especially 7, 8, 25, 26 and 31);

  • simple and clear delineation of poorly and ambiguously complex experience of abstract prices (all metaphors above);

  • ocal implications (e.g. 40-41);

  • global / universal implications (especially those of economic, political and common-sense implications); and

  • idiolectal / individual implications (e.g. 10, 14).

  • Islamic culture (of prohibition and excision) (e.g. 41 and 44, respectively).

Hence, I claim that this example might serve as evidence for the high potential of the scope of the conceptualization of metaphor in contemporary CMT. This really opens new cognitive avenues in thought, meanings, implications, contexts, and ideologies, due to the simple reason that language is a goldfield that never runs out, and human life is ever renewed and developed.

The following figure is proposed to highlight a spectrum of potential conceptualizations suggested by the metaphor Prices are on fire in the widest possible scope of contexts. The arrows stand for this variety of diversification of conceptualized contexts (political, economic, cultural, commonsensical, warfare, financial, social, and other) (Goatly's (1997) notion of metaphoric diversification (in Semino, 2008: 25)) as well as different ideologically conceptualized sparks of fire flying around in all directions off the original source, i.e. the metaphor. Accordingly, the polygonal line of arrows fastening the whole set of the arrows of the spectrum suggests an irregular continuum of these potential ideological implications which can be conceptually transient, contingent, situational, circumstantial, or inconsistent

8 Conceptual Metaphor Theory (CMT) in the Balance

The CMT has recently been under attack, accused of failing to attend to rhetorical and stylistic aspects of verbal metaphor, particularly for work within Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) (Koller 2004 and Musolff 2004). Critics of conceptual metaphor theory have argued that, while theoretically powerful, the framework has lacked an empirical basis (e.g. Koller, 2004, Steen 1999, Cameron & Deignan, 2003, Low 2003, Semino, 2004, Deignan 2005 (in Semino, 2008: 10)).

Indeed, and by way of paying tribute to CMT contributions, Fauconnier & Turner (2008: 53) declare that, over the past few decades, conceptual metaphoric mappings have produced great insights for the study of language and other subjects. Yet, the CMT has been criticized for shortage in answering questions about the stylistic aesthetic, rhetorical, elucidatory, cognitive and other basic values of metaphor (however, Lakoff & Turner 1989; Turner 2000 and other books, and Freeman 1995). Fauconnier & Turner (2008: 64-65), for example, called for revising metaphoric mappings, CMT, and metaphor analysis to be able to respond to permanent features of recognition. They have put forward a mode of analysis of these features at five levels: (i) integration networks; (ii) cobbling and sculpting; (iii) emergent structure; (iv) compression; (v) overarching goals other than projection of interference. They successfully applied it to the analysis of the metaphor Time is space. Musolff, on the other hand, suggested a model of analysis of 'political metaphor' and its functions in terms of 'scenarios', with a view to refining 'cognitive metaphor theory' (Musolff 2004: 9-13). He based his argument on an extensive corpus of British and German press articles concerning EU politics between 1989 and 2001. Koller (2003) also suggestes 'clusters' and 'chains' for the multifunctionality of metaphor (Koller 2003: 115-134).

Following are some of the questions raised by some of those and other writers like Turner, Musolff, Gibbs (2011) and Cienki (2005) about the shortcomings of CMT. A major question

raised by Gibbs (2011) and others concerns the CMT's full preoccupation with the conceptualization of metaphor, thus sacrificing its aesthetic values. The CMT is said to have turned the metaphor into a spiritless mental concept and activity that may deprive the metaphor of its beauty as a constituent part of language which is of special significance and attraction to language users. Although the conceptual origination of metaphor is essentially revealing and its anatomy is quite useful, the process is not merely a matter of expressing a concept in terms of another concept. So the question that demands a clear answer is: Why do we express a concept in terms of another concept? What we do through metaphor is to conceive a concept out of another, and, as a result, express it in terms of the source (see the definitions above). Metaphor, then, has other equally strong and urgent reasons that may justify its establishment in language. These reasons are based on style, aiming to achieve some stylistic functions and effects emanated by significant stylistic features directed chiefly to readers and language users to achieve the ultimate purpose of the metaphor to conceptualize things in terms of other things. In fact, some metaphor theorists like Musolff, Koller, and Turner have addressed some parts of the functionality of conceptual metaphor in depth. Here, some other stylistic functions of metaphor are addressed with the aim to incorporate them into the CMT.

As argued earlier, the most important among the stylistic functions of using a metaphor is to produce an aesthetic effect on language users. Aestheticity is supposed to be the point of departure between metaphor and literalness. For example, the metaphor A relationship is on a shaky foundation, is maps a spatial concept onto an abstract one. Its brilliance lies in its aesthetic difference from the literal way of saying it as A relationship is unstable / unsteady. Or else, why use it in the first place if it does not add an extra point of truth about the two concepts? We mean to say that the comparison between the metaphor and its literal potential need be attended to in the CMT. The CMT explains this metaphor in simple terms as follows: A relationship is a building as a metaphor of business and socio-political origins (Richie 2013: 71). In fact, this explanation distorts the beauty of the metaphor, storming its impressive aesthetic effect that is originally intended to be produced on users. It is true that taking the concepts of the metaphor into pieces may spell it out, but it would disrupt its vividness and splendour for skinning the brain would disclose an ugly picture of the brain and distort its godly beautiful creation to perfection. In a similar fashion, the secret of a gorgeous lady's make-up is in its very makeup of disintegrated chemical ingredients and colours together. The elucidatory metaphor, A relationship is a building seems hard to digest for it peels out the secret of its beauty and, hence, turns it out into a kind of 'ugly duckling'. This insinuates a setback in the dispirited conceptualization of metaphor.

Another drawback for the cons of the CMT is its failure to distinguish between conceptual metaphors that symbolize the same sense of the Source Domain concept. For example, the following two examples display two different metaphors of the same sense: One formal and sublime; another informal and insulting / humorous (see also Nash, 1980: 149-51):

Writing a book requires Job's patience.

Writing a book is a Donkey work.

Both metaphors involve two different conceptualizations of the sense of hard work of the same Target Domain concept (i.e. the hard work involved in writing a book). However they belong to two different Source Domains (i.e. job’s patience, and donkey’s work), not only stylistically, socially and culturally, but also religiously. Social culture draws a distinct line between the formal sublime and religious connotations of the first, and the informal insulting and / or humorous implications of the second. Generally, people rate the Job's patience' connotations with awe, whereas, donkey connotations are repulsive, even when humorous. Many juxtaposed pairs of formal and informal metaphors co-occur in language, especially with respect to proverbial metaphors, conventional and recent (including technological, political, medical, psychological and other metaphors) (e.g. fast as light / an arrow l an eagle / a storm vs. as quick as the Concorde; etc.). The CMT is required to attend to this problem.

A third objection to the CMT (also Semino 2008: 88) is its failure to deal with concept metaphors of the same SD in neutral, positive and negative contexts, which would put infancy acquisition of metaphor specification into question (Richie 2013: 70). Take, for example, the TD, cold:

(a) cold call

(b) in cold blood

(c) cold-blooded

(d) cold comfort

(e) cold steel

(f) leave someone cold

(g) (out) in the cold

(h) cold war

(I) cold warrior

(j) cold wave

(k) cold person

(l) cold-hearted

(m) cold feet

(n) cold shoulder

(o) cold turkey (blunt statements)

(p) cold logic

(q) cold technology, etc.

Do Muddy Waters Shift Burdens?

35 PagesPosted: 28 May 2017Last revised: 20 Jun 2017

Date Written: May 1, 2017


Metaphor has long been touted as a powerful tool of persuasion. Ancients said it. Social scientists have tested it. Legal scholars have hypothesized that a metaphorical framework shapes the way we understand and apply the law. However, we hypothesize that metaphor may be even more powerful than legal scholars have believed — that it can actually supplant the intended operation of the law, thwart legislative intent, yet remain hidden from critique. In this Essay, we support our hypothesis by following the use of a particular metaphor from its first reference in a judicial opinion through its eventual incorporation into doctrine despite subsequent legislative changes to the law. We demonstrate that the use of the metaphor has almost certainly acted as a stealth legal test, in direct opposition to the test the legislature originally constructed and later amended. By tracing the metaphor through its journey in the Texas courts, we aim not only to illustrate the power of metaphor, but to alert practitioners and scholars to the dangers of metaphor in the legal context.

Keywords: rhetoric, metaphor, DNA testing, Texas, statutes, Criminal code, judicial decisions, bias, legislative intent, practitioner, court

JEL Classification: K49, K00, K14, K19

Suggested Citation:Suggested Citation

Sperling, Carrie and Holst, Kimberly Y. W., Do Muddy Waters Shift Burdens? (May 1, 2017). 76 Maryland Law Review 629 (2017); Univ. of Wisconsin Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1417. Available at SSRN:

Download This Paper Open PDF in Browser


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *