Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

"Metaphor: A Practical Introduction" by Zoltan Kovecses (OUP, 2002)

It begins by contrasting old and new ideas about metaphor

TraditionalCognitive linguistic
Uses wordsUses concepts
LiteraryAids understanding
Based on resemblanceOften not based on resemblance
An artEveryone does it

In most cases the source domains are more concrete than the target domains. Target and source domains aren't usually reversible.

There are many attempts at classifications. For example, conceptual metaphors can be classed by conventionality, function, nature, and level of generality. Cognitive function types include

  • structural - where source and target are similarly complex
  • ontological - there the comparison is describing the type of the target (that it's an object or a process, for example)
  • orientational - involving "up", "out", etc - "he fell ill"

Metaphors can be based on a general background image - in-out, up-down, contact (e.g. saying "Hold on" to someone on the phone), or a more specific image - "life is a journey", "ideas are food" etc.

Lakoff (from whom many of the book's idea come from), Turner and Ray Gibbs have looked at how poets' metaphors are different from everyday ones. In many cases they're no different. Sometimes they extend, elaborate, question (take literally) and combine.

When a comparison is made between 2 domains, not all the features of those domains are compared. Does "it dawned on him" always imply that there'll be a sunset? The book discusses what might determine the choice. The poetic context might encourage "illegitimate transfer".

Metaphors help us understand by letting us transfer our knowledge and skills from one domain to another.

Metaphors can interact or form hierarchies - "heat = intensity", "love = fire". Events have Purpose (leading to destinations); Means (implying paths); Difficulties (hence impediments). Such underlying schemas can influence our thinking. Many of these schemas are cross-cultural.

Metonymy is when one aspect of a domain related to another aspect (part-whole, for example). Examples given include "Does he own any Hemingway?", "America doesn't want another Pearl Harbor", "The sax has the flu today"

Finally Turner and Fauconnier's ideas of mental spaces, conceptual projection and blending are mentioned.

There are many exercises, with solutions at the back

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