METAPHOR AS INTELLECTUAL HISTORY: CONCEPTUAL CATEGORIES UNDERLYING FIGURATIVE USAGE IN AMERICAN ENGLISH FROM 1675-1975


METAPHOR AS INTELLECTUAL HISTORY: CONCEPTUAL CATEGORIES UNDERLYING FIGURATIVE USAGE IN AMERICAN ENGLISH FROM 1675-1975

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The present analysis examined historical trends in figurative usage as revealed in the coding of 1,882 figures of speech derived from selections produced by 24 different American authors writing in the period from 1675 to 1975. Results indicated that different issues served as centres for metaphoric activity in each of the six 50-year periods considered, and that these concerns could be related to significant issues and events in American history. Results also revealed that different vehicles were used to make these issues metaphorical thereby supporting the view that an analysis of figurative language provides insights not only into issues considered problematic but also into issues considered well-known in specific historical eras. Implications for a general theory of metaphor were also derived from present results, particularly insofar as they suggest that metaphoric category-crossings defy logical analysis and can best be understood in terms of the psycholinguislic and historical situation of the speaker or writer. Finally, present results were also discussed in terms of Ullmann’s universal ‘laws’ of metaphoric transfer where they were seen as providing reasonable support for two of these principles (anthropomorphization and concretization) and lesser support for the remaining two (synaesthesia and animal reference). 4 In the Kennedy-Nixon debates of 1960, John F. Kennedy concluded his opening remarks by noting that The question is whether the world … will move in the direction of freedom … or … in the direction of slavery … I think it’s time America started moving again.’ Throughout all of his opening statement Kennedy had contrasted ‘moving forward’ with ‘standing still and, not surprisingly, Richard Nixon began his response to Kennedy’s remarks by noting There is no question but… this nation cannot stand still because we are in a deadly competition … We’re ahead in this competition as Senator Kennedy has implied, Linguistics 19 (1981), 911-935. 0024-3949/81/0019-0911 $2.00 © Mouton Publishers 912 M. K. Smith, H. R. Pollio and M. K. Pitts but when yoif re in a race the only way to stay ahead is to move ahead. (Cited in Pollio, Barlow, Fine and Pollio, 1977: 14) While it is interesting to note that Kennedy used the concept of movement only in a very general sense, Nixon’s use of a race metaphor (in which movement is combined with competition) seems quite revealing in the light of what we now know about his subsequent actions as president. The metaphor of a race not only reiterated Kennedy’s concern for change; it also introduced Nixon’s use of athletic metaphors for political actions, and through them, his implicit concerns about Opponents’ and “winning and losing’. Although other information could be gleaned from an analysis of figurative language in the Kennedy-Nixon debates, a more crucial point for the study of metaphor would seem to be that the specific metaphoric vehicle (race) used to capture a particular idea (international relations) tells a good deal of what Nixon saw as an important issue in the campaign and how he chose to express it. While it may be going too far to see a race metaphor as projective of Nixon’s general view of the world, it does not seem to be going too far to feel that unique insights about a speaker may be had by considering the specific images used to convey a difficult or emotional idea. Politics, however, is not the only domain in which metaphors express important ideas in a linguistically innovative way. Within more highly specialised domains, such as literature or science, metaphors not only name (or rename) pre-existing events or objects, they often serve to create new concepts as well. In poetry, for example, metaphors have been described as creating imaginary worlds (Ricoeur, 1977) whereas in science they have been conceptualized as leading to the development of a new theoretical orientation or model (Cassirer, 1946; Schon, 1963). In both domains the use of poetic language frequently signals the opening moments of a new or changed concept of reality brought about by a unique blending of the possibilities and ambiguities inherent in language. The hypothesis that metaphor and other figures of speech occur in the creating and/or describing phase of a new idea or concept is not a new one. Sperber, as long ago as 1930, noted that topics which produce intense feelings or in some sense are problematic become ‘centers of metaphoric attraction’. When this occurs, concepts and terminology from fields or domains thought to be more familiar or better understood are used to clarify the newly problematic subject. Alternatively, new topics or events, when experienced as sufficiently well understood, may themselves come to serve as metaphoric vehicles for areas still considered problematic. Sperber’s Law, as this insight has come to be called, thus suggests that Metaphor as intellectual history 913 the dominant concerns of an era may be reflected in its major metaphors and that these metaphors direct and constrain the course of intellectual analysis in that and subsequent historical periods. Indeed, Schon (1963) has gone so far as to propose that one way in which to understand the implicit intellectual forces shaping concepts in a particular historical period is to examine the metaphors used to express such concepts in the first place. On this basis, an analysis of metaphors may provide the ingredients for an intellectual history of a particular era or, more narrowly, of a particular group of concepts. To pursue this possibility in an empirically rigorous way two issues, one conceptual and one methodological, must be confronted. Conceptually, it is necessary to describe the nature of linguistic constraint operating on metaphoric activity. Although this issue has not been dealt with extensively, Ullmann (1962) has suggested metaphor follows one or more of four universal laws of semantic transfer: anthropomorphization; from abstract to concrete; from animals to other objects, events and/or people; and, finally, synaesthesia. Each of these tendencies is seen as significant in all language families and, therefore, must serve to constrain specific metaphoric transfers predicted on the basis of more concept-oriented analyses such as those suggested by Sperber and Schon. In our earlier example derived from the Kennedy-Nixon debates, Ullmann most likely would suggest that the abstract notion of ‘international relations’ was made metaphorically concrete through the vehicle of a race\ Methodologically, to come now to the second critical issue, it is necessary to develop a reasonably extensive corpus of novel metaphoric exemplars (covering a sufficiently extensive segment of history) and then code these exemplars into relatively explicit and reliable conceptual categories before meaningful statements can be made about the relationship of metaphoric topics to their instantiating vehicles. For purposes of the present analysis, an attempt was made to select representative figures used by major American writers in six different 50-year periods of U.S. history beginning in 1675 and ending in 1975. Once this collection was assembled, individual figures were analysed in terms of the specific subjects dealt with metaphorically as well as in terms of the specific vehicles us.ed to represent them. Within the context of this analysis, four specific questions were considered: 1. Could a classification system be developed that was sufficiently comprehensive as to encompass the variety of figurative subjects and vehicles sampled, and would this system relate to more traditional taxonomies (such as Ullmann’s) used in accounting for semantic change based on metaphoric transfer? 914 M. K. Smith, H. R. Pol Ho and M. K. Pitts 2. Would the occurrence of specific vehicle domains show systematic variations across different historical periods thereby permitting an evaluation of the role played by implicit metaphors in shaping thought? 3. Would the occurrence of specific topic domains, i.e. subjects, show systematic changes across various historical periods thereby permitting an evaluation of Sperber’s Law? 4. Would regularities occur in the specific vehicle and topic categories paired so as to support the hypothesis of universal rules for metaphoric transfer such as those proposed by Ullmann (1962)?

METAPHOR AS INTELLECTUAL HISTORY: CONCEPTUAL CATEGORIES UNDERLYING FIGURATIVE USAGE IN AMERICAN ENGLISH FROM 1675-1975

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A Review on metaphor as intellectual history: conceptual categories underlying figurative usage in american english from 1675-1975, metaphor, intellectual, history project topics, researchcub.info, project topic, list of project topics, research project topics, journals, books, Academic writer.
The present analysis examined historical trends in figurative usage as revealed in the coding of 1,882 figures of speech derived from selections produced by 24 different American authors writing in the period from 1675 to 1975. Results indicated that different issues served as centres for metaphoric activity in each of the six 50-year periods considered, and that these concerns could be related to significant issues and events in American history. Results also revealed that different vehicles were used to make these issues metaphorical thereby supporting the view that an analysis of figurative language provides insights not only into issues considered problematic but also into issues considered well-known in specific historical eras. Implications for a general theory of metaphor were also derived from present results, particularly insofar as they suggest that metaphoric category-crossings defy logical analysis and can best be understood in terms of the psycholinguislic and historical situation of the speaker or writer. Finally, present results were also discussed in terms of Ullmann’s universal ‘laws’ of metaphoric transfer where they were seen as providing reasonable support for two of these principles (anthropomorphization and concretization) and lesser support for the remaining two (synaesthesia and animal reference). 4 In the Kennedy-Nixon debates of 1960, John F. Kennedy concluded his opening remarks by noting that The question is whether the world … will move in the dir.. animal science project topics

METAPHOR AS INTELLECTUAL HISTORY: CONCEPTUAL CATEGORIES UNDERLYING FIGURATIVE USAGE IN AMERICAN ENGLISH FROM 1675-1975