“An Eye for Resemblances”: Metonymy, Metaphor, and the Cognitive Bases of Similarity
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Transcript of “An Eye for Resemblances”: Metonymy, Metaphor, and the Cognitive Bases of Similarity
Figurative Thought and Language ConferenceThessaloniki, April 25, 2014
Dan StrackThe University of Kitakyushu
But yon chief, ancient, who is he, Car-borne, who sways the reins of horses white? () How calmly, how soberly ever he driveth on, One after other goading his team! (Euripides (Way) , 357, 359)
[ ] (Euripides, 358)
From Euripides The Phoenician Maidens (ca. 408 BC)
Ironic?: The earliest historical record of the word metaphor was not, in fact, metaphorical. (Especially to the ponies!)In modern Greek, some literal meanings for include: carry, transport, convey; transfer; carry over (in accounts); move house. (Pring, 119)
Ironic?: The earliest historical record of the word metaphor was not, in fact, metaphorical. (Especially to the ponies!)In modern Greek, some literal meanings for include: carry, transport, convey; transfer; carry over (in accounts); move house. (Pring, 119) move house!!!
Metaphor is the application of a strange term either transferred from the genus  and applied to the species  or from the species and applied to the genus, or from one species to another or else by analogy. An example of a term transferred from genus to species is "Here stands my ship." Riding at anchor is a species of standing. (Aristotle (Fyfe) , 81)[ ] (Poetics, 80)
Aristotles categorization system was logical and so naturally his analysis of metaphor also characterized it in terms of logicality.Good metaphors are logical and bad metaphors are not.While there certainly is some truth to this idea, how far can we take it?Lets look at the example that Aristotle himself used to illustrate his theory
But in all cases the metaphor from proportion should be reciprocal and applicable to either of the two things of the same genus; for instance, if the goblet is the shield of Dionysus, then the shield may properly be called the goblet of Ares. (Aristotle (Freese), Rhetoric III, 369, 371) , , . (Aristotle, Rhetoric III, 368, 370)
Superficial logic is straightforward: both shield and goblet are things held in handBut what if we try to find a deeper meaning?Goblet is the shield of Dionysus Holding a wine glass protects him from verbal attack (?)Shield is the Goblet of Ares Just as alcohol makes one overconfident, Ares becomes overconfident when holding his shield (?)Changes in order alter the meaning.
If cognitive science has made anything clear, it is that the brain itself and the systems that account for language comprehension in the brain are exceedingly complex and nuanced.Consequently, both metonymy and metaphor, whether they seem like different phenomena or not, cannot be analyzed apart from the system in which they function.Conceptual Metaphor Theory asserts that the system they both function in is a concept-oriented system.
For example, this conceptual comparison of words for furniture (excerpted from Taylor, 1995: 44, 57. Original research in Rosch 1975: 229.) A Good example of furniture? Chair 1.04 Bed 1.58 Lamp 2.94 Piano 3.64 Television 4.41 Telephone 6.68
Which is more bird-like, a bat or penguin?
Which is more bird-like, a bat or penguin?Whats the difference between a zebra and a horse?
Which is more bird-like, a bat or penguin?Whats the difference between a zebra and a horse?Photo by Victoria Seavey (Bay Area Equestrian Network Website)
Prototype categories have a flexibility, unknown to Aristotelian categories, in being able to accommodate new, hitherto unfamiliar data. With only Aristotelian categories at our disposal, new data would often demand, for their categorization, the creation of new categories, or a redefining of existing categories. (Taylor, 1995: 53)Photo by Victoria Seavey (Bay Area Equestrian Network Website)
The greatest strength of Conceptual Metaphor Theory is not its shorthand formulation of metaphors but rather its insistence on flexible, ad hoc domains (frames) that explain various idiosyncrasies of language that classical categories cannot.Human intuitions are not always logical.
Is metonymy primarily a logical feature of language? Some Japanese examples (te wo kashite kudasai) [hand lend please ] (hitode busoku) [person hand not enough= labor shortage]Do we interpret these phrases in a logical, deterministic way? (mathematical positivity?)Or, do we interpret such phrases according to logically loose, rough but ready coherences?
But what does it mean?
So the next time you want to metaphor your stuff across town, just ask this company to lend a hand and a foot.
Strictly speaking, metonymic function (e.g. PART FOR WHOLE or WHOLE FOR PART) is either logically false or inexact. Further examples: 1. Indiana Jones marries Ally McBeal (News story headline; FOXNews.com 2010) 2. Washington rejects proposed base expansion 3. Washington edges Detroit in overtime
Readers triangulate the meaning of Washington in context by attending to words such as base or overtime which cue understanding of the most salient alternative. Initially, all senses of the metonymic words are activated. The triangulation process occurs through subsequent lexical activation of context words. This follows the exhaustive access model of lexical access. (c.f. Giora 2003: 40-41 and Cutler and Clifton 1999:140)
Experimental evidence shows metaphorical comprehension to be a highly complex process. To account for fuzzy logic, relativity, and complexity, Gibbs & Cameron (2008) have suggested that metaphorical understanding may occur according to the Dynamic Systems Theory principles explained in Spiveys Attractor Basin-oriented theory of cognition. (Spivey, 2007)For more information, read Spiveys The Continuity of Mind (OUP, 2007).
Although metonymy is common in everyday language, it generally tends to go unnoticed.Why? Because metonymic connections are instantiated not artificially through language but organically as concepts develop by way of an individuals embodied experiences.Metonymy is possible because of the way in which various cognitive parameters cohere to form concepts, networked sets of mappings that make spreading activation possible.
In that concepts cohere according to spreading activation principles, metaphor relies crucially on metonymy to inform the details of metaphorical correlation.This is not a bug but a feature.The fact that metaphors are informed by metonymy reflects the rough but ready ways in which the embodied details of concepts cohere.Metonymy linguistically reflects the organically instantiated idiosyncracies of conceptualization.
The root for the part of a neuron we call a dendrite is the Greek word for tree. ( ) This nomenclature is based on superficial visual resemblance.
Creation: The scientist (W.S. Hall) credited for first using the term dendrite in 1900 (OED IV, 454) confirmed that the visible structure of certain parts of nerve cells have arborescent (extensively branched) structures. The noticing of structural resemblance resulted in the creation of a linguistically instantiated image metaphor.Such a discovery could not have been made without exposure to two specific domains of experience: trees and magnified images of neurons.Failed coining instance: Schfer, 1893: Neuron, axon, dendron. (OED IV, 455)
but by far the greatest thing is the use of metaphor. That alone cannot be learnt; it is the token of genius. For the right use of metaphor means an eye for resemblances. (Aristotle (Fyfe), Poetics, XXII, 89, 91) : . (Aristotle, Poetics, XXII, 90)
How are novel metaphors intuited? Activation linking naturally unconnected domains of experience (e.g. the visible structures of neurons and trees) requires a mind with sufficient domain elaboration of both conceptual domains to allow detection of similarity to be possible and also simultaneous activation of both domains sufficient to spark attention and noticing.
When we talk about resemblance or correspondence, practically speaking, what are we talking about?Answer: We are talking about (extra-linguistic) neural parameters that have correlations across domains of perceptual and conceptual experience.E.g., Bacon frying in a pan sounds like a heavy rain. (Auditory metaphor)
Unique Production: If either of these domains of experience (tree and neuron) had been lacking in the observer or if the noticer lacked language skills, the noticing and subsequent communication of this resemblance would not have been possible.Ubiquitous Communication: After coining, however, everyone aware of the words Greek etymology will have (linguistic not visual) access to this hint regarding structural correlation between the two concepts.
(Aristotle, Poetics XXII, 90)Fyfe translation quoted by Richards: For the right use of metaphor means an eye for resemblances. (Aristotle (Fyfe), Poetics XXII, 89, 91)
But we all live, and speak, only through our eye for resemblancesas individuals we gain our command of metaphor just as we learn whatever else makes us distinctively human. It is imparted to us fro