sâmbătă, 10 iulie 2010

The Metaphor of Conceptual

"Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative."

Oscar Wilde

In the present (ever wondered what time span “present” actually re-presents?) of theoretic linguistic and aspiring “cognitive” and “empirical” research of the “metaphor” two new concepts have emerged: conceptual metaphor and metaphorical linguistic expression. To make the understanding (or otherwise called “mapping”) of these two concepts, two other conceptual metaphors have been used, and projected in two new metaphorical linguistic expressions: source domain and target domain. Are you still with me?

As a lot of you literates might know, the study of language (and therefore metaphors) is epistemically extremely dangerous, for the “method” is also the object … ergo, when we name two concepts “domains” in order to make “metaphors” more easy to understand, we could be loosing ourselves in the hope that we can objectively criticize language by using metaphors from cognitive theories, like domains, mapping and the “mind as machine – metaphor”.

And we hope we have reached a postmodern meta-level of understanding language, yet in my view, we are still in the “same old circles” (pardon the metaphor), if trying to create psychological complex definitions of meta-phenomenon. – now, just for your information – every word in this paragraph could be hermeneutically challenged, analyzed and criticized, because, of course – while trying to deconstruct the cognitive theory of the metaphor, I do not offer alternatives, making this a non-constructive critique … which is diplomatically unacceptable.

Truth is, I do not have yet a theory on metaphors. I am also afraid to assert one, because I am very individualistically orientated and think that every mind might have a different understanding, and yet no mind should be wrong about it.

What annoys me most is this academic pseudo-arrogance that sometimes the intellectual elite adopts, stating there is no doubt that they have discovered “the next truth” of human understanding.

To paint a hyper-realistic picture, I shall use an example from “Metaphor. A Practical Introduction”, 2nd Edition, by Zoltan Kovecses. He quotes the Pragglejaz group and their “metaphor identification procedure” (MIP):

1. Read the entire text-discourse to establish a general understanding of the meaning.

2. Determine the lexical units in the text-discourse:

3. (a) For each lexical unit in the text, establish its meaning in context, that is, how it applies to an entity, relation, or attribute in the situation evoked by the text (contextual meaning). Take into account what comes before and after the lexical unit.

(b) For each lexical unit, determine if it has a more basic contemporary meaning in other contexts than the one in the given context. For our purposes, basic meanings tend to be

• More concrete (what they evoke is easier to imagine, see, hear, feel, smell, and taste)

• Related to bodily action

• More precise (as opposed to vague)

• Historically older.

Basic meanings are not necessarily the most frequent meanings of the lexical unit.

(c) If the lexical unit has a more basic current-contemporary meaning in other contexts than the given context, decide whether the contextual meaning contrasts with the basic meaning but can be understood in comparison with it.

4. If yes, mark the lexical unit as metaphorical.

(Pragglejaz Group, 2007,p. 3)

… and dilemmata-arguments:

1. To establish a general understanding of the meaning? I mean, what is a “general understanding”? Won’t everybody understand something subjective based on his / her own personal experience, especially now, in “postmodernism”, where every “general meaning” is challenged even in non-academic circles? And what is "meaning" again in this cognitive theory of the metaphor? Mapping. Thus we should be generally mapping a meaning to the text? Cognition and the theory of the mind are complex as is. Why nurture complexity only to be able to write a next book and score a new publication?

2, 3(a, b) Each lexical unit means sort of … every word. From now on, political scientist should break down every discourse of the would-be leaders in every “lexical unit” and assign to each a context, and compare the context with other contexts. Good luck – might be good exercise for future sophistry.

And what again is “basic meaning”? Can one even talk about basic meaning in a multicultural world, saturated with sub-cultures and individualism, with neologisms and slang and scientific termini, with visions and philosophies a thousand … And “historically older” means nothing – just etymologic quests, for the “meaning” is really created inside a context of the moment, full with the emotions and feelings and recurring axiomatic thoughts of ones … ONES psyche. What the “other” means will be seldom understood in full epistemic depth. (And this is a subliminal – herewith not anymore – message to try and exercise a bit more “empathy”)

More concrete, more precise? “Postmodernism” could very well, in the view of this above mentioned theory, be/have a “basic meaning” … and yet how precise or concrete is “postmodernism”? Or do this “basic meanings” refer only to a certain kind of lexical units in a certain kind of non-context? Huh?

“If yes, mark the lexical unit as metaphorical.”

joi, 8 iulie 2010

The Metaphor of The Original

“She saw their travels in terms of adverts and

a long talcum-white beach with the tropical

breeze tossing the palms and her hair;

he saw it in terms of forbidden foods,

frittered away time, and

ghastly expenses.”

Vladimir Nabokov, “The Original of Laura”

The wish for the ‘original’ in things is a wish many of us secretly have, because the ‘today’ is the every new day in which we find out how non-original we are. Through our lenses we see the ‘world’ unfolding in billion of complex things, general and specialized, exotic and familiar, fragmented and fractalic … and we try to ‘fit’ somewhere inside this growing plethora of ideas and words. We try to fit, by ‘un-fitting’, because what homo inter-net-icus is desperately seeking for is the ‘original’.

What is original, and what is its metaphor?

Original is defined by the dictionary (http://dictionary.reference.com) as:


1. belonging or pertaining to the origin or beginning of something, or to a thing at its beginning: The book still has its original binding.

2. new; fresh; inventive; novel: an original way of advertising.

3. arising or proceeding independently of anything else: an original view of history.

4. capable of or given to thinking or acting in an independent, creative, or individual manner: an original thinker.

5. created, undertaken, or presented for the first time: to give the original performance of a string quartet.

6. being something from which a copy, a translation, or the like is made: The original document is in Washington.


7. a primary form or type from which varieties are derived.

8. an original work, writing, or the like, as opposed to any copy or imitation: The original of this is in the British Museum.

9. the person or thing represented by a picture, description, etc.: The original is said to have been the painter's own house.

10. a person whose ways of thinking or acting are original: In a field of brilliant technicians he is a true original.

11. Archaic . an eccentric person.

12. Archaic . a source of being; an author or originator.

As an adjective we frequently think of ‘original’ in its 2nd or 4th Definition, yet time and ever changing paradigms in language and linguistics made us forget the origin of original. An etymological enquiry would lead us to the result of early 14c., from L. originalis, from originem (nom. origo) "beginning, source, birth," from oriri "to rise". To be ‘original’ had been a metaphor for being a source, a creator and an inspiration. It was and still is a metaphor for the dormant thought in us, that lets us aspire to being gods of our own universe.

‘Original’ is the metaphor we need to continue hoping in progress, and a lot of depression today has its origins in the fact that there is too much of everything all around us, in 6Dof (Six Degrees of Freedom, see Wiki). There is no ‘source’ anymore, and not even the psychologically perceived possibility of becoming a source, an originator – of becoming more yourself … because any word you invent, might return at least a few hundred pages on Google.

And the metaphor of ‘original’ is fading once again into other meanings … original art … original advertizing. The world of add and of shocking colors, while people try less to ‘create’ and more to ‘compete’.

What is your ‘original’, forgotten in the dead valley of meanings and copy-paste visions?

While trying to understand the metaphor of ‘original’, we actually, as always, will subconsciously (but what is subconsciously anyway?) look first for a metaphor of our Selfs. Caught in a world of Projective Tests, one is experiencing individuality and creativity in an ‘inside’ that seldom becomes an outside.

So, once we strip our shadows, we can start looking for the metaphor of the ‘original’ … it’s somewhere there, at the origins.


marți, 6 iulie 2010

The Metaphor of Frida Kahlo

“I drank because I wanted to drown my sorrows,

but now the damned things have learned to swim.”

Frieda Kahlo

Seeing dimensions is one great success of the postmodern geometrical mind. Three dimensions, two dimensions, one dimension … and while the mind returns upon itself to visually fancy even more dimension, I wonder if we ever ‘hear’ dimensions. If we ever ‘feel’ dimensions. If we ever ‘smelled’ or ‘tasted’ dimensions.

I hear now in mono-dimensions, and this is my first metaphor.

One hundred years ago, Frida Kahlo opened her eyes to one new weird environment, full of colors, feelings and pain. Her metaphor was her secret mental life, which, in a way every one of us has (the metaphor AND the secret mental life) – enclosed, hidden beyond layers and layers of that we call the official Self.

Frieda’s metaphor is one of the realism we desire to perceive in the middle of surrealistic nonsense we call ‘world’. The static, silent form of the “I”, sitting in a little dark place and chanting the ‘daily’ story of a chronological ‘life’. The colors and situation, the stages around the “I” might change, but the “I” remains unmoved, always about the level of our eyes that stare back to a non-existent mirror.

The metaphor of Frida Kahlo teaches us the sheer (what might be called) psychosis, that our mind, in some fleeting moments, reflects in ItSelf. Because ‘being human’ is a pose of an invented metaphor. ‘Being human’ are two words.

understanding fades the more deeper an analysis starts to be.

But there is a way out of the labyrinth of metaphors. This way may teach us that to understand the essential, you must first ascend to the ocean of superficiality. If you do not want to drown, while trying to understand the nature of water, you must float above it. All what you will understand is perhaps your own reflection in the waves, but once you recognize it as Self, you’ll be able to distinguish it from the water.

And the nature of water will be better understood, then by someone drowning, and claiming deepness.

… thus, to get to the essential, beyond all metaphors, you ought to become a metaphorist.

… and find your reflection.