April 2001, Tunis
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Metaphors in cultural surface and knowledge
In this paper I shall discuss how the study of metaphors in specialised language can tell us something new about our culture.
The basis for my work is an empirical study of several thousands metaphors in various fields. The primary field is computer science. Secondarily, I have examined metaphors in physics, mathematics, pedagogy, popular science, religion, ads, etc.
By studying metaphors in several corpuses, by using what I call an empirical constuctivisict methodology, I found that the source domain for all metaphors is independent of the specific topic and that such domains form a restricted system. This area can be described as a very varied, well structured, and as containing a restricted number of scenarios from our everyday life (about only 400). I therefore claim that the metaphors we use always are based on this restricted number of concepts from these scenarios. Metaphors are always based upon about 400 fixed concepts from the everyday life of our culture.
Metaphors are widespread in specialised language and by studying them, we obtain knowledge about the specialised language. By studying them we also obtain knowledge about the fixed concepts they are based on. We obtain knowledge about how our every day culture is structured.