- July 22-27, 2001
University of California, Santa Barbara
Carlo Grevy and Helle Dam
A phenomenological and empirical-constructivist approach to metaphors or how to pull oneself up by ones own bootstraps
The aim of our study is to show that there is substantial evidence for reconsidering the claim that some metaphors are more basic than others. The method behind this research may be called empirical constructivism. Based on this method, we have investigated metaphors within both every day language and specialised language, among others within the areas of computer science, sociology, politics, economics and natural science.
Our study showed first of all that the largest number of metaphors showed up in specialised texts. Secondly, we found that specialised texts primarily use metaphors based on the source domain of other types of specialised texts. In this sense, biologists use a large number of metaphors based on the area of linguistics, computer science use metaphors based on the area of psychology, and scholars from the area of social science use metaphors based on biology, etc.
On this basis, we have reached the conclusion that the claim that some metaphors are more basic than others is unmotivated. Rather, specialised texts use metaphors from the source domains. These observations have important implications for our conception of the notion of understanding, which we will explain in our talk. By introducing the notion of circular reference, we shall show that our use of metaphors reflects that it is relevant to study language with starting point in a phenomenological approach.
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