The Fourth International
Conference on Researching and Applying Metaphor
April 2001, Tunis
Metaphors in cultural surface and knowledge
The talk is in two parts
- Another perspective on metaphor
- A new term: fixed concepts
- rethinking the function of metaphor
- it is not creative
- the metaphors say: the world is static
- metaphors are not common in everyday life
- metaphors are common in specialized language
- metaphors connect our commonsense knowledge with new experiences
- metaphors allow us to get new knowledge into language
- about new things
- we are using non reflective words saying something new
- from a constructivistic perspective
- this metaphor restricts us in talking in a substantial way of many
- this way of studying metaphors and culture is new for me too!
1. The metaphors
- we have been trapped in a special perspective on metaphors
- stagnation in this linguistic field
- how metaphors really work
- no empirical evidence
- lot of speculation, many discussions
- "Discussions is war" do we think this way?
- "discussions is dance"
- Which metaphors do people use?
- Empirical constructivism: construct metaphors on how people use metaphors!
- Computer metaphors - Danish / (English)
- technological new-thinking
- new concept, new knowledge
- based on about 6000 computer metaphors a periodical for one year
Pilot researches in fields of e.g. physics, mathematics, pedagogy, popular science,
religion, ads, television language give the same indications:
- The metaphors are structured systematically and can be arranged into 12 scenarios,
including about 400 different typical metaphors
- The metaphors are not as creative as often believed on the contrary the metaphors
can in some sense be predicted on the basic of the scenarios
- The metaphors are widespread in specialized (and technical) language
- The function of metaphors are always to map something unknown into the area of known
(the field which Berger & Luckmann calls commonsense conscious), to the surface of our
- The function of metaphors is not to tell something new at all, but to tell something
old, something we already know.
- Metaphors are always to be seen as expansions of everyday language (a definition).
- Only looking at literature: metaphors tell us something new
- But: we use lots of energy telling us selves: the world is always the same!
- Metaphors are telling us something old
- A restricted, final system
- For instance
- computers "accelerate", "runs fast", "has a high sped"
- data "arrives" to a place, they are at "home" computers or at
- we use old concepts from everyday experiences to talk about something complex using
words from scenarios we know
- nothing new
- hi-technology is very common
- 400 scenarios
- a final system
- We always not only in the computer field use metaphors from the same
- Metaphors are often seen as unpredictable and unrestricted
- The source area is always the same restricted area!
- Metaphors are not mans creative, innovative and intuitive power
- Metaphors are not indigenous to everyday language
- Metaphors are based on scenarios from everyday language!
Part 2: Fixed concepts
- We can talk through metaphors but how do we understand?
- Only through these metaphors!
- We shall avoid them as Hobbes and Locke claimed
- Metaphors have epistemological value
- Using an holistic and constructive perspective we should have no problem
- The world is always constructed through our language and the world is changing
through the intonation of the always changing paradigms
- Knowledge is not absolute
- knowledge is always grounded upon our everyday life
- the metaphors are connecting our everyday life with the new
- then we understand
- so: to understand is to use metaphors
- it is to connect some concept from our everyday life with the new
- Knowledge then, is not something in our heads it is the relation between
unproblematic concepts (we think we know) and the new
- When we use for instance water and bath we think we know what this means
- Therefore we can make metaphors with such concepts
Lets call them fixed concepts
- We can be orientated in the world
- Mahler talks about object relations. When we as people want to have connections with the
complicated social and technical life we thrust these objects. We cannot live without them
- Using metaphors we do the same thing: with fixed concepts we can swing ourselves a
further step along
- From a phenomenological point of vies: we try to digitize an analog world
- they also construct the world
- they cannot grab it "as it is"
- the house is (mentally) constructed upon the remaining posts
- the hi-story is constructed upon the fundaments, the remaining posts
- we are all walking on the remaining fundaments from the house, jumping form the one
fixed point to the next, form the one post to the next
- In a complex world we should need to use more metaphors and we really do!
- Metaphors do not tell us something new. But using them we understand and we
construct our world.
- We always understand things in the world upon fixed words - these words
are the basis for source domains in metaphors.
- These fixed words mirrors what is essential in our everyday life because
they show us which terms we find unproblematic and stereotype.
- By studying metaphors (in any area or text corpus) we uncover fundamental structures in
our culture. We find the basis upon which we build our knowledge.
Dominating scenarios / complexity
Basis of language/culture: fixed words
It is important to study these topics in different cultures
- how language expands/changes
- how we are able to talk about new things
- a model for how language and knowledge are connected