Centrum för kognitiv semiotik (CCS)

Humanistiska och teologiska fakulteterna | Lunds universitet

Metaphor and Myth. Are “worldview metaphors” really metaphors?

Elena Faur (Academia Română - Filiala Cluj-Napoca)

The term “worldview metaphor” has been proposed in Cultural Linguistics by Sharifian (2011, 2017) and discussed in relationship to one variety of English, namely Aboriginal English. Examples such as “The Land is me” or “sad/angry rain” were considered “worldview metaphors”, because they are “associated” with the mythological worldview of Aboriginal Australians about The Dreamtime or The Dreaming. The concept frames a unique system of beliefs about the actions of Ancestor Beings or Dreaming Ancestors which in their journey through country created the land, the sea, the fauna, etc. and “returned to the Land after the creation, in the form of stones, trees, and the like” (p. 54). This worldview finds expression in at least four different semiotic systems: language, painting, music and dance. It has been acknowledged that regardless of the semiotic system it emerges, this kind of “worldviews metaphors” can only be appropriately approached if one takes into account the Aboriginal view about the “interconnectedness of all things ever-present” (Malcolm 2017: 648; also Sharifian 2017: 53-54).


However, up to now there is no definite agreement in Cultural Linguistics concerning the status of these “worldview metaphors”: Are they truly metaphors or not? Two perspectives have been proposed in Cultural Linguistics in assessing these "worldview metaphors", namely the etic and the emic perspectives: (1) From the etic perspective, i.e. “of an outsider to Aboriginal English”, although they appear to be a case of cultural metaphors, they “may actually be entirely non-metaphorical conceptualizations originating in the Aboriginal worldview” (Sharifian 2017: 59); (2) From the emic perspective, i.e. of an Aboriginal Australian, they are not metaphors, “but rather instantiate the worldview of the speaker” (Sharifian 2017: 59). 


The presentation will use integral linguistics’ and cognitive semiotics’ conceptual tools in order to decide whether these “worldview metaphors” are really metaphors. Although  an analysis of these  "worldview metaphors" across different semiotic systems would certainly prove more insightful, the current presentation will however restrain to one single semiotic system, namely language.