Centrum för kognitiv semiotik (CCS)

Humanistiska och teologiska fakulteterna | Lunds universitet

Reassessing Metaphor

Joel Parthemore, University of Skövde

The deceptively simple idea behind metaphor is that the meaning that most immediately presents itself is not always the intended meaning -- or does not, at least, exhaust that meaning. This paper argues for the following claims:
•    Metaphor is only ever, and can only be, a fairly roughly defined subset of meaning making.  In particular, the familiar distinction between literal and metaphorical meaning is problematic, especially if the dividing line between is taken to be an absolute as opposed to pragmatic and flexible one.
•    Essentially all meaning making involves mapping across domains or mapping one domain onto another; therefore, this cannot be the defining characteristic of metaphor.
•    Endless debates over whether something is or is not a metaphor or whether or not a given metaphor is dead miss the point.
•    Metaphor is best understood in terms of a continuum of meaning making from primary meanings to secondary, tertiary, and generally novel meanings; however, the meaning cannot be entirely novel, or the metaphor is lost.
•    The defining characteristic of metaphor is the way that it to one degree or another actively plays with meaning; the concept of "play" is key.
•    Although conceptual agency (as I intend the term) is not limited to human agents, metaphorical cognition very possibly is.