A metaphor is a literary figure of speech that uses an image, story or tangible thing to represent a less tangible thing or some intangible quality or idea; e.g., "Her eyes were glistening jewels." Metaphor may also be used for any rhetorical figures of speech that achieve their effects via association, comparison or resemblance. In this broader sense, antithesis, hyperbole, metonymy and simile would all be considered types of metaphor. Aristotle used both this sense and the regular, current sense above. With metaphor, unlike analogy, specific interpretations are not given explicitly.
- 1 Types, terms and categories
- 2 History in literature and language
- 3 In historical linguistics
- 4 Historical theories of metaphor
- 5 More than just a figure of speech
- 6 Nonlinguistic metaphor
- 7 See also
- 8 Notes
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Types, terms and categories
Metaphors are comparisons that show how two things that are not alike in most ways are similar in one important way. A metaphor is more forceful (active) than an analogy, because metaphor asserts two things are the same, whereas analogy implies a difference; other rhetorical comparative figures of speech, such as metonymy, parable, simile and synecdoche, are species of metaphor distinguished by how the comparison is communicated. The metaphor category also contains these specialised types:
- allegory: An extended metaphor wherein a story illustrates an important attribute of the subject.
- catachresis: A mixed metaphor used by design and accident (a rhetorical fault).
- parable: An extended metaphor narrated as an anecdote illustrating and teaching a moral lesson.
Metaphors are created for the purpose of insightful close reading, usually for the purpose of better internal visualization and comparison to another concept from which one can draw his or her own conclusion. A 'dead metaphor' may appear transparent upon first glance. However, dead metaphors are the most common of all usages because of common cultural or origin specific universal meaning. "I just can't shake it" is an example of a universal metaphor that, because of its contextual reference has an established implied message. Interpretation of metaphorical speaking is 'in the eyes of the beholder.' Is the reader insightful enough to recognize a metaphor? Metaphorically speaking, "we should remove our blinders."
- A dead metaphor is one in which the sense of a transferred image is absent. Examples: "to grasp a concept" and "to gather what you've understood" use physical action as a metaphor for understanding. Most people do not visualize the action — dead metaphors normally go unnoticed. Some people distinguish between a dead metaphor and a cliché. Others use "dead metaphor" to denote both.
- An extended metaphor (conceit) establishes a principal subject (comparison) and subsidiary subjects (comparisons). The As You Like It quotation is a good example, the world is described as a stage, and then men and women are subsidiary subjects further described in the same context.
- A mixed metaphor is one that leaps from one identification to a second identification inconsistent with the first. "I smell a rat [...] but I'll nip him in the bud" -- Irish politician Boyle Roche. This form is often used as a parody of metaphor itself: "If we can hit that bullseye then the rest of the dominoes will fall like a house of cards... Checkmate." -- Futurama character Zapp Brannigan.
- Per Hans Blumenberg’s metaphorology, absolute metaphor denotes a figure or a concept that cannot be reduced to, or replaced with solely conceptual thought and language. Absolute metaphors, e.g. “light” (for “truth”) and “seafaring” (for “human existence”) – have distinctive meanings (unlike the literal meanings), and, thereby, function as orientations in the world, and as theoretic questions, such as presenting the world as a whole. Because they exist at the pre-predicative level, express and structure pragmatic and theoretical views of Man and the World.
Use outside rhetoric
The term metaphor is also used for the following terms that are not a part of rhetoric:
- A cognitive metaphor is the association of object to an experience outside the object's environment.
- A conceptual metaphor is an underlying association that is systematic in both language and thought.
- A root metaphor is the underlying worldview that shapes an individual's understanding of a situation.
- A therapeutic metaphor is an experience that allows one to learn about more than just that experience.
- A nonlinguistic metaphor is an association between two nonlinguistic realms of experience.
- A visual metaphor provides a frame or window on experience. Metaphors can also be implied and extended throughout pieces of literature.
History in literature and language
- Beloved friend, swift stallion, wild deer, / leopard ranging in the wilderness — / Enkidu, my friend, swift stallion, wild deer, / leopard ranging in the wilderness — / together we crossed the mountains, together / we slaughtered the Bull of Heaven, we killed / Humbaba, who guarded the Cedar Forest — / O Enkidu, what is this sleep that has seized you, / that has darkened your face and stopped your breath?— (Trans. Mitchell, 2004)
In this example, the friend is compared to a stallion, a wild deer, and a leopard to indicate that the speaker sees traits from these animals in his friend (A comparison between two or more unlike objects). The death of Enkidu is described as a sleep, as something that seizes, as something that darkens one's face, and as something that stops one's breath. This description is a mixed metaphor, and is also an example of metonymy, another type of metaphor, because the characteristics of death are used to refer to death itself.
The idea of metaphor can be traced back to Aristotle who, in his “Poetics” (around 335 BC), defines “metaphor” as follows: “Metaphor is the application of a strange term either transferred from the genus and applied to the species or from the species and applied to the genus, or from one species to another or else by analogy.” For the sake of clarity and comprehension it might additionally be useful to quote the following two alternative translations: “Metaphor is the application of an alien name by transference either from genus to species, or from species to genus, or from species to species, or by analogy, that is, proportion.” Or, as Halliwell puts it in his translation: “Metaphor is the application of a word that belongs to another thing: either from genus to species, species to genus, species to species, or by analogy.”
Therefore, the key aspect of a metaphor is a specific transference of a word from one context into another. With regard to the four kinds of metaphors which Aristotle distincts against each other the last one (transference by analogy) is the most eminent one so that all important theories on metaphor have a reference to this characterization.
The Greek plays of Sophocles, Aeschylus, and Euripides, among others, were almost invariably allegorical, showing the tragedy of the protagonists, either to caution the audience metaphorically about temptation, or to lambast famous individuals of the day by inferring similarities with the caricatures in the play.
Even when they are not intentional, they can be drawn between most writing or language and other topics. In this way it can be seen that any theme in literature is a metaphor, using the story to convey information about human perception of the theme in question.
In historical linguistics
In historical onomasiology or, more generally, in historical linguistics, metaphor is defined as semantic change based on similarity, i.e. a similarity in form or function between the original concept named by a word and the target concept named by this word.
- ex. mouse: small, gray rodent → small, gray, mouse-shaped computer device.
Some recent linguistic theories view language as by its nature all metaphorical; or that language in essence is metaphorical.
Historical theories of metaphor
Metaphor as style in speech and writing
Viewed as an aspect of speech and writing, metaphor qualifies as style, in particular, style characterized by a type of analogy. An expression (word, phrase) that by implication suggests the likeness of one entity to another entity gives style to an item of speech or writing, whether the entities consist of objects, events, ideas, activities, attributes, or almost anything expressible in language. For example, in the first sentence of this paragraph, the word "viewed" serves as a metaphor for "thought of", implying analogy of the process of seeing and the thought process. The phrase, "viewed as an aspect of", projects the properties of seeing (vision) something from a particular perspective onto thinking about something from a particular perspective, that "something" in this case referring to "metaphor" and that "perspective" in this case referring to the characteristics of speech and writing.
As a characteristic of speech and writing, metaphors can serve the poetic imagination, enabling William Shakespeare, in his play "As You Like It", to compare the world to a stage and its human inhabitants players entering and exiting upon that stage; enabling Sylvia Plath, in her poem "Cut", to compare the blood issuing from her cut thumb to the running of a million soldiers, "redcoats, every one"; and, enabling Robert Frost, in "The Road Not Taken", to compare one's life to a journey.
Viewed also as an aspect of speech, metaphor can serve as a device for persuading the listener or reader of the speaker or writer's argument or thesis, the so-called rhetorical metaphor.
Metaphor as foundational to our conceptual system
Cognitive linguists emphasize that metaphors serve to facilitate the understanding of one conceptual domain, typically an abstract one like 'life' or 'theories' or 'ideas', through expressions that relate to another, more familiar conceptual domain, typically a more concrete one like 'journey' or 'buildings' or 'food'. Food for thought: we devour a book of raw facts, try to digest them, stew over them, let them simmer on the back-burner, regurgitate them in discussions, cook up explanations, hoping they do not seem half-baked. Theories as buildings: we establish a foundation for them, a framework, support them with strong arguments, buttressing them with facts, hoping they will stand. Life as journey: some of us travel hopefully, others seem to have no direction, many lose their way.
“ A convenient short-hand way of capturing this view of metaphor is the following: CONCEPTUAL DOMAIN (A) IS CONCEPTUAL DOMAIN (B), which is what is called a conceptual metaphor. A conceptual metaphor consists of two conceptual domains, in which one domain is understood in terms of another. A conceptual domain is any coherent organization of experience. Thus, for example, we have coherently organized knowledge about journeys that we rely on in understanding life. ”
More than just a figure of speech
Some theorists have suggested that metaphors are not merely stylistic, but that they are cognitively important as well. In Metaphors We Live By George Lakoff and Mark Johnson argue that metaphors are pervasive in everyday life, not just in language, but also in thought and action. A common definition of a metaphor can be described as a comparison that shows how two things that are not alike in most ways are similar in another important way. They explain how a metaphor is simply understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another. The authors call this concept a ‘conduit metaphor.’ By this they meant that a speaker can put ideas or objects into words or containers, and then send them along a channel, or conduit, to a listener who takes that idea or object out of the container and makes meaning of it. In other words, communication is something that ideas go into. The container is separate from the ideas themselves. Lakoff and Johnson give several examples of daily metaphors we use, such as “argument is war” and “time is money.” Metaphors are widely used in context to describe personal meaning. The authors also suggest that communication can be viewed as a machine: “Communication is not what one does with the machine, but is the machine itself.” (Johnson, Lakoff, 1980).
Metaphors can also map experience between two nonlinguistic realms. In The Dream Frontier, Mark Blechner describes musical metaphors, in which a piece of music can "map" to the personality and emotional life of a person.. Musicologist Leonard Meyer demonstrated how purely rhythmic and harmonic events can express human emotions.  There can also be a metaphoric mapping between other art forms and human experience. The art theorist Robert Vischer argued that when we look at a painting, we "feel ourselves into it" by imagining our body in the posture of a nonhuman or inanimate object in the painting. For example, the painting "The Solitary Tree" by Caspar David Friedrich shows a tree with contorted, barren limbs. In looking at that painting, we imagine our limbs in a similarly contorted and barren shape, and that creates a feeling in us of strain and distress. Nonlinguistic metaphors may be the foundation of our experience of visual, musical, dance, and other art forms.
- ^ a b The Oxford Companion to the English Language (1992) pp.653–55: "A rhetorical figure with two senses, both originating with Aristotle in the 4c BC: (I) All figures of speech that achieve their effects through association, comparison and resemblance. Figures like antithesis, hyperbole, metonymy and simile are [in that sense] all species of metaphor. [But] this sense is not current, ..."
- ^ Zapp Brannigan (Character) – Quotes
- ^ Aristotle in 23 Volumes, Vol. 23, translated by W.H. Fyfe. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1932, 1457b.
- ^ Aristotle, Poetics, trans. I. Bywater, in The Complete Works of Aristotle, ed. Jonathan Barnes (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984), vol 2, 1457b.
- ^ Aristotle: Poetics. Translated by Stephen Halliwell; Longinus: On the Sublime; Demetrius: On Style (Loeb Classical Library No. 199), 1996, 1457b.
- ^ Cf. Joachim Grzega (2004), Bezeichnungswandel: Wie, Warum, Wozu? Ein Beitrag zur englischen und allgemeinen Onomasiologie, Heidelberg: Winter, and Blank, Andreas (1997), Prinzipien des lexikalischen Bedeutungswandels am Beispiel der romanischen Sprachen, Tübingen: Niemeyer.
- ^ See, for example, Vilayanur S Ramachandran, Reith Lectures 2003 The Emerging Mind, lecture 4 "Purple Numbers and Sharp Cheese", BBC
- ^ "As You Like It": Entire play From: The Complete Works of William Shakespeare
- ^ "Cut" by Sylvia Plath From: The Sylvia Plath Forum
- ^ "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost From: Bartleby.com: Great Books Online
- ^ Lakoff G., Johnson M. (1980, 2003). Metaphors We Live By. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226468011.
- ^ a b Zoltán Kövecses. (2002) Metaphor: a practical introduction. Oxford University Press US. ISBN 9780195145113.
- ^ Lakoff, G. & Johnson, M. Metaphors We Live By (IL: University of Chicago Press, 1980), Chapters 1–3. (pp. 3–13).
- ^ Blechner, M. (2001) The Dream Frontier. Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press, p. 28
- ^ Meyer, L. (1956) Emotion and Meaning in Music. Chicago: University of Chicago Press
- ^ Blechner, M. (1988) Differentiating empathy from therapeutic action. Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 24:301-310.
- ^ Vischer, R. (1873) Über das optische Formgefühl: Ein Beitrag zur Aesthetik. Leipzig: Hermann Credner. For an English translation of selections, see Wind, E. (1963) Art and Anarchy. London: Faber and Faber.
- ^ Johnson, M. & Larson, S. (2003) "Something in the way she moves" -- Metaphors of musical motion. Metaphor and Symbol, 18:63-84
- ^ Whittock, T. (1992) The role of metaphor in dance. British Journal of Aesthetics, 32:242-249.
- This article incorporates material from the Citizendium article "Metaphor", which is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License but not under the GFDL.
- Stefano Arduini (2007). (ed.) Metaphors, Roma, Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura.
- Aristotle. Poetics. Trans. I. Bywater. In The Complete Works of Aristotle: The Revised Oxford Translation. (1984). 2 Vols. Ed. Jonathan Barnes. Princeton, Princeton University Press.
- I. A. Richards. (1936). The Philosophy of Rhetoric. Oxford, Oxford University Press.
- Max Black (1954). Metaphor, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 55, pp. 273–294.
- Max Black (1962). Models and metaphors: Studies in language and philosophy, Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
- Max Black (1979). More about Metaphor, in A. Ortony (ed) Metaphor & Thought.
- Clive Cazeaux (2007). Metaphor and Continental Philosophy: From Kant to Derrida. New York: Routledge.
- L. J. Cohen (1979). The Semantics of Metaphor, in A. Ortony (ed) Metaphor & Thought
- Donald Davidson. (1978). "What Metaphors Mean." Reprinted in Inquiries Into Truth and Interpretation. (1984), Oxford, Oxford University Press.
- Jacques Derrida (1982). "White Mythology: Metaphor in the Text of Philosophy." In Margins of Philosophy. Trans. Alan Bass. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.
- David Punter (2007). Metaphor, London, Routledge.
- Paul Ricoeur (1975). The Rule of Metaphor: Multi-Disciplinary Studies in the Creation of Meaning in Language, trans. Robert Czerny with Kathleen McLaughlin and John Costello, S. J., London: Routledge and Kegan Paul 1978. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press 1977)
- John Searle (1979). “Metaphor,” in A. Ortony (ed) Metaphor & Thought
- Lakoff, G. & Johnson, M. Metaphors We Live By (IL: University of Chicago Press, 1980), Chapters 1–3. (pp. 3–13).
- History of metaphor on In Our Time at the BBC. (listen now)
- A short history of metaphor
- Audio illustrations of metaphor as figure of speech
- Center for the Cognitive Science of Metaphor Online
- Critical Inquiry (Autumn 1978) Special Issue: On Metaphors
- Top Ten Metaphors of 2008
- Shakespeare's Metaphors
- Metaphor Examples (categorized)
- Metaphor's Algebra
- List of ancient Greek words starting with μετα-, on Perseus
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