Presentation on theme: "Metaphor-metonymy in grammar & beyond First Symposium on Figurative Language and Thought Cognitive Linguistics Reading Group Thessaloniki, 25-26 April."— Presentation transcript:
Metaphor-metonymy in grammar & beyond First Symposium on Figurative Language and Thought Cognitive Linguistics Reading Group Thessaloniki, 25-26 April Ioannis Veloudis Dept. of Linguistics School of Philology Aristotle University
1. Thepeak shift effect In his brilliant book The Tell-Tale Brain: Unlocking the Mystery of Human Nature V.S. Ramachandran (2011) argues for a universal law of aesthetics relating to brains responses to exaggerated stimuli: the peak shift effect. Let me share with you the following three instances of his law.
(a) The herring gull The gull chick soon after it hatches from the egg, begs for food by pecking vigorously on the red spot on the mothers beak. The mother then regurgitates half-digested food into her chicks gaping mouth. […] http://naturemappingfoundation.org/natmap/facts/western_gull_712.html
How now does it happen that the chick recognises its mom and begs for food from no other animal thats passing by?
During his pioneering work on seagulls in the 1950s, the Nobel Prize- winning ethologist Nikolaas Tinbergen found that to elicit this begging behavior in the chick you dont really need a mother seagull. When he waved a disembodied beak in front of the chick, it pecked at the red spot just as vigorously […]
The story of the experiment does not end here, though: […] In fact Tinbergen found that you dont even need a beak, Ramachandran reports; you can just have a rectangular strip of cardboard with a red dot on the end, and the chick will beg for food equally vigorously.
[…] But the best was yet to come. To his amazement, Tinbergen found that if he had a very long thick stick with three red stripes on the end, the chick goes berserk, pecking at it much more intensely than at a real beak. It actually prefers this strange pattern, which bears almost no resemblance to the original! Tinbergen doesnt tell us why this happens, but its almost as though the chick had stumbled on a superbeak […]. (Ramachandran 2011, 210)
(b) The rat A rat taught to prefer a rectangle to a square in a hypothetical experiment, reacts in a quite unexpected way when shown with a fresh, quite abnormal, longer and skinnier, rectangle: amazingly, it prefers this new one to the familiar rectangle, although it is only the latter that, after a few dozens of trials, has been associated with food: The more you emphasize the contrast between the rectangle and the square Ramachandran comments the more attractive it is, so when shown the long skinny one the rat thinks, Wow! What a rectangle. (Ramachandran 2011, 206-207)
(c) Nixon [Y]ou take all those features of Nixon that make his face special and different from the average face, such as his big nose and shaggy eyebrows, and you amplify them. […] By doing this you have created a picture thats even more Nixon-like than the original Nixon! (Ramachandran 2011, 207) The Editorial Cartoons of Edmund S. Valtman, 1961-1991. Baltimore, MD: Esto, Inc., 1991, p. 42
rasa Obviously, the instances of the peak shift effect presented above show that in some cases distortion proves to be much more persuasive, and appealing, than the real thing itself. The question is, and Ramachandran poses it, what these some cases are. Sanskrit rasa lies in the core of his answer. This word is difficult to translate, he explains, but roughly it means capturing the very essence, the very spirit of something, in order to evoke a specific mood or emotion in the viewers brain (2011, 198).
The characteristics of our non-verbalised cases of the peak shift effect: addressing to something or somebody metonymic representation (PART FOR WHOLE: e.g., red spot for mom) distorting exaggeration (: red spot reaches its highest development in a stripe, or, even more, in stripes, etc.) rasa-sensitive selection (the part-to-be-distorted is always the hallmark of the relevant whole: e.g., rectangularity for rectangle) excitement-persuasion (more substantial mom, more authentic rectangle, more intriguing Nixon)
(d) LEPI (δen pjasame)! To these non-verbalised cases of exaggeration I will add a linguistic example of emphatic negation, LEPI δen pjasame! we caught not even a SCALE!, or simply LEPI! SCALE!, counting it as a fourth instance of the peak shift effect. Consider the following piece of a Greek dialogue: –– Pjasate psaria? Did you catch any fish? –– LEPI (δen pjasame)! (We caught not even a) SCALE! Responding in this way the Greek speaker strongly denies that they had any luck in fishing. What is it however that makes either version of this denial eligible for our consideration?
peak shift effect and emphatic negation A distinctive feature of something is quantitatively amplified in order to qualitatively upgrade that something in all three instances of Rama- chandrans peak shift effect. Can we maintain that the same holds as far as our linguistic example is concerned? In other words, is negation the upgraded something in LEPI δen pjasame! we caught not even a SCALE!, or simply LEPI! SCALE!
In my view, our negative sentence actually corresponds to the minor premise, Q, of a metonymically inspired occurrence of modus [tollendo] tollens PQ Q P If (it is true that) we caught (any) fish, then (it is true that) we caught (at least) a scale. We caught not (even) a SCALE (: LEPI δen pjasame!) Therefore, (it is not true that) we caught (any) fish.
LEPI δen pjasame! profiles the distinctive PART (minor premise) of modus tollens and metonymically stands for the WHOLE logical sequence. Thats why its profound meaning has nothing to do with scales in particular: it is actually an amplification of the proposition we caught no fish – an amplification because this proposition, being event-ually the conclusion of a valid argument, is in fact guaranteed by the logic itself, not simply by a human locution (see Veloudis 1998). In other words, LEPI δen pjasame! looks like the fake beak that a curious ethologist waves lively in front of the waiting chicks. LEPI! profiles the distinctive feature of fish, at the metonymic expense of the whole negative sentence, and furthermore of the WHOLE modus; and does so in the same distorting way as the red stripes profile the distinctive feature of mom, at the expense of the whole bearing beak, and furthermore of the WHOLE seagull.
the very essence of denial This is now where the very essence of denial lies in either version of the speakers response. Probably, to our mind scale is not only the most inedible part of a fish, and thus the part that we always dispense with, but also the ultimate manifestation of the very presence-existence of fish. This being the case, we can easily see what the minor premise in the logical sequence above actually does: it abundantly, as well as needlessly, erases something that, normally, we would hardly enumerate among the truth conditions of the proposition we caught no fish.
To summarize, The common denominator of our instances of the peak shift effect is apparently the qualitative upgrade of a WHOLE (: mom, rectangle, Nixon, proposition we caught no fish) by means of the quantitative upgrade of a PARTicular, distinctive, characteristic (: red spot, rectangularity, nose- eyebrows, scale). One might readily recognise the interaction of metaphor (GOOD IS UP) with metonymy (PART FOR WHOLE) here: UP-PART for GOOD- WHOLE. The emotional aspect that can be detected in all four cases should not pass unnoticed, though: this metaphor-metonymy mix apparently goes hand in hand with feeling-sensation.
Wow! Wow! What a rectangle! is, according to Ramachandran (2011, 207), what the rat thinks, when shown the distorted, skinnier, version of the rectangle, as we saw above. And this emotional response remains unchanged as we move up to our distorted, lacking even the proper negative particle, version of negation LEPI! SCALE!: Wow! What a denial! is what the hearer thinks when the speaker reacts in this peculiar way. To restrict myself to this one- word exemplification of the peak shift effect, How can we explain its emotional aura? What is it that makes SCALE! fancier than a typical negative utterance such as We caught no fish? Why do we like LEPI! more as a denying response, although it apparently has nothing to do with negation? In my view, questions like these ask for a reevaluation of the metaphor- metonymy relationship.
2. The interaction between metaphor and metonymy Paying his debts to Donald Winnicotts seminal Playing and Reality, André Green concludes his discussion of the intuition of the negative as follows: Let us go back for a while to prehistoric representations. This is not speculation, like the earliest mother-baby relationship of which we know very little, in fact. Here we have evidence. Prehistoric man designed all sorts of drawings in his caves: finger printings, representations of women with large breasts, wild animals, mammoths, rhinoceros, lions etc. But on some parts of the ceiling of the caves there were other representations: what prehistorians call negative hands. To represent the hands, prehistoric man used two devices. The simplest was to paint the hand and to make an impression on the wall, leaving a direct trace of it. The second was more indirect and sophisticated. Here the hand that draws does not draw itself. Instead it places it on the wall of the cave and spreads the colours all around it. Then it separates from the wall, and a non- drawn hand appears. Such could be the result of the physical separation from the mother's body. Prehistoric man did not wait for us to know what the negative is about. (1997, 1082)
two opposite ways of representation We can agree that these artifacts sketch two opposite ways of representation (prehistoric)world-wide: The simple version, we may call it positive hand, represents a self introducing hand, i.e. a free, live, instantaneous, independent existence. By contrast, the more sophisticated version, the so-called negative hand, highlights in excess what was already, and tacitly, present in the previous representation, i.e. the otherwise invisible borderline that put a defining end to the impressed hand: this time, it is the surrounding surface that introduces the hand, which loses its omnipotence, so to speak, and depends on something else in order to be what it actually is. In this sense, the double representations on the cave walls are well balanced: what the one emphasises is downplayed by the other.
We can speak of positive hand (and negative outline) in the case of the simple version:
And, conversely, we can speak of positive outline (and negative hand) in the case of the more sophisticated version:
Prehistoric man did not wait for us to… To my mind, the ancient handprints can by no means be considered simply spontaneous or even naïve performances. They beautifully touch upon fundamental issues that science did not consider until very recently. Green has already made a pertinent suggestion at the end of his paper: Prehistoric man did not wait for us to know what the negative is about. Leaving aside the alleged Freudian implications of the imprints, I would like to ask in the same vein: What are the linguistically interesting things that the prehistoric man did not wait for us to know about?
Saussure Saussures associative and syntagmatic relations, as well as their inter- dependence, can be said to be artfully depicted by the simple and the more sophisticated, respectively, version of the handprints. The colourful impression on the cave wall, our positive hand, relates in absentia to a potential mnemonic series of skillful, manual achieve- ments, or, maybe, to dexterity and ultimately to self-awareness and self-presentation; it can possibly evoke them in the same way as a word can always evoke everything that can be associated with it in one way or another, to recall Saussures original description of associative relations (1974, 123, 126). On the other hand, the negative hand relates in praesentia to its highlighted two-dimensional outline, acquiring its value only because it stands in opposition to everything that [surrounds] it, to slightly paraphrase Saussures original description of syntagmatic relations (emphasis mine).
Peirce The unsophisticated alternative, the genuine impression on the cave wall, being in fact an iconic sign, reflects to a large extent Peirces Firstness, i.e. the mode of being which he describes as the being of positive qualitative possibility. According to the philosopher, pragmatist and logician, A sign by Firstness has no dynamical connection with the object it represents; it simply happens that its qualities resemble those of that object, and excite analogous sensations in the mind for which it is a likeness. But it really stands unconnected with them. (1955, 105, CP 2.277; reported in Melrose 1995, 496) A relation in absentia, we would say, as the possibility of an icons association with its object rests with the mediation of a sensitive mind for which the qualities of the former resemble those of the latter. The [F]irst is predominant in feeling, as distinct from objective perception Peirce declares (emphasis mine) and we can admit that I am my hand was possibly the relevant prehistoric feeling that positive hands were intended to express on a bodily and universal basis.
On the other hand, the more sophisticated alternative, the positive outline, being in fact an indexical sign, reflects Peirces Secondness, i.e. the mode of being which he describes as the being that is open to objective observation, the being of actual fact. Actuality is something brute […] the American intellectual comments. To immediately explain: We have a two-sided consciousness of effort and resistance, which seems to me to come tolerably near to a pure sense of actuality […] (1955, 76, CP 1.24; reported in Melrose 1995, 494). Effort and resistance, we would say, like those depicted at the defining borderline of the negative hand, where the latter acquires its value only because it stands in opposition to everything that dynamically, in praesentia, surrounds it. [T]he real is that which insists on forcing its way to recognition Peirce remarks: [The index and its object] make an organic pair, but the interpreting mind has nothing to do with this connection, except remarking it after it is established. (1955, 114, CP 2.299; reported in Melrose 1995, 497; emphasis mine). And we can admit that it is eventually this recognition that the highlighted outline displays in the more sophisticated version: the original positive hand is no more there by itself; on the contrary, something else now undertakes the task of showing what it actually stood for from the very beginning: a positive qualitative possibility (hence the negativity of its wiser representation).
Wittgenstein We have almost touched Wittgensteins solipsism in his Tractatus. To witness this, it suffices to substitute the external world for the negative hand and the thinking subject for the highlighted positive outline. The thinking, presenting subject; there is no such thing in the world, the Austrian philosopher states (5.631). To illustrate immediately: If I wrote a book The world as I found it, I should also have therein to report on my body and say which members obey my will and which do not, etc. This then would be a method of isolating the subject or rather of showing that in an important sense there is no subject: that is to say, of it alone in this book mention could not be made. The subject does not belong to the world but it is a limit of the world he recapitulates (5.632). To explain again: 5.633 Where in the world is a metaphysical subject to be noted? You say that this case is altogether like that of the eye and the field of sight. But you do not really see the eye. And from nothing in the field of sight can it be concluded that it is seen from an eye.
Langacker Seventy years later, to explicate his own understanding of subjectification Ronald Langacker, suggested the following thought experiment (Rohrer 2007, 26): Consider the glasses I normally wear. If I take them off, hold them in front of me, and examine them, their construal is maximally objective […] they function solely and completely as the object of perception […] By contrast, my construal of the glasses is maximally subjective when I am wearing them and examining another object, so that they fade from my conscious awareness […] The glasses then function exclusively as part of the subject of perception – they are one component of the perceiving apparatus, but are not themselves perceived […] Of course, such extreme polarization represents an ideal that may seldom be achieved in practice. (1990, 316) In my view, this ideal is to a large extent achieved by the alternative prehistoric handprints: much on a par with Langackers glasses, the outline of the hand may fade from our conscious awareness, as in the simple version, or, conversely, may be put to direct observation, as in the more sophisticated version
Jakobson In his seminal account of the metaphoric and the metonymic poles, Roman Jakobson (2003, 41) points out that The development of a discourse may take place along two different semantic lines: one topic may lead to another either through their similarity or through their contiguity. The metaphoric way would be the most appropriate term for the first case and the metonymic way for the second, since they find their most condensed expression in metaphor and metonymy respectively. It would be tempting to suggest that in the last analysis the alternative prehistoric handprints represent in a minimal, bodily and universal way the dimensions of narration-conceptualisation; they actually narrate over something (the self?) along the complementary semantic lines of similarity and contiguity. In this sense, we can possibly agree that an important issue the prehistoric man did not wait for us to know about is the relationship between conceptual metaphor and metonymy.
The playful perspective polarization I will argue below for two premises: metaphor and metonymy have their roots in the perspective polarization that the cave handprints exemplify the perspective polarization that the cave handprints exemplify is playful aiming at their probable consequent metaphor and metonymy are a matter of play, in the first place
The 1 st premise The positive hand of the simple version associates to something similar but not present, i.e. to human hand or, possibly, to being a human (self- awareness/self-presentation), while the positive outline of the sophisticated version associates to something dissimilar but present on the same wall surface, as a negative hand, or possibly, as a negative, so to speak, human being. Or, else: association, the common denominator of the two representations, relies either on similarity to something missing or to contiguity to something present. To rephrase it in terms of Peirce (as reported in Melrose 1995, 496), we have association by resemblance in the first case and association by contiguity in the second case.
It is obvious what this complementary characterisation amounts to: Tens of thousands of years ago, the alternative handprints insightfully put their fingers on the analysis of metaphor as a two-domain mapping and of metonymy as a one-domain mapping, in accordance with todays outstanding cognitive linguists. Besides, being executed side by side on the cave walls, these prehistoric artifacts seem to be an early hint of a metaphor-metonymy closeness; that is, of an idea of continuum, the Jakobsonian idea in René Dirvens words (2003, 37), that the cognitive linguistics research deemed still premature even in the beginning of the current millennium.
As a matter of fact, our prehistoric ancestors in a sense taught us that the actual representation-conceptualization of a thing involves a tacitly present complementary representation-conceptualization of the same thing; and that this involvement is so decisive that the two representations-conceptual- izations are in fact interdependent-interchangeable. To put a linguistic example in the place of the handprints, recall for a moment John Taylors The pork chop left without paying (2003, 325): pork chop, being an actual, positive order, metonymically refers to an otherwise unknown, negative, so to speak, customer; it should not pass unnoticed, though, that a couple of minutes ago the same order simply constituted the negative outline of this persons being a positive customer, tacitly making her/him look like a (particular) customer. We would need the genius of M.C. Escher to repeat the prehistoric achievement of satisfactorily representing this interdependence-inter- changeability:
The 2 nd premise Try for a minute to visualise the execution of hand printing taking place in a cave. Imagine, in particular, a prehistoric woman, feeling free of any needs or other urgencies, and seeking rest or recreation and, why not, fun. After producing a couple of positive handprints, she impresses her co- specifics by calling them to move their focus of attention from the positive figure of the hand to its negative surroundings; to see her actual, given, imprints otherwise; to see them as inverted, negative hands; to see them in a new light, as Antonio Barcelona would have put it (2033, 226): instead of spreading pigment over the inner side of her hand, she places it clean on the wall and playfully blows a mixture of pigment around it.
Langackers example of the trumpet solo with piano accompaniment gives us a hint as to how her achievement may be understood: If a trumpet solo is performed with piano accompaniment, so that the trumpet part is the figure and the piano part the ground, I can focus attention on the piano part even while recognizing it as an accompaniment (ground). To go beyond this and achieve figure/ground reversal […], I would have to construe the performance as a piano solo with trumpet accompaniment. (1987, 122, fn 11; emphasis mine)
going beyond, seeing otherwise Our prehistoric instance of going beyond, of seeing otherwise, something already established, of seeing as or aspect seeing, as Wittgenstein would have put it, is no more than a simple speculation. However, a considerable piece of relevant, though indirect, historical evidence is in order. Τhe common style of painting on Greek vases since the 7 th century B.C., the black-figure pottery painting, reaches its limits by the end of the 6 th century B.C., after giving monumental examples of positive, so to speak, depiction, like that of Telamonian Ajax by the greatest of all Attic vase painters, Exekias:
Telamonian Ajax preparing his suicide. Exekias painter (550-525 B.C.)
And what happens then? Attic artists begin to abandon the old technique in favour of the reverse, the red-figure pottery painting. In particular, an anonymous student of master Exekias, referred to as the Andokides painter, has been credited with the invention of clay orange depictions on a black background, as in his negative representation of the struggle between Herakles and Apollo over the sacred tripod at Delphi:
The struggle between Herakles and Apollo over the sacred tripod at Delphi. The Andokides painter (530-520 B.C.) Berlin, Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz.
What makes this complementary substitution particularly interesting is that, during a transitional period, a series of experimental amphorae were produced, narrating the same scene in both the older black-figure style on the one side and the newer red-figure style on the other side. In recounting the same scene in two opposite technical languages, these new so-called bilingual vases hinted at the profound unity that characterizes complementary parts (for some particular linguistic manifestations of this unity see Radden 2003, 416, Veloudis 2012, 276ff and references therein). Here are two impressive examples of this novelty, both attributed to the Andokides painter:
front sideback side Bilingual Vases. The Andokides painter.
Piagets T To my mind, the student of Exekias is absolutely on a par with his prehistoric ancestor, our lady of the cave, as far as keen anxiety to seeing otherwise, and, through this, to reviving the given, and enjoying the relevant feeling, are concerned. And I would add that their parallel can be further enhanced, provided that we take into account Jean Piagets description of the playful renewal of perspective exercised by T., a baby of less than three months: […] T., at 0;2(21), adopted the habit of throwing his head back to look at familiar things from this new position […]. At 0;2(23 or 24) he seemed to repeat this movement with ever-increasing enjoyment and ever- decreasing interest in the external result: he brought his head back to the upright position and then he threw it back again time after time, laughing loudly. In other words, the circular reaction ceased to be serious or instructive, if such expressions can be applied to a baby of less than three months, and became a game. (Piaget 1962, 91; emphasis mine)
T. appears here to be aware of Langackers general statement (1987, 123) that a single shape/viewpoint specification is insufficient to characterize an object and that a family of such specifications (and the transformations relating them) is probably necessary. What impresses me most, however, is Piagets last remark: the circular reaction […] became a game. The alternate construal of the same scene in the service of laugh and enjoyment! To my mind, this is what this impressive piece of ontogenetic evidence amounts to in the first place, on a par with the doubled phylogenetic evidence of the prehistoric and the historic artists.
3. Back to the peak shift effect Recall again Langackers glasses. To some extent, he remarks, I can perceive my glasses even while wearing them while looking at something else, and to that extent their perceptual construal is slightly objective and less than fully subjective. Subjectivity/objectivity is often variable or a matter of degree, and it is precisely such cases that hold the greatest interest linguistically. (1990, 316) In my view, metaphor and metonymy conduct this interesting mix of the subjective with the objective. To be more precise, in the case of metaphor the similarity or, even more, the parallelism to something else is not objectively present, as a self-introducing, self-evident, independent relation: to remind you of Peirces notice, the interference of a mind for which it is a likeness is a requisite. Bartsch nicely balances this co-presence of subjectivity/objectivity by concluding: Therefore similarity under a perspective is a precondition for the creation of metaphor and a metaphor is not a precondition for the creation of similarity (2003, 69).
Likewise, in the case of metonymy, in particular PART-WHOLE metonymy, the selection of the PART is by no means arbitrary. [T]he relation between the metonymic source and the metonymic target should be regarded as contingent Klaus-Uwe Panther and Linda Thornburg remark (2007, 240), adding at the same time that properties of metonymic targets that are felt to be intrinsic or essential are likely to be exploited more systematically than properties that are seen as accidental (ibid., 257; emphasis mine). In other words, not just any PART will do: it has to be typical of the perspective formulated, as Bartsch (2003, 71) put it. Hands, lungs, knees, elbows, eyebrows etc., are equally parts of the human body. But in case the targeted WHOLE is workers in a factory, the appropriate vehicle cannot be other than hands. Doubling her conclusion with respect to metaphor, we can agree that contiguity under a perspective is a precondition for the creation of metonymy and a metonymy is not a precondition for the creation of contiguity.
The feeling (and neuronal) subject! Similarity and contiguity under a perspective, then. And it suffices to catch a glimpse at Bartschs description of perspective to see whom its formulation lies with: Primarily perspectives, as horizons of understanding situations, are provided by activities, desires, dispositions, and finally groups of activated neuronal fields, especially sensorial and pre-motor fields. Secondarily new perspectives are constructed on the basis of culturally established practices, tasks, and also processes of theory formation based on previously acquired knowledge and concept formation. (Bartsch 2003, 51; emphasis mine) The feeling (and neuronal) subject! This is what the four instances of the peak shift effect were meant to portray on the basis of instinctual (chicks), non- linguistic (rat, Nixons caricature) and linguistic (LEPI!) behaviour. In fact, the grounds of the respective responses were always, and in various degrees, slightly objective and less than fully subjective, to use Langackers wording.
I would consider, e.g., the perception construal of the fake beak as pretty objective, of the red spot on a strip as slightly objective, and of the three red stripes as almost fully subjective. Or, taking into account all four instances of the peak shift effect, I would consider Tinbergens three stripes and our LEPI! SCALE! the most almost fully subjective cases of perception construal among those discussed at the outset. They can hardly be said to have any straightforward relation to what they depict, i.e., mother seagull and negation, respectively.
Ramachandran Ramachandran asks (2011, 212): Why does it happen that the chicks brain goes Wow! What a sexy beak! in responding to the ultranormal stimulus of the three stripes? His answer goes: This brings me to my punch line about semiabstract or even abstract art for which no adequate theory has been proposed so far. Imagine that seagulls had an art gallery. They would hang this long thin stick with three stripes on the wall. They would call it a Picasso, worship it, fetishize it and pay millions of dollars for it, while all the time wondering why they are turned on by it so much, even though (and this is the key point) it doesnt resemble anything in their world. I suggest this is exactly what human art connoisseurs are doing when they look at or purchase abstract works of art; they are behaving exactly like the gull chicks.
In the same line, I would suggest that the Greek speakers, as language art connoisseurs, look at, and instantly buy, LEPI! as a piece of semiabstract or even abstract linguistic art, even though it doesnt resemble anything in the morpho-syntactic world of negation in Modern Greek. LEPI! can be plausibly enumerated among the extreme examples of playfully-innovatively seeing negation as. In any case, it cannot be accidental that nouns suggesting least quantity, exaggerated PARTicularities mostly, are a diachronic, and to a large extent cross-linguistic, means of stimulating, and artfully renewing, the force of negation (see Veloudis 2005 and references therein).
4. Epilogue Enriched with the parameter of enjoyment, Langackers general remark below could be said to satisfactorily unify all the instances I have been dealing with, from negative hand and red-figure amphora to Nixons caricature and LEPI! In each instance, there is a structure of special salience that in some sense derives its value through its departure from a standard or baseline situation; the asymmetry is that of an event detected against an established background. Obviously this type of asymmetry is fundamental to cognitive organization and not at all peculiar to language. It recalls not only figure/ground alignment […] but also the more general point that novel experience is structured and interpreted with reference to previous experience […] The ultimate objective of unifying these various notions –revealing them as manifestations of a single underlying asymmetry– should guide the further elaboration of this framework. (1987, 469; emphasis mine)
To my mind, Langackers "single underlying asymmetry is in fact the asymmetry of the play, as the latter is the locus par excellence of the fascinating rendezvous between imaginative, fanciful novelty, on the one hand, and given, authoritative background, on the other. In the same vein, I would consider metaphor and metonymy as the liveliest figures in this playground: their pertinent characteristic, i.e. association in terms of similarity and contiguity, always warrants that fancy novel experiences (: targets) are safely structured and interpreted with reference to previous experiences (: sources). In other words, that the fanciful departure (: red spot on a cardboard, skinnier rectangle, Nixons caricature, LEPI [en pjasame]!) from an already established background (: mom, typical rectangle, real Nixon, we caught no fish) will not lead us astray. Eschers famous Luft und Wasser could in fact be said to actualise this function of metaphor-metonymy; particularly in the middle, where similarity- contiguity are much more active:
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