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1 The Mechanics of Metaphor: Discussing Austerity and Political Crisis Patrick Hanks Research Institute for Information and Language Processing, University.

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Presentation on theme: "1 The Mechanics of Metaphor: Discussing Austerity and Political Crisis Patrick Hanks Research Institute for Information and Language Processing, University."— Presentation transcript:

1 1 The Mechanics of Metaphor: Discussing Austerity and Political Crisis Patrick Hanks Research Institute for Information and Language Processing, University of Wolverhampton; Bristol Centre for Linguistics, University of the West of England

2 Questions addressed in this talk What role does figurative language play in journalistic reporting—in particular, reporting the Euro crisis and the austerity measures supposedly intended to deal with it? –Case studies from The Guardian of 27 Feb How does figurative language work? What is its function? Why do people use metaphors, similes, and other forms of figurative language? How is it structured? How is a metaphor different from a literal meaning? 2

3 How to study metaphor? Speculation based on introspection and intuition? Text linguistics? Analyse corpus evidence? –But then how do we know what bits of evidence from the corpus to select? 3

4 Metaphor is a contrastive notion Can there be metaphors if there are no literal meanings? Are metaphors really just similes with the preposition ‘like’ omitted? 4

5 Media Text metaphors Pictorial metaphors –Especially in cartoons and advertisements –Cf. presentations of Tsaknaki and Tziafa, also Negrea-Busuioc, this workshop –Cf. also Charles Forceville (1994), ‘Pictorial Metaphor in Advertisements’ in Metaphor and Symbolic Activity 9: 1. 5

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7 Apparatus: some different kinds of figurative language Conceptual metaphors –GOOD is UP; LIFE is a JOURNEY; POLITICS is a GAME; AUSTERITY is a MAD DOG; AUSTERITY is a (POISONOUS) MEDICINE; etc. –“Our ordinary conceptual system is fundamentally metaphorical in nature.”—Lakoff and Johnson (1980) Linguistic metaphors (and similes) –Conventional –Novel –Extended metaphors, e.g. Mr Panks as a tugboat in Dickens’ Little Dorrit. [Not forgetting metonymy; zeugma, hyperbole; irony, sarcasm; etc.] 7

8 Case studies The Guardian, 27 February 2013 Front page lead story by Ian Traynor, John Hooper, and Philip Inman: EU in turmoil as Italy halts austerity plan Comment page feature by Simon Jenkins: Italy’s voters may yet shake the whole European system –Subsequently re-titled : Beppe Grillo’s antics may yet shake the whole European system [In each case, the headline, the subheading, and subsequently the whole story were re-written several times during the course of the day. My analysis is based on the printed texts pubished on paper on the day of issue.] 8

9 9 Some conventional metaphors in these two articles Poll fallout hits markets / Poll fallout hits markets / Poll fallout hits markets Budget cuts aimed at saving the Euro... retooling the European economy The governing stalemate in Rome …... caretaker prime minister Mario Monti... spending cuts and tax rises dictated by the Eurozone would grind to a halt Fears that the deadlock will lengthen Italy’s near two-year recession and spill over into the rest of the Eurozone … Italian... rejection of spending cuts and tax rises opened up a stark new fissure in European politics … … risking a re-eruption of the Euro crisis

10 Conceptual metaphors in these articles? AUSTERITY is an (unexploded) BOMB/VOLCANO/ EARTHQUAKE GOVERNMENT is a GAME OF CHESS A country’s ECONOMY is a PROCESS What about: –Re-tooling the economy? (The ECONOMY is a FACTORY (or a MACHINE)) –Budget cuts? (The ECONOMY is ROAST MEAT??) 10

11 11 Metaphor and creativity The outcome [of the Italian election] is an antidote … to the dogma of austerity that now has Europe’s economy by the throat. The only way of loosening its grip is through the ballot. The message is forget Keynes and take the medicine, even if it’s poison. His [Beppe Grillo’s] knockout blow was the ballot. … Change will only come … with “a sharp blow to the head” … from a blunt instrument. That instrument is the ballot. Darling of the bankers’ ramp, he [Mario Monti] was Super- Mario.

12 12 Conceptual metaphors These texts can be interpreted in terms of several pervasive conceptual metaphors, including: –AUSTERITY IS A MAD DOG. –POLITICAL REMEDIES ARE MUCH-NEEDED MEDICINE (AN ANTIDOTE TO RABIES). –(ITALIAN) POLITICS (AT THIS TIME OF POLITICAL CRISIS) IS VIOLENT AND HARMFUL, PERHAPS EVEN CRIMINAL, ACTIVITY. –POLITICIANS (IN PARTICULAR MARIO MONTI) ARE BANKERS’ TOYS / TOYBOYS.

13 Super-Mario Monti 13

14 Structural analysis of similes My grandma has eyes like Superman’s, they bore right through you. – Sue Townsend (1982), The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole. –Topic: Adrian’s grandma’s eyes –Vehicle: Superman’s eyes –Event or state (verb): [having eyes] –Shared property: They bore right through you –Comparator: like 14

15 Does such structural analysis work for metaphors, too? Leaving the euro is the key that unlocks the prison door. –Topic: [The Italian people/economy] –Event or state: leaving the euro –Shared property: [escape from a bad situation] –Comparator: -- –Vehicle: key that unlocks a prison door 15

16 More structural analysis... the dogma of austerity that now has Europe’s economy by the throat. –Topic: the dogma of austerity –Vehicle: [mad dog that attacks and bites people] –Event or state (verb): has Europe’s economy by the throat –Shared property (implicit): [does harm to people] –Comparator: – This seems rather forced. Does not work very well. 16

17 How many conceptual metaphors can you have in one article? What is/are the underlying conceptual metaphor(s) in the following sentences from the same articles? –The Italian economy had to be waterboarded. –Leaving the Euro is the key that unlocks the prison door. –Leaders (and their bankers) claim that austerity is a “necessary” punishment. –Despite being outside the Euro straitjacket, Britain… –A classic vicious circle: sooner or later, austerity becomes an end, not a means: obsessive self- flagellation. 17

18 Another attempted analysis The Italian economy had to be waterboarded. It shrank by at least 2.2% last year. –Topic: The Italian economy –Vehicle: [prisoners tortured by the Khmer Rouge, the CIA, and other quasi-criminal government agencies] –Event or state: It shrank by at least 2.2% –Shared property: [forced to suffer] –Comparator: -- 18

19 19 Creativity These finance ministers are like Aztec priests. If the blood sacrifice fails to deliver rain, there must be more blood....They [Europe’s leaders] are doing it [imposing austerity, which will result in economic depression] to themselves, voluntarily, in obeisance to the gods of confidence, who long ago abandoned them. Economists are to modern government what doctors were to tobacco companies, as good as the last fee.

20 Structure (4) These finance ministers are like Aztec priests. If the blood sacrifice fails to deliver rain, there must be more blood....They [Europe’s leaders] are doing it to themselves, voluntarily, in obeisance to the gods of confidence, who long ago abandoned them. [ Conceptual metaphor: AUSTERITY has become a RELIGIOUS BELIEF] Economists are to modern government what doctors were to tobacco companies, as good as the last fee. 20

21 Some first conclusions, tentatively Similes have linguistic structure. Many metaphors (including most of those in these articles) depend on an underlying conceptual structure. The relationships (cognitive/linguistic; metaphor/simile) are still very unclear. 21

22 22 What‘s the different between metaphorical and literal meaning? Is the most frequent sense necessarily literal? –No! Consider backfire, launch. Historical priority? –No! Consider awful, ardent, camera,... literal. Concrete, not abstract? –Yes – if there is a concrete sense (but cf. idea). –A word can have two or more literal senses (with no resonance between them): cf. subject, object. Absence of cognitive resonance with some other „literal“ sense of the same expression? –Metaphors resonate. Literal uses don‘t.

23 How are similes different from metaphors? Similes have an explicit comparator (like, as... as, resemble, etc.). Similes often have comparatively little semantic content. They are often just attention-getting devices, designed to wake the reader up and get his/her attention. As outrageous as possible The vehicle is often irrealis (scream like a banshee, [an event] like a fairy story, skin like a princess,...) Also used to explain the new (unfamiliar situation) in terms of the given (pre-existing knowledge). 23

24 24 Dictionary definitions of ‘simile’ (New) Oxford Dictionary of English (1998, 2003): simile: a figure of speech involving the comparison of one thing with another thing of a different kind, used to make a description more emphatic or vivid (e.g. as brave as a lion) Merriam Webster’s 10th Collegiate (1993): simile: a figure of speech comparing two unlike things that is often introduced by like or as (as in cheeks like roses) What the dictionaries don’t say: What is the relation between simile and metaphor? How is a simile structured? And what is it for? The vehicle is often fantastic or unreal (a banshee, a zombie, a fairy tale, a princess, a demented lighthouse, a broiled frog), not a real-world thing

25 The main uses of like, preposition To compare: John is like his father –MrPett had been like a father to him –(An exclusive set: Mr Pett was not his father) To make an ad-hoc set: people like doctors and lawyers –An inclusive set, i.e. it includes doctors and lawyers To report perceptions: looks like, tastes like, smells like, sounds like, feels like, seems like –His mouth tasted like the bottom of a parrot’s cage. –It felt like velvet. And to report feelings/emotions: –I felt like a fool, I felt like hitting him 25

26 26 Distribution of similes in text Non-fiction: Jon Lee Anderson: The Fall of Baghdad (2005). Very factual style, few similes. Three main clusters: –pp (8 similes). Saddam’s Iraq. E.g.: He simply appeared and vanished again -- like the visitation of a divinity. –pp (4 similes). Bombs start to fall. E.g.: debris everywhere, which looked shorn, as if a giant rake had come along and torn off the top layer of earth. –p Battle comes to the city. E.g. a rhythmic noise, like a great steel drum being pounded mechanically,... a huge crackling roar, like metallic popcorn popping.

27 Why do people use figurative language? [TO FOLLOW] 27

28 Exploiting conventional metaphor She fired an opening smile across Celia's desk. (BNC) Does this just mean ‘She smiled at Celia’? Evidently, it’s more than that. It also exploits two conventional metaphors: Fire the opening shot (in a conflict) Fire a shot across someone’s bows Be glad that you are not Celia! 28

29 Davidson’s error “All metaphors are false (like lies)” –The speaker deliberately says something false, to alert the hearer to some salient property of the topic. Donald Davidson (1978): What Metaphors Mean –So far, so good. “All similes are trivially true: e verything is like everything else.” –Yes, but some things are more alike than others Davidson seems to assume comparison with real, experienceable things. But the vehicle of many similes is not an experiential reality at all. 29

30 Not an experiential Gestalt Lakoff & Johnson (1980) claim that cognitive metaphors are based on “an experiential Gestalt” – i.e. that we interpret the world in terms of everyday experience. –Probably not true of all metaphors; certainly not true of similes. EXAMPLE: The Italian economy had to be waterboarded. –It’s not an everyday experience of anyone, even in America, to waterboard people, nor to be waterboarded. –But we do read about people being waterboarded. –We interpret the world in terms of collective linguistic experience. 30

31 Logical and analogical A natural language consists of a puzzling mixture of logical and analogical procedures Neglect of the analogical aspect has led to serious errors –E.g. the quest for precise definition in ontologies currently being designed for the Semantic Web In ordinary language people make new meanings by comparing one thing with another and by creating ad-hoc sets –Not merely by asserting identity –Nor by conforming exactly to conventional phraseology –Vagueness is an important principle of natural language Danger of confusing language with mathematical logic 31

32 We need to re-examine the relationship between language and logic The theory of norms and exploitations (TNE) argues that: Talk of an "underlying logical form" of an utterance is pernicious. What "underlies" linguistic behaviour is a set of behavioural regularities -- phraseological patterns. One of the many things that people do with these patterns is to make logics. They do other things too – notably, use language patterns for social interaction. 32

33 A usage-based, corpus-driven theory of language TNE research indicates that language is indeed a rule-governed system BUT: There are two sets of rules, not just one: 1.Rules for using words normally, “correctly”, boringly 2.Rules for exploiting normal patterns of word use. Exploitations include not only metaphors and similes, but ellipsis, anomalous arguments, irony, etc. etc. The two rule systems interact. Today’s exploitation may become tomorrow’s norm. –Compare Bowdle and Gentner (2005): ‘the Career of Metaphor’. The rules are probabilistic, not deterministic. Hanks, P. (2013): Lexical Analysis: Norms and Exploitations. MIT Press. 33


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