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Understanding Figurative LanguageFrom Metaphor to Idioms$
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Sam Glucksberg

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780195111095

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195111095.001.0001

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Concepts as Metaphors

Concepts as Metaphors

(p.90) 6 Concepts as Metaphors
Understanding Figurative Language

Sam Glucksberg

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the roles that metaphor might play in conceptual representation. Lakoff's conceptual metaphor theory argues that abstract concepts, such as “theory”, are understood in terms of concrete concepts such as “buildings” via the metaphor “theories are buildings”. Such metaphors underlie our ability to talk about theories in terms of buildings, e.g., “His theory has a weak foundation” or “The theory has a leaky roof”. Conceptual metaphor as a theory of conceptual representation is critically analyzed and found wanting on both theoretical and empirical grounds. Conceptual metaphor as a theory of metaphor and idiom comprehension is also critically examined. The available evidence is that people ordinarily understand metaphors and idioms without recourse to conceptual metaphoric mappings. However, when novel expressions such as “His bloated ego gobbled up his integrity and used the airwaves as a toilet” are encountered, then people may infer a metaphorical mapping between arrogance and digestion. The chapter concludes with a discussion of Whorf's linguistic relativity hypothesis in the context of theories of metaphor comprehension.

Keywords:   abstract concepts, concrete concepts, conceptual metaphor, conceptual representation, idiom comprehension, linguistic relativity, metaphor comprehension, metaphoric mappings, Whorf

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