Monday, September 26, 2011

Zoltán Kövecses: "Anger" (1995)

Looking back at the case study on anger metaphors in Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things (1987), Zoltán Kövecses clarifies and elaborates his views on the respective roles of culture and body in the shaping of languages.

He reiterates that human physiology constrains metaphor systems (p. 195), but now also concedes that "there may be differences between cultures in both conceptualized and real physiology" (p. 193). Thus, upon reflection, he admits that concepts are "influenced by both culture and the human body" (p. 182).

The assertion that anger may differ physiologically across cultures is followed by a reference to a paper by Robert C. Solomon, "Getting Angry" (1984). From what I gather, the paper contains some anthropological reflection on William James' theory of emotions.

The paper is written partly as a response to Dirk Geeraerts and Stefan Gondelaers' contribution to the same volume, "Looking back at anger."

Geeraerts and Gondelaers' point is (according to Kövecses' summary) that the fluid concepts for anger in English are actually remnants of the medieval theory of the humors, in which moods were explained in terms of imbalances between bodily fluids.

Kövecses' paper seems quite sound and insightful. I would perhaps only add that separating body and culture appears increasingly difficult given that bodies differ, body images differ, and that behavior depends on both.

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