Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Glucksberg and Keysar: "Understanding metaphorical Comparisons" (1990)

In a critique of Ortony's imbalance model, Sam Glucksberg and Boaz Keysar suggest that metaphorical vehicles are shorthands for ad hoc categories without conventional names. My job is a jail thus states that my job is a member of some category which is characterized by having a jail as a central member.

As far as I can see, they do not solve the problem of how this ad hoc category is constructed, but they hint in the direction of some kind of Gricean repair process. A jail is for instance both a prototypical punishment and a prototypical type of confinement, but we somehow select an appropriate candidate from this list.

They do not address the issue of why this process occurs so rapidly, and I think they are open to much of the psychologically motivated criticism that Grice himself is subject to.

The paper is interesting for bringing back conversation and communication in the discussion (see especially pp. 15-16). Lakoff and Johnson sometimes read metaphors as if they have no other role than to express well-established correspondences. This essentially builds irrelevance into the definition.

Glucksberg and Keysar also briefly mention the fact that people and names can act like source domain (pp. 15-16). They thus discuss the difference between utterances like the following three:
  • Xiao-Dong is a Bela Lugosi (= like that type of actor)
  • Xiao-Dong is like a Bela Lugosi (= somewhat like that type of actor)
  • Xiao-Dong is like Bela Lugosi (= like that particular person)

The paper as a whole is a good example of the para-Lakoff/Johnsonian theory of metaphor stemming from Andrew Ortony and to some extent co-existing with it with very little interaction.

No comments :

Post a Comment