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Today we have a very enlightening discussion about conceptual metaphors and how thinking about them can help you avoid a relex as well as have loads of fun in usage and translation.  Also, this will be William’s last episode for a while 🙁

Top of Show Greeting: Arahau

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9 Responses to “Conlangery #66: Conceptual Metaphors”

  1. MBR

    When I was reading about this in the LCK, I skimmed it because it horrified me. But I think I did something without even realizing it. In Hra’anh, words for dignity, respect, responsibility, etc. all derive from a single body part, the tail. Feteko and fetekhuza (dignity and responsibility, respectively) use old derivations that are lost to the modern language. Words that I haven’t yet created follow in the same vein: “lost your/his/her tail” essentially means that the person committed some sort of faux pas, or “lost my tail” or “stepped on my tail” would indicate embarrassment or admission of guilt. “Tailwhipped” means “humiliated”. I’m sure I’ll come up with more, but at least I know I can do it!

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  2. Matthew

    Would the way we think about luck be an example of conceptual metaphor? In English, we think of luck as something that can be good or bad as well as something that can come in certain amounts. In one of my conlangs I decided to remove the former perception, so that speakers think of luck as a purely positive thing that one either has a lot or a little of.

    Also, William, have you read Animal Dreams, by Barbara Kingsolver? It actually makes an interesting argument for why the liver as the center of emotion makes sense.

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  3. AlucardNoir

    Informative episode, but I feel the need to ask: how do you differentiated between metaphor and language in general? While I understand the difference between flock and people isn’t language in itself a metaphor for life? can you really have a language that is devoid of metaphor? can you have big without small, bigger without a baseline size to compare it to? to live and be successful don’t you need to compare present experiences with past one?

    I guess what I’m asking is what makes a cognitive metaphor different from any other day to day comparisons?

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    • wm.annis

      I guess what I’m asking is what makes a cognitive metaphor different from any other day to day comparisons?

      Simply having a point of comparison is not enough to make a conceptual metaphor. It’s not just needing something small to know what “big” is. Instead, one part of human experience is described in terms of an altogether different domain of human experience. For example, in PURPOSES ARE DESTINATIONS, we are taking the experience of traveling from one place to some other particular place, and mapping that onto the experience of achieving a goal. We make all sorts of day-to-day comparisons between events in the same domain. Metaphor comes into play when we jump domains — from an emotion to exploding engine parts — to explain things.

      can you really have a language that is devoid of metaphor?

      Englangers try, but they have a funny bootstrapping problem. Their non-metaphorical vocabulary will have to be defined in a metaphor-rich natlang.

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      • AlucardNoir

        As a person that has embraced linguistic relativism, I could never fully grasp conceptual metaphors nor for that matter understand their appeal, i would nonetheless like to thank you for taking the time to answer and increasing my interest in this topic.

        PS. still don’t think you can have a language without metaphor, maybe something simple like a pigeon but even that tends to be a little more complex then mere animal communication and simple code (as language is so often described)

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  4. Anthony Docimo

    Are metaphors one of the features which pidgins and creoles lose, or do they retain metaphors from their parent languages?

    I finally bought myself a copy of _Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things_. (the first book that made me realize that the word “face” could mean “in front of” and that “head” could mean “the top of” and also “above”)

    (everything else is gone – something ate my original post)

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    • wm.annis

      Are metaphors one of the features which pidgins and creoles lose, or do they retain metaphors from their parent languages?

      What an interesting question. The only thing I could find in a quick search is a presentation suggesting that a good diagnostic to distinguish a creole from a pidgin is that a creole will have and use conceptual metaphors, while a pidgin will not have them (too likely to be misinterpreted).

      Reply

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