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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The matter of metaphor and its importance for linguistics Wigod, Rebecca


This thesis reviews the current stylistic literature to gain support for a claim that figurative meaning in general and analogical metaphor in particular are integral processes of language and, as such, are of overriding concern to linguists. The first three chapters are devoted to defining the term 'metaphor' in "both broad and narrow senses and to locating figurative language (the broad sense of the term) within the rule-governed scheme that is language. The fourth chapter adds the notion that metaphor is the linguistic sphere's analogue to the dream as viewed by Freud. The fifth chapter, "Metaphoric Tension," seeks to explain how a metaphor operates. Most of the writers surveyed believe that a kind of tension is operative—a sort of turgor pressure which keeps the figure alive. This tension in turn is best analysed in terms of paired forces, whose impact is centripetal/centrifugal. While the two forces have been described in various ways and under different names, one can be characterized, broadly as generalizing and the other as particularizing. That is, every metaphor focusses sharply on the comparison it is making and at the same time suggests "wider and wider contexts" through "semantic plenitude of implication." Chapter Six discusses the extent to which the individual metaphor is a work of art. Art-object status can be accorded to metaphors partly because of the quasi-visual imagery and the symbolism that goes into their construction, and so imagery1s role in figurative speech is examined. In addition, since new metaphors are consciously created by writers (as opposed to frozen or inert metaphors, which are used unwittingly in speech), they are subject to the standards that judge any private artistic enterprise. Chapter Seven examines logic in metaphor, and finds that it is not a step-by-step quotidian logic at all. In keeping with the fact that greater creativity is permissible in metaphor, the matter of logic is relegated to a subordinate position. Thus, the words which best describe metaphor's logic, words like 'counterlogical,' 'infra-logical,' 'extra-logical,' and, of course, 'analogical,' all contain the element of 'logic,' but in bound form. The material presented in Chapters Five, Six and Seven has to do with the paired forces underlying metaphors, metaphors' imagery content and their elliptical logic. These peculiarities and others conspire to make metaphors most difficult to paraphrase in discursive language. Chapter Eight is devoted to the question of paraphrase. Chapter Nine documents a divergent strain of reasoning, which claims that metaphor is a heightened form of ordinary speech. This philosophy holds that metaphor exploits properties latent and untapped in the literal tongue. The tenth chapter concerns metaphor's cognitive abilities, which, it is generally agreed, are prodigious. It is shown that the analogy/(metaphor's prime constituent) is man's cognizing tool par excellence, indispensable in both science and art. The final chapter summarizes the foregoing and adds a cautionary rider indicating the possible misuses of metaphor. These drawbacks, it is concluded, are almost inconsiderable in light of the richness that figurative speech admits into language.

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