Term Paper, 2012
22 Pages, Grade: 1,0
2. Metaphor Theory
2.1 The Objectivist View of Metaphor
2.2 The Contemporary View of Metaphor
3. Sexual metaphors: A cross-linguistic overview
3.1 Source domain: HEAT
3.2 Source domain: HUNGER/EATING
3.3 Source domain: ANIMAL
3.5 Source domain: INSANITY
3.6 Source domains: SPORT and MACHINE
3.6 Summary and Juxtaposition
4.1 Mapping: LUST IS HEAT
4.2 Mappings: LUST IS HEAT / SEX IS EATING
4.3 Mapping: A SEXUAL ACTOR IS AN ANIMAL
4.4 Non-universal source domains
7. Internet sources
8. Declaration of Originality / Eigenständigkeitserklärung
When it comes to expressing the more intangible aspects of life, languages tend to employ the instruments of metaphor and metonymy in order to relate attributes of more concrete phenomena to the abstract phenomenon in question. This is especially true when the vast field of human emotions is concerned. With the world’s languages differing in a myriad of ways in all sub-categories of structure-focused linguistics one might expect that the range of metaphors found in different languages should be just as limitless. Interlingual examinations of the metaphors used for articulating emotions, however, suggest that there are limits on the communicative resources employed (see Emanatian 1995, 163). In this paper I want to explore the idea that even completely unrelated languages may have a bias towards the use of certain communicative resources when certain universal human emotions are to be expressed linguistically. I want to take a closer look at common metaphors used for the articulation of lust and attitudes towards sex in four different languages, detect parallels and differences and propose that the three semantic domains of EATING, HEAT, and ANIMALS, might be cross-culturally favored as vehicles for conceptualizing feelings of lust and desire. I will argue that even completely unrelated cultures and languages tend to draw on these three metaphorical domains when attitudes towards sex and sexual activities are to be articulated.
The languages I chose to examine to this end are English, German, French, and Chagga, a Bantu language of Tanzania. While English and German with their shared heritage as Germanic languages promised to show a number of parallels in their employment of metaphorical domains, French as a Romance language had the potential to show more variation in this field. Culturally, however, all of the Indo-European languages share more common ground than differences, and one could expect this fact to be reflected in their use of metaphorical source domains. With Chagga, a language still largely uninfluenced by European culture or languages, I hoped to contrast the linguistic examples of the Indo-European languages with a fourth, genetically unrelated one.
In order to provide a theoretical basis for the cross-linguistic discussion of metaphorical expressions I will briefly review the workings of metaphor in everyday language as defined in Lakoff and Johnson’s widely read publication “Metaphors We Live By” (1980) and contrast this contemporary theory of metaphors with the traditional, objectivist view. After having laid the theoretical groundwork (note the theories are buildings metaphor!), the next chapter will give examples of sexual metaphors from all four examined languages, subdivided into a number of different conceptual expressive vehicles which shall serve as titles to each of this chapter’s subchapters. With this categorization I hope to extrapolate and illustrate similarities differences between the metaphors listed, all of which shall then be discussed in the following chapter. I will conclude this paper with a brief summary of my findings and an outlook for future surveys on the cross-linguistic employment of metaphorical source domains.
As far as our view of reality is concerned, Western culture is characterized predominantly by the philosophical concept of objectivism. The commonsense view is that there is an objective reality, an ontological realm of objects and facts that exists independent of the mind. About this reality, people can say things that are unconditionally true or false. Because words in a language’s lexicon, in the objectivist view, have fixed meanings, the function of language lies in allowing communication between people by objectively describing reality and making statements about their attitudes and positions relative to that objective reality. According to this so-called “conduit-metaphor” languages are containers for ideas and thoughts (Ortony 12–13): The speaker “packs” his ideas into words, and all the listener has to do is to “unpack” the words to extract the message.
In traditional objectivist theories, metaphor was viewed as a matter of figurative speech exclusively—not to be used or found in ordinary language. Metaphor was regarded as a tool for writers and poets to evoke colorful images, associations and emotions. Because of its alleged disposition of blurring the truth and encouraging subjective perspectives, scholars would regard metaphor with suspicion and even disdain. In order to be able to make objective statements, metaphor, as “an anomaly of language” (Schön 254), was to be avoided. For centuries, this objectivist understanding of metaphor was taken so much for granted that people forgot it was just a theory (Lakoff 1993, 204).
Words, however, are not containers loaded with meaning. If they were, any number of listeners of an identical linguistic statement would always and without failure have to extract the very same meaning. Daily life teaches us that this is not so. If, for example, you take the apparently non-ambiguous sentence “There’s the door!”, it is not hard to imagine different listeners arriving at starkly different interpretations depending on their involvement and the context in which the sentence was spoken— or yelled. The objectivist view ignores the listener’s contribution to the act of communication. It can only survive by ignoring the fact that different listeners habitually decode entirely different messages when confronted with identical utterances, an observation which suggests that words do not have fixed meanings, that they are unable to describe our physical experiences of reality unaffected by social influences. The two most prominent proponents of this view are George Lakoff and Mark Johnson (1980):
[E]very experience takes place within a vast background of cultural presuppositions. It can be misleading, therefore, to speak of direct physical experience as which we then ‘interpret’ in terms of our conceptual system. Cultural assumptions, values, and attitudes are not a conceptual overlay which we may or may not place upon experience as we choose. It would be more correct to say that all experience is cultural through and through, that we experience our ‘world’ in such a way that our culture is already present in the very experience itself (57).
Meaning, according to Lakoff and Johnson, is never disembodied, it is always meaning to someone. Reality, thus, can never really be judged objectively, it is as dependent on the eyes of the observer as the decoding of an utterance is dependent on the ears of the listener.
For Lakoff and Johnson, metaphor is not simply a literary device used in flowery language as a picturesque linguistic ornament. It is not just “a matter of extraordinary rather than ordinary language” (3) but rather the way humans conceptualize one mental domain in terms of another. Metaphor, according to Lakoff and Johnson, is pervasive in actual life and functions as the basis of our conceptual system: the way we think and act is largely metaphorical. Metaphors, in this sense, are used to make sense of new concepts, to relate, remember, and express experiences that would be complicated or even impossible to refer to in a non-metaphorical way. Many concepts that fundamentally shape our thinking (causation, time, love, anger, to name but a few) are, at the very least, partly constituted by metaphor:
Because so many of the concepts that are important to us are either abstract or not clearly delineated in our experience (the emotions, ideas, time, etc.), we need to get a grasp on them by means of other concepts that we understand in clearer terms (spatial orientations, objects, etc.). This need leads to metaphorical definition in our conceptual system. [...] Metaphor is one of our most important tools for trying to comprehend partially what cannot be comprehended totally: our feelings, aesthetic experiences, moral practices, and spiritual awareness. These endeavors of the imagination are not devoid of rationality; since they use metaphor, they employ no imaginative rationality (115, 193).
In cognitive linguistics, metaphor is defined as “understanding one conceptual domain in terms of another conceptual domain” (Kövecses 2010, 4). The resulting construct is what linguists call a conceptual metaphor. A convenient way to visualize this construct is by stating: conceptual domain a is conceptual domain b. These conceptual metaphors are not to be confused with actual linguistic expressions found in any given language, they constitute the underlying concept which speakers draw on to generate metaphorical expressions.
To illustrate the difference between conceptual metaphor and metaphorical linguistic expression I will list two classic examples, the argument is war and the love is a journey conceptual metaphors, each accompanied by a handful of actual linguistic realizations. According to the conventions of cognitive linguistics, I will use small capitals for conceptual metaphors and italics for metaphorical expressions throughout this paper.
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Tablet 1: Conceptual metaphors in English and assorted linguistic expressions
Conceptual metaphors follow the principle of undirectionality, which means that “the metaphorical process typically goes from the more concrete to the more abstract but not the other way around” (Kövecses 2010, 7). The conceptual metaphor love is a journey is easily understood by speakers of everyday English. The reversed order, a journey is love, however, would most likely produce a substantial degree of irritation on the average listener’s side. This phenomenon does not only apply to linguistic metaphorical expressions that have already found their way into everyday speech—conceptual metaphors are productive. This means they allow speakers to invent new linguistic realizations, variations on the theme if you will, which will be understood by listeners as long as the underlying conceptual metaphor is familiar and commonly used. In such a way, the metaphor “Martha’s arguments carpet-bombed Arthur’s line of defense”, although in this form not commonly used, is easily understood by all speakers of English familiar with the argument is war conceptual metaphor.
The two entities in a conceptual metaphor, conceptual domain a and conceptual domain b, are most commonly referred to as target domain and source domain. The target domain (in the examples listed above argument and love) is understood in terms of the source domain (war and journey, respectively). Understanding a in terms of b means that “there is a set of correspondences between the source and the target in the sense that constituent conceptual elements of b correspond to constituent elements of a” (Kövecses 2010, 7). The conceptual correspondences between source and target domains are often referred to as cross-domain mappings or simply mappings. Lakoff and Johnson (1980) developed a strategy for naming mappings, using mnemonics which suggest the mapping (Lakoff 1993, 207), that has since been adopted by linguists around the world. Such mnemonic names typically have the form target domain is source domain, or alternatively, target domain as source domain — the former format shall be used throughout this paper. By using a mnemonic for coding conceptual metaphors a set of ontological correspondences characteristic for the mapping is indicated without having to describe the correspondences every time the mapping is listed.
In this chapter I want to provide examples for actual metaphorical linguistic expressions in each of the four languages I chose to compare. Based on a selection of examples from Lakoff (1987), Kövecses (2000 and 2008) and Emanatian (1995, 1996), as well as my own inquiries among native English, French and German speakers, I will subdivide this chapter into six subchapters, the first five of which will list linguistic examples categorized into five common conceptual source domains for sexual metaphoric found in a variety of languages: heat, hunger/eating, animal, war and insanity. The corresponding mappings are: lust is heat (Ch. 3.1), lust is hunger or sex is eating (Ch. 3.2), a sexual actor is an animal (Ch. 3.3), sex is war (Ch. 3.4), and lust is insanity (Ch. 3.5). The fifth subchapter will contain examples from three less featured source domains: sport/competition and machine.
The examples will be listed in the following format:
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Examples for the source domain heat can be found in all four of the languages I compared. The resulting mapping is lust is heat. While the metaphors in English, German and French have very similar connotations (a lustful person feels heat, sexual desire is equated with heat, a desired person emanates heat, the intensity of a sexual encounter can be described in terms of temperature), the examples in Chagga, while still similar to the other languages, have a slightly different angle to them (only the desired person—in the given examples: a woman— is attributed with the feeling of heat):
 Chagga (Chaga, KiChagga), as explored by Michele Emanatian (1995, 1996) is spoken by about 70,000 people, on Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. The examples in this paper represent the KiVunjo dialect and are adopted from Emanatian’s studies with a young male Chagga residing outside his speech community.
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