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 Post subject: Metaphors We Live By
PostPosted: Wed Jan 04, 2006 5:34 pm 
Avisaru
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I've started a thread for anyone interested in this kind of cognitive linguistics to post in, since JohnQPublik said he wanted one. Also because my secret plan is to soak up anything interesting posted here.. but seriously, I understand the concept, but the metaphors referred to in the title of the book:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/de ... 1?v=glance

are so ingrained in me I guess that, having not read the book or anything similar, I have difficulty doing anything but drawing a blank when I try to think of them. It seems to me that there's a reason people are keener on the syntactic side of things... semantics seems like such a vast subject that you could study it forever and not know it all. Which I guess is a good reason to study it... who wants to know everything? But anyway...

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 04, 2006 5:49 pm 
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Can I be the official passive-spectator-only-speaking-up-to-ask-annoying-questions-from-time-to-time? I don't know anything about the subject, but I'd be extremely interested in learning more. Of course, my interest is mainly from a conlanging angle; I have no idea how one could go about inventing a system of metaphors of the sort the book talks about. But spectating while other people discuss the metaphors used by other languages would seem to be a good start.....


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 04, 2006 6:04 pm 
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Great minds think alike, I guess...

I've been meaning to post a list of the metaphors cited in the book, so that people could go through and make their changes. Of course, it wouldn't be all of them, by any means, but it would be a good start. Maybe I'll get to it this weekend...


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 04, 2006 6:18 pm 
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Nuntarin wrote:
Can I be the official passive-spectator-only-speaking-up-to-ask-annoying-questions-from-time-to-time? I don't know anything about the subject, but I'd be extremely interested in learning more. Of course, my interest is mainly from a conlanging angle; I have no idea how one could go about inventing a system of metaphors of the sort the book talks about. But spectating while other people discuss the metaphors used by other languages would seem to be a good start.....


The book only gives English examples, IIRC, but it shouldn't be too hard to invent a system of them. Basically just draw a few analogies between things, and use those to build others.

Example from the book (again, IIRC; the book is 6ft away from me):

TIME IS MONEY
MONEY IS VALUABLE

So:

TIME IS VALUABLE

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 04, 2006 6:20 pm 
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Getting Down. Getting funky. Good.

I love the structure for exceptions.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 04, 2006 6:24 pm 
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When I starting learning Chinese, I had difficulty learning the use shang4 "above" and xia4 "below" to mean, respectively "last" and "next" with regard to time (e.g. shang4ci4 "last time", xia4xing1qi2 "next week"). Because we don't really use a vertical orientation of the TIME=SPACE metaphor in English, I only got a grip on it by creating the image of time rising past my head and referring to that when I needed to make the distinction. Literally, when I need to say "last Tuesday", I imagine Tuesday as a gossamer blob and visualise it rising slowly in the air until it's over my head.

This causes problems, however, when it comes to shang4wu3 "morning" and xia4wu3 "afternoon". For reasons I can't explain, I naturally think of morning as being "below" afternoon even though on desk calendars it's always in the upper half of the square. I need to visualise "noon" as a physical division, spatially associate it with the horizontal plane of my head, and "see" where that puts the expired morning and the approaching afternoon relative to each other.

I won't consider myself "proficient" in Chinese, much less fluent, until I can dispense with these visualisations and extend the metaphor without even having to think about it.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 04, 2006 8:26 pm 
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Not entirely on topic, but you know what's recently been fascinating me about metaphor? Truth.

Most claims - "all dogs are blue" - can be argued with. I can show a person certain evidence (eg a non-blue dog) he can accept that evidence as being true, and, if he is rational, he can then admit that his statement was false.

But with a metaphor - "no man is an island" - what evidence can I give him? I can show him many ways in which some men are islands, or in which time is not money, and he can accept everything i say as being true.... and still rationally say 'yes, but that's not what i meant by it' or 'yes, but still, there is a way in which time IS money'. And I don't think that there is any piece of evidence I can give to make someone not think of time as money any more.

Now, one thing this suggests, in particular with the reply "yes, all that is true, but that's not what i meant", is that if you do know what is meant, you can't disagree with a metaphor - because if you could, you could give the piece of evidence that refutes 'what he means'. So understanding it is agreeing with it.

But then again, that assumes there IS some piece of evidence, just hidden by us not really knowing exactly what is meant. Maybe there isn't any.

So, two people can hold EXACTLY the same views about EVERYTHING except a metaphor, yet one can say its true and the other say its false and both be equally justified. If that's true, that requires a weird definition of what is true.

Unless, of course, metaphors are things that are true in a different way - or things that aren't true or false at all.

If a metaphor isn't true or false - that is, makes no indicative statement about the world, what is it? Is a metaphor just an expression of the speaker's emotions?Or does it express something else? Or DOES it express some indicative claim about the world, just not one that is true or false? What kind of claim is neither true nor false? And do they claim to be true or false, even if they aren't?

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 04, 2006 8:40 pm 
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Salmoneus wrote:
If a metaphor isn't true or false - that is, makes no indicative statement about the world, what is it? Is a metaphor just an expression of the speaker's emotions?Or does it express something else? Or DOES it express some indicative claim about the world, just not one that is true or false? What kind of claim is neither true nor false? And do they claim to be true or false, even if they aren't?


Ludwig Wittgenstein first said, that things that make no indicative statement about the world are rubbish and should not be said (Tractatus Philosophicus); then he thought philosophy was done, and went to work on a farm and at a school. After that, he realised that the Tractatus held some weak claims, started to philosophise and decided that 'language games' exist, in which things are dependent on context. So if metaphors don't claim to be true or false, they aren't necessarily 'unsinnig' or 'sinnlos'. Don't know if this helps you, though :|

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 04, 2006 11:58 pm 
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Interesting points, Salmoneus. Still, I wouldn't dismiss metaphors as unrelated to truth.

Here's one line of thought: can you restate the metaphor without using any new metaphors? My intuition is that you'll often get a quantified statement: e.g. "No man is an island" :> "Most men are connected socially, economically, or emotionally to other people." If that's a good restatement, then it's not surprising that "Some men are islands" isn't a refutation.

Similarly, for "time is money" you might end up with "In many cases acting early is more lucrative", which you could probably only refute by showing that such cases are vanishingly rare.

So perhaps you're noticing that most common metaphors are in fact commonplaces-- they're hard to argue with precisely because they don't say much of real interest.

But that doesn't have to be the case. Take "Property is theft"... I think I understand what it means perfectly, and yet I can disagree with it.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 05, 2006 4:37 am 
Avisaru
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linguoboy wrote:
When I starting learning Chinese, I had difficulty learning the use shang4 "above" and xia4 "below" to mean, respectively "last" and "next" with regard to time (e.g. shang4ci4 "last time", xia4xing1qi2 "next week"). Because we don't really use a vertical orientation of the TIME=SPACE metaphor in English, I only got a grip on it by creating the image of time rising past my head and referring to that when I needed to make the distinction. Literally, when I need to say "last Tuesday", I imagine Tuesday as a gossamer blob and visualise it rising slowly in the air until it's over my head.


I have heard about this oddness about Chinese before.. perhaps it's due to the orientation of writing and calenders? Do the Chinese in calenders or diaries etc write the earliest date at the top and the latest at the bottom like we do?

Quote:
This causes problems, however, when it comes to shang4wu3 "morning" and xia4wu3 "afternoon". For reasons I can't explain, I naturally think of morning as being "below" afternoon even though on desk calendars it's always in the upper half of the square. I need to visualise "noon" as a physical division, spatially associate it with the horizontal plane of my head, and "see" where that puts the expired morning and the approaching afternoon relative to each other.


Funny, I have less problem with morning being high and afternoon being low than I do with the dates... morning seems to naturally be at the top of the day to me.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 05, 2006 11:20 am 
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linguoboy wrote:
When I starting learning Chinese, I had difficulty learning the use shang4 "above" and xia4 "below" to mean, respectively "last" and "next" with regard to time (e.g. shang4ci4 "last time", xia4xing1qi2 "next week"). Because we don't really use a vertical orientation of the TIME=SPACE metaphor in English, I only got a grip on it by creating the image of time rising past my head and referring to that when I needed to make the distinction. Literally, when I need to say "last Tuesday", I imagine Tuesday as a gossamer blob and visualise it rising slowly in the air until it's over my head.

This causes problems, however, when it comes to shang4wu3 "morning" and xia4wu3 "afternoon". For reasons I can't explain, I naturally think of morning as being "below" afternoon even though on desk calendars it's always in the upper half of the square. I need to visualise "noon" as a physical division, spatially associate it with the horizontal plane of my head, and "see" where that puts the expired morning and the approaching afternoon relative to each other.


Interestingly enough, something similar exists in colloquial Greek: you can use the words /parak?to/ (= further down) and /parap?no/ (= further up) with days/words denoting time: /tin parak?to Tr?ti/ (next Tuesday). Nevertheless, you can't use these words with terms mening 'morning', 'evening', or 'night'.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 05, 2006 11:32 am 
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Salmoneus wrote:
Not entirely on topic, but you know what's recently been fascinating me about metaphor? Truth.

Very interesting and perceptive comment, Salmoneus, given that the last couple of chapters in "Metaphors We Live By" are devoted to what conceptual metaphors as a basic cognitive underpinning of language says in general about the nature of Truth.

I don't have the book in front of me at the moment, but ultimately, Lakoff and Johnson conclude that TRUTH IS CONTEXTUAL. They give a several interesting examples to show that using language to convey absolute truths (other than basic universal statements such as "Water is wet") is almost impossible. I will look up the chapters and try to post some more about it this evening.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 05, 2006 12:05 pm 
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chris-gr wrote:
Interestingly enough, something similar exists in colloquial Greek: you can use the words /parak?to/ (= further down) and /parap?no/ (= further up) with days/words denoting time: /tin parak?to Tr?ti/ (next Tuesday). Nevertheless, you can't use these words with terms mening 'morning', 'evening', or 'night'.

Use of the Chinese terms is very idiosyncratic, too. With yue4 "month", shang4 and xia4 require the general-purpose classifier ge4 (e.g. shang4ge5yue4 "last month"). They can't be used at all with nian2 "year" or tian1 "day". "Yesterday" is zuo2tian1; "tomorrow" is ming2tian1. Ming2nian2 is also "next year", but "last year" is qu4nian2 (qu4 is a verb meaning "to depart"), not *zuo2nian2.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 05, 2006 6:04 pm 
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Salmoneus wrote:
Not entirely on topic, but you know what's recently been fascinating me about metaphor? Truth.

Most claims - "all dogs are blue" - can be argued with. I can show a person certain evidence (eg a non-blue dog) he can accept that evidence as being true, and, if he is rational, he can then admit that his statement was false.

But with a metaphor - "no man is an island" - what evidence can I give him? I can show him many ways in which some men are islands, or in which time is not money, and he can accept everything i say as being true.... and still rationally say 'yes, but that's not what i meant by it' or 'yes, but still, there is a way in which time IS money'. And I don't think that there is any piece of evidence I can give to make someone not think of time as money any more.

Now, one thing this suggests, in particular with the reply "yes, all that is true, but that's not what i meant", is that if you do know what is meant, you can't disagree with a metaphor - because if you could, you could give the piece of evidence that refutes 'what he means'. So understanding it is agreeing with it.

But then again, that assumes there IS some piece of evidence, just hidden by us not really knowing exactly what is meant. Maybe there isn't any.

So, two people can hold EXACTLY the same views about EVERYTHING except a metaphor, yet one can say its true and the other say its false and both be equally justified. If that's true, that requires a weird definition of what is true.

Unless, of course, metaphors are things that are true in a different way - or things that aren't true or false at all.

If a metaphor isn't true or false - that is, makes no indicative statement about the world, what is it? Is a metaphor just an expression of the speaker's emotions?Or does it express something else? Or DOES it express some indicative claim about the world, just not one that is true or false? What kind of claim is neither true nor false? And do they claim to be true or false, even if they aren't?


I think the main problem there is there's some confusion of logic with language happening. Language isn't supposed to be rigorously expressive on the surface, and trying to apply rules of logic to its surface appearance is like trying to graph an equation knowing only its derivative--something will be lost. Meaning is usually conveyed not in the language but over it, like the +C in an integrated equation. Like Wittgenstein said when he wrote that meaning is usage, the meaning of an expression depends on the mental states of the two people on the ends of the event of speaking: what they know and do not know about the usage of the words: how they can fill in the value of C. Assuming both parties have learned the usage of the word "island" to include that of "an isolated body" and are capable of re-applying this abstract meaning to a person's existence socially vis-a-vis an island's spatially, "no man is an island" should carry over even without both having formerly heard it and learned it. Of course, this is in line with what they're saying: a metaphor is a way of relating two different things through a similar "metalanguage" of sorts, by e.g. relating one's position spatially with one's position socially. This sort of melding of ideas is, IMO, related (if not biologically, then in concept) to synaesthesia.

Also I think it's the very fact that no man can literally be Oahu (I know you're not asserting that, by the way) that causes the meaning to carry over through metaphor. To me metaphor isn't the basis for all our thinking, as "Metaphors We Live By" likes to suggest, but rather another vehicle for making sense of our surroundings by relating things that we cannot directly perceive to things we can--binding the construct to visible reality. It's only in this way that we can assign things meaning and function properly, because the human mind cannot work outside of some sort of belief structure without some sort of defect in operation.

Anyway, my point is, a metaphor does make a logical, coherent statement about the world; but when it is picked apart at its most directly communicative level, it fails to operate logically, and the reason that is actually present in it is to be found on another channel "above" the one being analyzed: the knowledge and mental faculties present in both speakers are usually capable of regenerating the intended meaning of the expression, at least sufficiently enough to convey it. This statement also cannot always be directly substituted for another, more literal one as in Zomp's example. I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that "no man is an island" doesn't mean "no man is not isolated...", simply because the qualifiers Zomp uses for this isolation can't possibly cover the meaning conveyed by the word "island" used in such an abstract way without something (even just poetics) being lost. The logic of the statement is in this way (but in no other way) contextual: it depends on the knowledge of the two people communicating for context.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 05, 2006 7:27 pm 
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Regarding your post above, Space, everything you're saying about metaphor is essentially consistent with Lakoff and Johnson's book because the statement you make in your 2nd-to-last paragraph is not quite correct about their book. Lakoff and Johnson are NOT suggesting that metaphor is the basis for ALL human conceptualization, but only for ABSTRACT conceptualization. In other words, our subconscious dependence on conceptual metaphors is only necessary for thinking about abstract concepts, not tangibles directly accessible to the five sences or to internal proprioceptive capacities (e.g., feeling hot, cold, etc.). They make this even clearer in their "sequel" to Metaphors We Live By, their grand 1999 opus Philosophy In the Flesh. Thus, everything you're saying is entirely consistent with Lakoff and Johnson, and is, in fact, the foundation for Fauconnier & Turner's extension of conceptual metaphor into what they call "conceptual blending" in which new meaning emerges synergistically that is not contained within the component metaphorical elements themselves, a simple example being "That surgeon is a butcher" where neither "surgeon" nor "butcher" by themselves connotes the idea of "incompetence."


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 05, 2006 7:32 pm 
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JohnQPublik wrote:
Regarding your post above, Space, everything you're saying about metaphor is essentially consistent with Lakoff and Johnson's book because the statement you make in your 2nd-to-last paragraph is not quite correct about their book. Lakoff and Johnson are NOT suggesting that metaphor is the basis for ALL human conceptualization, but only for ABSTRACT conceptualization. In other words, our subconscious dependence on conceptual metaphors is only necessary for thinking about abstract concepts, not tangibles directly accessible to the five sences or to internal proprioceptive capacities (e.g., feeling hot, cold, etc.). They make this even clearer in their "sequel" to Metaphors We Live By, their grand 1999 opus Philosophy In the Flesh. Thus, everything you're saying is entirely consistent with Lakoff and Johnson, and is, in fact, the foundation for Fauconnier & Turner's extension of conceptual metaphor into what they call "conceptual blending" in which new meaning emerges synergistically that is not contained within the component metaphorical elements themselves, a simple example being "That surgeon is a butcher" where neither "surgeon" nor "butcher" by themselves connotes the idea of "incompetence."


Well, that shows how closely and how recently I read "Metaphors We Live By". :D Nonetheless, I don't like the way they express the relationships between metaphors in it (I think something more elegant is required), and I'd rather avoid too much Cartesian dualism if possible.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 05, 2006 8:43 pm 
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Well Spack, I'm aware by now that everyone reads a different Wittgenstein, but your's is totally new to me! The one I read spends most of his time directly attacking the position that meaning is something beyond language, that we have a meaning in our minds when we say something that our interlocutor must reconstruct. Meaning, he says, is use - the meaning is ONLY in what is said and what is conventional, with no mental content at all.


I agree with you in disagreeing with Zomp about rephrasing. I don't think any rephrasing need be able to capture what is meant with the original metaphor. I can believe that man is NOT inevitably connected to others, yet still believe that no man is an island. I don't understand how anyone can understand 'property is theft' yet claim it to be false - certainly one can claim false any normative command gathered from it, or any specific analogy made, but I don't see how you can call the claim itself false - what exactly is it that you are claiming false? What facts about the world - even abstract, or moral facts - does that statement make that you claim are false?



An interesting case is Blake: '"What," it will be Question'd, "When the Sun rises, do you not see a round disk of fire somewhat like a Guinea?" O no, no, I see an Innumerable company of the Heavenly host crying, `Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty.''

So, if I say "the sunrise is a company of angels praising the glory of the lord God" - and I say this not as a fact but as a metaphor - can what I say be false? Keep in mind that I am saying this as a man who does not believe in God, or angels. Yet I can still see that as a true - or at least not false - statement, at least on some mornings. And I don't see what facts about the world it is claiming - because I think that that belief in ANY fact can be compatible wit belief in the metaphor.


"Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels"
The statements - a) the streets are muttering, b) the streets are the retreats of restless nights. Neither is clearly literal; they are both metaphorical. What actual claims do they make about the world, though? In what circumstances would those statements be false?

See, I can read through a poem like that, and for every metaphorical statement the narrator makes, I can say either "yes, that is true, we HAVE lingered in the chambers of the sea", or I can say "I don't see HOW that is true", but I don't think I can say ever "no, that's false, the evening is NOT like a patient etherised upon a table". Even with poets or writers I disagree with - I can disagree with their implications, I can oppose their intentions - but I don't think I can claim their statements false.

"the dog is blue" - this can be disproved
"the dog is like a giant cactus" - how do you disprove this?
"the dog is a giant cactus" - understood as metaphor, how do you disprove this?




I can concede that things like 'no man is an island' MIGHT be false, but only because they have stopped being metaphors - overuse has made them idioms. THat is, I think metaphors may have some implicative content, and overuse makes that implication into the denotation of the phrase. It just becomes a unit, not composit. Or possibly it is that 'island' has aquired a more general meaning as a discrete entity or unit, rather than just a bit of land surrounded by sea.


spack: perhaps we are using different meanigns of meaning. Perhaps I should use 'denotation' instead.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 05, 2006 8:57 pm 
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Hmm. Maybe I ought briefly to state my own opinion on the matter:

I don't think that metaphors have indicative denotation. However, nor do I believe that they are expressions of emotion.

I think that a 'view of the world', a 'model' or whatever actually has two types of data in it, which are not reducible to each other - which we might call point and pattern. Point data is normal facts about the world, that make up knowledge. Pattern data is... some other sort of thing... that makes up understanding.

For instance, to pick a metaphor, I can hear the same notes, exactly, on two different occassions, but only once hear the tune. Likewise, I think that on two occassions I can know exactly the same information about a thing, but only once 'spot the tune' or 'realise how everything fits together' or 'see how it makes sense', or 'understand' the thing.

I see description as the process of providing point data, and explanation as providing pattern data.

I think moreover that understanding something is seeing a collection of things AS a particular total item. Seeing an aspect, to borrow the phrase. The same data can have different patterns imposed on it, so that we see the same item as different things on different occassions - one lesson from dreams is that data about an object need not correlate with what we see it as.


[Hmm. I realise this doesn't make sense, and is self-contradictory. more thought required, i feel]

So I think metaphors are conveying pattern data - telling us what to see things as. So I think we can either succeed in doing so, or fail in doing so; but since I think 'truth' is a matter of whether point data fits in with other point data, I don't [[[[oh dear, this really is bollocks now and completely disagreeing with other things i believe]]] think metaphors (since any pattern is compatible with any array of point data) are falsifiable.


Oh dear. I shall from now on refrain from auto-socratising myself. It hurts too much.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 05, 2006 9:23 pm 
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Salmoneus wrote:
I agree with you in disagreeing with Zomp about rephrasing. I don't think any rephrasing need be able to capture what is meant with the original metaphor. I can believe that man is NOT inevitably connected to others, yet still believe that no man is an island. I don't understand how anyone can understand 'property is theft' yet claim it to be false - certainly one can claim false any normative command gathered from it, or any specific analogy made, but I don't see how you can call the claim itself false - what exactly is it that you are claiming false? What facts about the world - even abstract, or moral facts - does that statement make that you claim are false?


I find your position rather strange, as you no doubt find mine. In such cases there's usually a wealth of assumptions or background knowledge that we don't happen to share, so superficial discussion may not help us much. But I'll give it a try anyway...

What I'm claiming to be false, of course, is that property is theft. I understand the idea immediately; I just reject it.

In asking for "what facts about the world" that it implies and that I disagree with, and yet rejecting the possibility of rephrasing, I think you paint yourself into a corner. You're demanding a discovery procedure, while ruling out the possiblity of providing one.

Now, I don't rule out a discovery procedure, and so it's not strange to me at all that I can claim that property isn't theft. To me, meanings can-- indeed must-- survive paraphrase. If I can say something only one way, then I probably don't know what I'm talking about. :?

What I can't promise is a translation of any given metaphor into a verifiable, non-metaphorical algorithm. Metaphors have wiggle room and suggestiveness-- things that arrays of logicians' propositions tend not to have. That will bug a logician, but it doesn't bug me; I agree with McCawley that logic proceeded largely by looking at all the easy stuff in language and ignoring the tricky bits; and I agree with Sperber & Wilson that language doesn't encode a fixed set of logical statements that can be swapped out from brain to brain.

And by the way, I don't really disagree with Space Dracula that something is lost by the paraphrase. On the other hand, I don't take this to mean that we can't explain or communicate what's conveyed by "no man is an island" or "property is theft". We can; we can even get across the poetics, if we work at it enough.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 05, 2006 9:42 pm 
Sanci
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Quote:
This causes problems, however, when it comes to shang4wu3 "morning" and xia4wu3 "afternoon". For reasons I can't explain, I naturally think of morning as being "below" afternoon even though on desk calendars it's always in the upper half of the square. I need to visualise "noon" as a physical division, spatially associate it with the horizontal plane of my head, and "see" where that puts the expired morning and the approaching afternoon relative to each other.


Funny, I have less problem with morning being high and afternoon being low than I do with the dates... morning seems to naturally be at the top of the day to me.[/quote]

Best way to remember this is the Irish phrase "Top of the morning to you"


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 05, 2006 10:31 pm 
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chris_notts wrote:
linguoboy wrote:
When I starting learning Chinese, I had difficulty learning the use shang4 "above" and xia4 "below" to mean, respectively "last" and "next" with regard to time (e.g. shang4ci4 "last time", xia4xing1qi2 "next week"). Because we don't really use a vertical orientation of the TIME=SPACE metaphor in English, I only got a grip on it by creating the image of time rising past my head and referring to that when I needed to make the distinction. Literally, when I need to say "last Tuesday", I imagine Tuesday as a gossamer blob and visualise it rising slowly in the air until it's over my head.


I have heard about this oddness about Chinese before.. perhaps it's due to the orientation of writing and calenders? Do the Chinese in calenders or diaries etc write the earliest date at the top and the latest at the bottom like we do?

I've never thought of this as oddness, or particulary difficult to imagine a reason for. I doubt it has anything specifically to do with calendars, just the way they write: Chinese, like Western languages always started at the top and went down. If I show you a sequence of pictures oriented vertically, you will read them from top to bottom. Chinese traditionally (before it started copying the west) wrote in vertical columns, so I would speculate that the words for next and last came from the fact that the next character was below, and the previous one was above. As for calendars, why would they write calendar dates in an order different to their normal writing order? That would be strange. Calendars I've seen (and have) either go left to right, or follow the traditional columns, no different from writing.

With this in mind I find the floating gossamer blob visualisation kind of weird. Just imagine a day per page diary - morning is at the top, afternoon and evening at the bottom. Or a week per page diary - past is at the top, future at the bottom. I have a chinese friend and when he talks about morning noon or night he gesticulates the "position" in the air in front of him - high for morning, low for night.

linguoboy wrote:
Use of the Chinese terms is very idiosyncratic, too. With yue4 "month", shang4 and xia4 require the general-purpose classifier ge4 (e.g. shang4ge5yue4 "last month"). They can't be used at all with nian2 "year" or tian1 "day". "Yesterday" is zuo2tian1; "tomorrow" is ming2tian1. Ming2nian2 is also "next year", but "last year" is qu4nian2 (qu4 is a verb meaning "to depart"), not *zuo2nian2.

Not too idiosyncratic, if you think about it: the classifier ge [I've never seen anyone actually mark a toneless word with a 5 before - is that something you learned somewhere or soemthing you did yourself fr completeness?] is required for enumerating months, because yi yue means "#1 month"; January [in the gregorian calendar]. So when saying the next one, the last one, the classifier is logically required: xia ge yue is a shortened form of xia yi ge yue - if you omit the ge, you are saying next January, not next month. With xingqi week, the classifier is optional (fairly unusually), and with tian and nian it is never used.

As for why ming and zuo, instead of xia and shang are used for days, I think it's a case of a specific exception. xia and shang are the normal general purpose words for last and next - if you say "next time," "the next one" you use those. ming and zuo are specifically only for time, and for day and year. ming means "brightness" or "brilliance" - the character is 明, composed of the sun 日 and the moon 月 - the two brightest things in the sky. 東明, "eastern brilliance" refers to dawn. The traditional character for east 東 shows the sun 日 behind a tree 木 - at dawn obviously. There seems to be a strong link between dawn and the sun 9more so than other times of day). I would guess that the use of ming tian for tomorrow came from the fact that tomorrow started with the next dawn - "I'll meet you at dawn" is "I'll meet you tomorrow" - a specific exception to using shang and xia. The use with year as probabaly by analogy.

Another spatial reference nobody mentioned is the words for "the day after tomorrow", "the year after next", "the year befeore last", "the day before yesterday". They used the words hou "behind" for the day/year after, and qian "in front of" for the day/year before. So the future is either down 下xia or in front 前 qian, and the past is above 上 shang or behind 后 hou.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 05, 2006 10:48 pm 
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Now to say something on the actual topic of the thread.....

When I learnt what a metaphor was, I was about 8 in primary school, and we were learning about literature and poetry (or "creative writing" as they call it when they think you're too short to cope with proper words). The etacher wa telling us the difference between a metaphor and a simile, in the context of descriptive devices we could use in our own writing. "A simile is when you say something is "like" somehting else; a metaphor is when you say it "is" something else."

The point is that a metaphor is a way of describig something, by using the associations we have already in our head with the other thing. They are not meant to be indicative statements of truth, nor are they emotional necessarily, they are figurative, ie non-literal (I know you know what this means, but it is important) ways of describing soemthing or making your point. Since they are non-literal, the fact that "some men are islands" would not contradict the metaphor "no man is an island" because it isn't a literal statement of truth, just a colourful and succinct way of saying that no human being is completely isolated from the effects of interaction with other people. A schizophrenic who lives in a his own internal world cut off from everything outside his own head is an island, but that doesn't contradict the metaphor any more than the fact that no man has a sandy shore or beaches does. The metaphor is just an illustration of your point: in an argument, your friend says he doesn't need anyone else, you say "yes you do. No man is an island." This is just a way of saying "everyone needs other people," or rather "in general people need other people, maybe not everyone, but I mean definitely you do." It isn't a statement of ultimate truth. The falseness in this situation would be if the friend you were talking to didn't actually need otehr peopel and could indeed be perfectly happy on his own. The schizophrenic sitting in the corner of his hospital toom has no bearing on your friend's need for companionship.

The truth is in what you use the metaphor to say - "no man is an island" could be used to mean we all need personal social interaction, or that we are all connected to other things ecologically, or to refer to cause and effect. The truth of the statement is in what the metaphor is employed to use, not in the metaphor itself.

But the ast word has to go to About a Boy:
"No man is an island, Will"
"Yes I am! I'm bloody Ibiza!"

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- "No, I came all this way to show you this because nothing can be done. Because I like the way your pupils dilate in the presence of total planetary Armageddon.
Yes, it can be stopped."


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2006 7:07 am 
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A very interesting topic. I haven't read the book yet, but I surely will.

Now my 2 cents [hah! another metaphor :D] on metaphor. I think we could see metaphor as a kind of scaffolding: it provides a general propositional framework for a particular reasoning or statement. So while the METAPHOR itself can not be assigned a truth value, the METAPHOR + CONTEXT can. Of course, the latter might still not be rigorously defined, but that's not particular to metaphors - it's the same for most of language.

As an example, let's take the use of the word "scaffolding" in the previous paragraph. Because you read this as a metaphor, you didn't think of the physical aspects of scaffolds, but rather of functional aspects of providing support, as a structure to work from on. However, the precise interpretation depends on what is 'worked on'. Moreover, I could have wanted to compare the physical nature of scaffolds to some other thing. So the metaphor in itself is an empty structure, that gets its content from the context.

However, there are some extremes. One is the case in which metaphors become so much used in a particular context, that they start losing their metaphorical qualities and develop into idiom. The context is no longer necessary for the interpretation, because the possible contexts are restricted to a very limited set. This, I think, is the case with 'No man is an island'. We know what it means; we can paraphrase it. Of course, it might marginally depend on the context (see the examples by Tengado), but it's meaning is more or less fixed. By the way, I don't think 'property is theft' is a good example, because I see that more as an ethical prescription, not as a proposition.

The other extreme is 'loose metaphor', poetic statements, where the combination of METAPHOR + CONTEXT might not result in a truth-evaluable statement. Here, metaphor is used so idiosyncratically, that we have no way of recovering the intended meaning, if there was one.

I think the most interesting cases lie between these two extremes. For instance, I can make up a particular metaphor that you've never heard before, and you'd still be able to understand it. When I say X is like Y, I'm not saying that X is Y. What I'm saying is that X shares shome characteristic with Y. However, this similarity might not very direct - and still you're able to pick it out of multiple possible, equally vague similarities. How do we achieve that? Why are some aspects more salient than others?

------------

From a sociolinguistic and cognitive viewpoint, I think some metaphors are also more interesting than others. These are the metaphors that shape our thought; the archetypical patterns of explanation for certain phenomena. I don't think 'no man is an island' is such a metaphor - it's just a stock phrase, although it might be a surface aspect of a stronger, underlying metaphor.

What I find interesting is how a lot of our 'folk psychology', the way we understand other people, is based on a curious mixture of Freudian theory, modern psychology and psychobabble. We talk about 'repression of memories', 'neurotic', 'unconscious desires', 'accepting things as they are'. Presumably our everyday understanding of other people's minds is different from that in the 19th century.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2006 10:23 am 
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Tengado wrote:
linguoboy wrote:
When I starting learning Chinese, I had difficulty learning the use shang4 "above" and xia4 "below" to mean, respectively "last" and "next" with regard to time (e.g. shang4ci4 "last time", xia4xing1qi2 "next week").

I've never thought of this as oddness, or particulary difficult to imagine a reason for.

That's partly my point: These metaphors are so firmly embedded in the language that fluent speakers don't need to think about them; they are so "intuitive" that they find it difficult to imagine anyone having a problem with them.

Quote:
I doubt it has anything specifically to do with calendars, just the way they write: Chinese, like Western languages always started at the top and went down.

I wonder how much proof there is for or against this explanation. After all, I would be very surprised to find that the metaphor isn't found in Chinese prior to the advent of universal literacy. When does it first appear? What varieties of Chinese is it found in? Until recently, Korean and Japanese were often written in the same way; do these languages also make use of the same metaphor?

Quote:
I have a chinese friend and when he talks about morning noon or night he gesticulates the "position" in the air in front of him - high for morning, low for night.

Ah, but this could just as well be a consequence of the linguistic metaphor. I've seen people use a cutting motion to emphasise stopping an action. Is this simply a non-verbal expression of a cognitive metaphor that also appears in speech ("Cut that out!") or is it merely a concretisation of that verbal metaphor? It's tricky to argue either way.

Quote:
Not too idiosyncratic, if you think about it

I understand what the reasons are, but I don't think this makes it less idiosyncratic. Korean and Japanese use the same system for numbering months, yet they don't require the use of a generic classifier before months and, therefore, don't treat "last month" or "next month" any differently than "last week" or "next week".

Notice how you need to resort to an entire diachronic explanation in order to explain the use of zuo2 and ming2 in Modern Chinese. (I disagree with your explanation of zuo2, btw. In Ancient Chinese, zuo2 means "yesterday" all by itself, so I prefer to think of zuo2tian1 as a clarifying compound parallel to dong1tian1 or liao2tian1.) That fits the definition of "idiosyncratic" pretty perfectly. Like the use of morgen in German, the development is reasonable and motivated, but simply not predictable, much less universal.

Quote:
I've never seen anyone actually mark a toneless word with a 5 before - is that something you learned somewhere or soemthing you did yourself fr completeness?

I'm surprised you don't know it. It's part of the Wade-Giles romanisation. Not only does my dictionary use it, but also my IME. How else do you look up words like 們 when using an indexing method arranged by pronunciation?

Quote:
Another spatial reference nobody mentioned is the words for "the day after tomorrow", "the year after next", "the year befeore last", "the day before yesterday". They used the words hou "behind" for the day/year after, and qian "in front of" for the day/year before. So the future is either down 下xia or in front 前 qian, and the past is above 上 shang or behind 后 hou.

I didn't mention it because it's the same metaphor as found in English and, therefore, gives me no real trouble. I'm used to horizontal linear metaphors for time, just not vertical ones.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2006 5:14 pm 
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Salmoneus wrote:
Well Spack, I'm aware by now that everyone reads a different Wittgenstein, but your's is totally new to me! The one I read spends most of his time directly attacking the position that meaning is something beyond language, that we have a meaning in our minds when we say something that our interlocutor must reconstruct. Meaning, he says, is use - the meaning is ONLY in what is said and what is conventional, with no mental content at all.


I didn't mean to imply any sort of cognitivist aspect to Wittgenstein; all I meant to do was to use his "meaning (i.e. denotation, to me) = usage" in a vaguely cognitivist argument.

Quote:
I agree with you in disagreeing with Zomp about rephrasing. I don't think any rephrasing need be able to capture what is meant with the original metaphor. I can believe that man is NOT inevitably connected to others, yet still believe that no man is an island. I don't understand how anyone can understand 'property is theft' yet claim it to be false - certainly one can claim false any normative command gathered from it, or any specific analogy made, but I don't see how you can call the claim itself false - what exactly is it that you are claiming false? What facts about the world - even abstract, or moral facts - does that statement make that you claim are false?


Your point here really makes me wish I read "Speech Acts" more closely. I'm not sure what to make of Searle... Nonetheless, maybe looking at this sort of thing from a different angle would clarify it. With no intentions of sounding like a postmodern jerkoff, how exactly are we defining truth? The assertion "the dog is blue" is faisifiable, sure, but probably not to a blind man; and the notion of "blue" itself might be ill-conceived. I know I sometimes mistake purples for blues and blues for purples in some shades and lighting conditions.

It seems to me the difference between "the dog is blue" and "no man is an island" is that "the dog is blue" is externally falsifiable. That is to say, we can usually safely assume that a third party capable of seeing the dog's color is able to falsify it. But there's very little way to have something like "no man is an island" falsified. Maybe that's why some scientists dislike metaphors. Anyway, reading back through this, you suggest this further on:

Quote:
An interesting case is Blake: '"What," it will be Question'd, "When the Sun rises, do you not see a round disk of fire somewhat like a Guinea?" O no, no, I see an Innumerable company of the Heavenly host crying, `Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty.''

So, if I say "the sunrise is a company of angels praising the glory of the lord God" - and I say this not as a fact but as a metaphor - can what I say be false? Keep in mind that I am saying this as a man who does not believe in God, or angels. Yet I can still see that as a true - or at least not false - statement, at least on some mornings. And I don't see what facts about the world it is claiming - because I think that that belief in ANY fact can be compatible wit belief in the metaphor.


If I understand you right, you're sort of hinting that there are two kinds of belief at work here: literal belief, and metaphorical belief. You can believe that the metaphor is true without believing that its literal statement is true. It's sort of like how, to return to the math metaphor, f(x) can have a zero at (0,3), but that doesn't mean that f'(x) has to have a zero there.


"Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels"
The statements - a) the streets are muttering, b) the streets are the retreats of restless nights. Neither is clearly literal; they are both metaphorical. What actual claims do they make about the world, though? In what circumstances would those statements be false?

See, I can read through a poem like that, and for every metaphorical statement the narrator makes, I can say either "yes, that is true, we HAVE lingered in the chambers of the sea", or I can say "I don't see HOW that is true", but I don't think I can say ever "no, that's false, the evening is NOT like a patient etherised upon a table". Even with poets or writers I disagree with - I can disagree with their implications, I can oppose their intentions - but I don't think I can claim their statements false.

"the dog is blue" - this can be disproved
"the dog is like a giant cactus" - how do you disprove this?
"the dog is a giant cactus" - understood as metaphor, how do you disprove this?




I can concede that things like 'no man is an island' MIGHT be false, but only because they have stopped being metaphors - overuse has made them idioms. THat is, I think metaphors may have some implicative content, and overuse makes that implication into the denotation of the phrase. It just becomes a unit, not composit. [/quote]

So instead of something being a clever analogy of words, it becomes arbitrary like any other unit of speech.

Quote:
Or possibly it is that 'island' has aquired a more general meaning as a discrete entity or unit, rather than just a bit of land surrounded by sea.


But how, then, do people understand metaphorical usages of words they haven't encountered before? Does the mind generate new meaning for it based on what's there, like a computer program?


Quote:
spack: perhaps we are using different meanigns of meaning. Perhaps I should use 'denotation' instead.


Very likely. "Meaning" is a hairy word.

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