Metaphor

Metaphor

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A metaphor is a literary figure of speech
Figure of speech
A figure of speech is the use of a word or words diverging from its usual meaning. It can also be a special repetition, arrangement or omission of words with literal meaning, or a phrase with a specialized meaning not based on the literal meaning of the words in it, as in idiom, metaphor, simile,...

 that uses an image, story or tangible
Tangibility
Tangibility is the attribute of being easily detectable with the senses.In criminal law, one of the elements of an offense of larceny is that the stolen property must be tangible....

 thing to represent a less tangible thing or some intangible quality or idea; e.g., "Her eyes were glistening jewels." Metaphor may also be used for any rhetoric
Rhetoric
Rhetoric is the art of discourse, an art that aims to improve the facility of speakers or writers who attempt to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations. As a subject of formal study and a productive civic practice, rhetoric has played a central role in the Western...

al figures of speech
Literal and figurative language
Literal and figurative language is a distinction in traditional systems for analyzing language. Literal language refers to words that do not deviate from their defined meaning. Figurative language refers to words, and groups of words, that exaggerate or alter the usual meanings of the component...

 that achieve their effects via association, comparison or resemblance. In this broader sense, antithesis
Antithesis
Antithesis is a counter-proposition and denotes a direct contrast to the original proposition...

, hyperbole
Hyperbole
Hyperbole is the use of exaggeration as a rhetorical device or figure of speech. It may be used to evoke strong feelings or to create a strong impression, but is not meant to be taken literally....

, metonymy
Metonymy
Metonymy is a figure of speech used in rhetoric in which a thing or concept is not called by its own name, but by the name of something intimately associated with that thing or concept...

 and simile
Simile
A simile is a figure of speech that directly compares two different things, usually by employing the words "like", "as". Even though both similes and metaphors are forms of comparison, similes indirectly compare the two ideas and allow them to remain distinct in spite of their similarities, whereas...

 would all be considered types of metaphor. Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

 used both this sense and the regular, current sense above.
With metaphor, unlike analogy
Analogy
Analogy is a cognitive process of transferring information or meaning from a particular subject to another particular subject , and a linguistic expression corresponding to such a process...

, specific interpretations are not given explicitly.

Types, terms and categories


Metaphors are comparisons that show how two things that are not alike in most ways are similar in one important way.
A metaphor is more forceful (active) than an analogy
Analogy
Analogy is a cognitive process of transferring information or meaning from a particular subject to another particular subject , and a linguistic expression corresponding to such a process...

, because metaphor asserts two things are the same, whereas analogy implies a difference; other rhetoric
Rhetoric
Rhetoric is the art of discourse, an art that aims to improve the facility of speakers or writers who attempt to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations. As a subject of formal study and a productive civic practice, rhetoric has played a central role in the Western...

al comparative figures of speech, such as metonymy
Metonymy
Metonymy is a figure of speech used in rhetoric in which a thing or concept is not called by its own name, but by the name of something intimately associated with that thing or concept...

, parable
Parable
A parable is a succinct story, in prose or verse, which illustrates one or more instructive principles, or lessons, or a normative principle. It differs from a fable in that fables use animals, plants, inanimate objects, and forces of nature as characters, while parables generally feature human...

, simile
Simile
A simile is a figure of speech that directly compares two different things, usually by employing the words "like", "as". Even though both similes and metaphors are forms of comparison, similes indirectly compare the two ideas and allow them to remain distinct in spite of their similarities, whereas...

 and synecdoche
Synecdoche
Synecdoche , meaning "simultaneous understanding") is a figure of speech in which a term is used in one of the following ways:* Part of something is used to refer to the whole thing , or...

, are species of metaphor distinguished by how the comparison is communicated. The metaphor category also contains these specialised types:
  • allegory
    Allegory
    Allegory is a demonstrative form of representation explaining meaning other than the words that are spoken. Allegory communicates its message by means of symbolic figures, actions or symbolic representation...

    : An extended metaphor wherein a story illustrates an important attribute of the subject.
  • catachresis
    Catachresis
    Catachresis is "misapplication of a word, especially in a mixed metaphor" according to the Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory...

    : A mixed metaphor used by design and accident (a rhetorical fault).
  • parable
    Parable
    A parable is a succinct story, in prose or verse, which illustrates one or more instructive principles, or lessons, or a normative principle. It differs from a fable in that fables use animals, plants, inanimate objects, and forces of nature as characters, while parables generally feature human...

    : An extended metaphor narrated as an anecdote illustrating and teaching a moral lesson.


Metaphors are created for the purpose of insightful close reading, usually for the purpose of better internal visualization and comparison to another concept from which one can draw his or her own conclusion. A 'dead metaphor' may appear transparent upon first glance. However, dead metaphors are the most common of all usages because of common cultural or origin specific universal meaning. "I just can't shake it" is an example of a universal metaphor that, because of its contextual reference has an established implied message. Interpretation of metaphorical speaking is 'in the eyes of the beholder.' Is the reader insightful enough to recognize a metaphor? Metaphorically speaking, "we should remove our blinders."

Common types

  • A dead metaphor is one in which the sense of a transferred image is absent. Examples: "to grasp a concept" and "to gather what you've understood" use physical action as a metaphor for understanding. Most people do not visualize the action — dead metaphors normally go unnoticed. Some people distinguish between a dead metaphor and a cliché
    Cliché
    A cliché or cliche is an expression, idea, or element of an artistic work which has been overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect, especially when at some earlier time it was considered meaningful or novel. In phraseology, the term has taken on a more technical meaning,...

    . Others use "dead metaphor" to denote both.
  • An extended metaphor (conceit) establishes a principal subject (comparison) and subsidiary subjects (comparisons). The As You Like It quotation is a good example, the world is described as a stage, and then men and women are subsidiary subjects further described in the same context.
  • A mixed metaphor is one that leaps from one identification to a second identification inconsistent with the first. "I smell a rat [...] but I'll nip him in the bud" -- Irish politician Boyle Roche
    Boyle Roche
    Sir Boyle Roche, 1st Baronet was an Irish politician. After a distinguished career in North America with the British Army, Roche became a member of the Irish House of Commons in 1775, generally acting in support of the viceregal government...

    . This form is often used as a parody of metaphor itself: "If we can hit that bullseye then the rest of the dominoes will fall like a house of cards... Checkmate." -- Futurama
    Futurama
    Futurama is an American animated science fiction sitcom created by Matt Groening and developed by Groening and David X. Cohen for the Fox Broadcasting Company. The series follows the adventures of a late 20th-century New York City pizza delivery boy, Philip J...

     character Zapp Brannigan
    Zapp Brannigan
    Captain Zapp Brannigan is a fictional character in the animated sitcom Futurama. He is voiced by Billy West, but was originally intended to be voiced by Phil Hartman, with West taking over the role after Hartman's death. Brannigan is a 25-Star General in the Democratic Order of Planets, and captain...

    .
  • Per Hans Blumenberg
    Hans Blumenberg
    Hans Blumenberg was a German philosopher.He studied philosophy, Germanistics and classics and is considered to be one of the most important German philosophers of recent decades...

    ’s metaphorology, absolute metaphor denotes a figure or a concept that cannot be reduced to, or replaced with solely conceptual thought and language. Absolute metaphors, e.g. “light” (for “truth”) and “seafaring” (for “human existence”) – have distinctive meanings (unlike the literal meanings), and, thereby, function as orientations in the world, and as theoretic questions, such as presenting the world as a whole. Because they exist at the pre-predicative level, express and structure pragmatic
    Pragmatics
    Pragmatics is a subfield of linguistics which studies the ways in which context contributes to meaning. Pragmatics encompasses speech act theory, conversational implicature, talk in interaction and other approaches to language behavior in philosophy, sociology, and linguistics. It studies how the...

     and theoretical views of Man and the World.

Use outside rhetoric


The term metaphor is also used for the following terms that are not a part of rhetoric:
  • A cognitive metaphor
    Conceptual metaphor
    In cognitive linguistics, conceptual metaphor, or cognitive metaphor, refers to the understanding of one idea, or conceptual domain, in terms of another, for example, understanding quantity in terms of directionality . A conceptual domain can be any coherent organization of human experience...

    is the association of object to an experience outside the object's environment.
  • A conceptual metaphor
    Conceptual metaphor
    In cognitive linguistics, conceptual metaphor, or cognitive metaphor, refers to the understanding of one idea, or conceptual domain, in terms of another, for example, understanding quantity in terms of directionality . A conceptual domain can be any coherent organization of human experience...

    is an underlying association that is systematic in both language and thought.
  • A root metaphor is the underlying worldview that shapes an individual's understanding of a situation.
  • A therapeutic metaphor
    Therapeutic metaphor
    Therapeutic metaphor is a type of conceptual metaphor presented as a story or other parallel to an entire aspect of a situation, related by a psychotherapist to a patient. The purpose of this is to highlight to a person, in an effective way, some aspects and lessons that otherwise they might not be...

    is an experience that allows one to learn about more than just that experience.
  • A nonlinguistic metaphor is an association between two nonlinguistic realms of experience.
  • A visual metaphor provides a frame or window on experience. Metaphors can also be implied and extended throughout pieces of literature.

History in literature and language


Metaphor is present in the oldest written Sumerian
Sumerian language
Sumerian is the language of ancient Sumer, which was spoken in southern Mesopotamia since at least the 4th millennium BC. During the 3rd millennium BC, there developed a very intimate cultural symbiosis between the Sumerians and the Akkadians, which included widespread bilingualism...

 language
Language
Language may refer either to the specifically human capacity for acquiring and using complex systems of communication, or to a specific instance of such a system of complex communication...

 narrative, the Epic of Gilgamesh
Epic of Gilgamesh
Epic of Gilgamesh is an epic poem from Mesopotamia and is among the earliest known works of literature. Scholars believe that it originated as a series of Sumerian legends and poems about the protagonist of the story, Gilgamesh king of Uruk, which were fashioned into a longer Akkadian epic much...

:
Beloved friend, swift stallion, wild deer, / leopard ranging in the wilderness — / Enkidu, my friend, swift stallion, wild deer, / leopard ranging in the wilderness — / together we crossed the mountains, together / we slaughtered the Bull of Heaven, we killed / Humbaba, who guarded the Cedar Forest — / O Enkidu, what is this sleep that has seized you, / that has darkened your face and stopped your breath?— (Trans. Mitchell, 2004)


In this example, the friend is compared to a stallion
Stallion
A Stallion is a male horse.Stallion may also refer to:* Stallion , an American pop rock group* Stallion , a figure in the Gobot toyline* Stallion , a character in the console role-playing game series...

, a wild deer, and a leopard
Leopard
The leopard , Panthera pardus, is a member of the Felidae family and the smallest of the four "big cats" in the genus Panthera, the other three being the tiger, lion, and jaguar. The leopard was once distributed across eastern and southern Asia and Africa, from Siberia to South Africa, but its...

 to indicate that the speaker sees traits from these animals in his friend (A comparison between two or more unlike objects). The death of Enkidu is described as a sleep, as something that seizes, as something that darkens one's face, and as something that stops one's breath. This description is a mixed metaphor, and is also an example of metonymy, another type of metaphor, because the characteristics of death are used to refer to death itself.

The idea of metaphor can be traced back to Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

 who, in his “Poetics” (around 335 BC), defines “metaphor” as follows: “Metaphor is the application of a strange term either transferred from the genus and applied to the species or from the species and applied to the genus, or from one species to another or else by analogy
Analogy
Analogy is a cognitive process of transferring information or meaning from a particular subject to another particular subject , and a linguistic expression corresponding to such a process...

.” For the sake of clarity and comprehension it might additionally be useful to quote the following two alternative translations: “Metaphor is the application of an alien name by transference either from genus to species, or from species to genus, or from species to species, or by analogy, that is, proportion.” Or, as Halliwell puts it in his translation: “Metaphor is the application of a word that belongs to another thing: either from genus to species, species to genus, species to species, or by analogy.”

Therefore, the key aspect of a metaphor is a specific transference of a word from one context into another. With regard to the four kinds of metaphors which Aristotle distincts against each other the last one (transference by analogy) is the most eminent one so that all important theories on metaphor have a reference to this characterization.

The Greek plays of Sophocles
Sophocles
Sophocles is one of three ancient Greek tragedians whose plays have survived. His first plays were written later than those of Aeschylus, and earlier than or contemporary with those of Euripides...

, Aeschylus
Aeschylus
Aeschylus was the first of the three ancient Greek tragedians whose work has survived, the others being Sophocles and Euripides, and is often described as the father of tragedy. His name derives from the Greek word aiskhos , meaning "shame"...

, and Euripides
Euripides
Euripides was one of the three great tragedians of classical Athens, the other two being Aeschylus and Sophocles. Some ancient scholars attributed ninety-five plays to him but according to the Suda it was ninety-two at most...

, among others, were almost invariably allegorical, showing the tragedy of the protagonists, either to caution the audience metaphorically about temptation, or to lambast famous individuals of the day by inferring similarities with the caricatures in the play.

Even when they are not intentional, they can be drawn between most writing or language and other topics. In this way it can be seen that any theme
Theme (literature)
A theme is a broad, message, or moral of a story. The message may be about life, society, or human nature. Themes often explore timeless and universal ideas and are almost always implied rather than stated explicitly. Along with plot, character,...

 in literature is a metaphor, using the story to convey information about human perception of the theme in question.

In historical linguistics


In historical onomasiology
Onomasiology
Onomasiology is a branch of linguistics concerned with the question "how do you express X?" It is in fact most commonly understood as a branch of lexicology, the study of words .Onomasiology, as a part of lexicology, starts from a concept which is taken to be priorOnomasiology (from — to name,...

 or, more generally, in historical linguistics
Historical linguistics
Historical linguistics is the study of language change. It has five main concerns:* to describe and account for observed changes in particular languages...

, metaphor is defined as semantic change based on similarity, i.e. a similarity in form or function between the original concept named by a word and the target concept named by this word.
ex. mouse: small, gray rodentsmall, gray, mouse-shaped computer device.


Some recent linguistic theories view language as by its nature all metaphorical; or that language in essence is metaphorical.

Metaphor as style in speech and writing


Viewed as an aspect of speech and writing, metaphor qualifies as style, in particular, style characterized by a type of analogy. An expression (word, phrase) that by implication suggests the likeness of one entity to another entity gives style to an item of speech or writing, whether the entities consist of objects, events, ideas, activities, attributes, or almost anything expressible in language. For example, in the first sentence of this paragraph, the word "viewed" serves as a metaphor for "thought of", implying analogy of the process of seeing and the thought process. The phrase, "viewed as an aspect of", projects the properties of seeing (vision) something from a particular perspective onto thinking about something from a particular perspective, that "something" in this case referring to "metaphor" and that "perspective" in this case referring to the characteristics of speech and writing.
As a characteristic of speech and writing, metaphors can serve the poetic imagination, enabling William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

, in his play "As You Like It", to compare the world to a stage and its human inhabitants players entering and exiting upon that stage; enabling Sylvia Plath
Sylvia Plath
Sylvia Plath was an American poet, novelist and short story writer. Born in Massachusetts, she studied at Smith College and Newnham College, Cambridge before receiving acclaim as a professional poet and writer...

, in her poem "Cut", to compare the blood issuing from her cut thumb to the running of a million soldiers, "redcoats, every one"; and, enabling Robert Frost
Robert Frost
Robert Lee Frost was an American poet. He is highly regarded for his realistic depictions of rural life and his command of American colloquial speech. His work frequently employed settings from rural life in New England in the early twentieth century, using them to examine complex social and...

, in "The Road Not Taken", to compare one's life to a journey.

Viewed also as an aspect of speech, metaphor can serve as a device for persuading the listener or reader of the speaker or writer's argument or thesis, the so-called rhetorical metaphor.

Metaphor as foundational to our conceptual system


Cognitive linguists emphasize that metaphors serve to facilitate the understanding of one conceptual domain, typically an abstract one like 'life' or 'theories' or 'ideas', through expressions that relate to another, more familiar conceptual domain, typically a more concrete one like 'journey' or 'buildings' or 'food'. Food for thought: we devour a book of raw facts, try to digest them, stew over them, let them simmer on the back-burner, regurgitate them in discussions, cook up explanations, hoping they do not seem half-baked. Theories as buildings: we establish a foundation for them, a framework, support them with strong arguments, buttressing them with facts, hoping they will stand. Life as journey: some of us travel hopefully, others seem to have no direction, many lose their way.

More than just a figure of speech


Some theorists have suggested that metaphors are not merely stylistic, but that they are cognitively important as well. In Metaphors We Live By George Lakoff and Mark Johnson argue that metaphors are pervasive in everyday life, not just in language, but also in thought and action. A common definition of a metaphor can be described as a comparison that shows how two things that are not alike in most ways are similar in another important way. They explain how a metaphor is simply understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another. The authors call this concept a ‘conduit metaphor.’ By this they meant that a speaker can put ideas or objects into words or containers, and then send them along a channel, or conduit, to a listener who takes that idea or object out of the container and makes meaning of it. In other words, communication is something that ideas go into. The container is separate from the ideas themselves. Lakoff and Johnson give several examples of daily metaphors we use, such as “argument is war” and “time is money.” Metaphors are widely used in context to describe personal meaning. The authors also suggest that communication can be viewed as a machine: “Communication is not what one does with the machine, but is the machine itself.” (Johnson, Lakoff, 1980).

Nonlinguistic metaphor


Metaphors can also map experience between two nonlinguistic realms. In The Dream Frontier, Mark Blechner describes musical metaphors, in which a piece of music can "map" to the personality and emotional life of a person.. Musicologist Leonard Meyer demonstrated how purely rhythmic and harmonic events can express human emotions. There can also be a metaphoric mapping between other art forms and human experience. The art theorist Robert Vischer argued that when we look at a painting, we "feel ourselves into it" by imagining our body in the posture of a nonhuman or inanimate object in the painting. For example, the painting "The Solitary Tree" by Caspar David Friedrich
Caspar David Friedrich
Caspar David Friedrich was a 19th-century German Romantic landscape painter, generally considered the most important German artist of his generation. He is best known for his mid-period allegorical landscapes which typically feature contemplative figures silhouetted against night skies, morning...

 shows a tree with contorted, barren limbs. In looking at that painting, we imagine our limbs in a similarly contorted and barren shape, and that creates a feeling in us of strain and distress. Nonlinguistic metaphors may be the foundation of our experience of visual, musical, dance, and other art forms.

See also



  • Alliteration
    Alliteration
    In language, alliteration refers to the repetition of a particular sound in the first syllables of Three or more words or phrases. Alliteration has historically developed largely through poetry, in which it more narrowly refers to the repetition of a consonant in any syllables that, according to...

  • Analysis of subjective logics
    Analysis of subjective logics
    Analysis of subjective logics is an original method of discourse analysis developed and taught by the French psychoanalyst Jean-Jacques Pinto.- Definition :A.S.L...

  • Conceptual blending
    Conceptual blending
    Conceptual Blending is a general theory of cognition. According to this theory, elements and vital relations from diverse scenarios are "blended" in a subconscious process known as Conceptual Blending, which is assumed to be ubiquitous to everyday thought and language...

  • Description
    Description
    Description is one of four rhetorical modes , along with exposition, argumentation, and narration. Each of the rhetorical modes is present in a variety of forms and each has its own purpose and conventions....

  • Hypocatastasis
    Hypocatastasis
    Hypocatastasis is a figure of speech that declares or implies a resemblance, representation or comparison. It differs from a metaphor, because in a metaphor the two nouns are both named and given; while, in hypocatastasis, only one is named and the other is implied, or as it were, is put down...

  • List of metaphors
  • Metaphor in philosophy
    Metaphor in philosophy
    Metaphor, the description of one thing as something else, has become of interest in recent decades to both analytic philosophy and continental philosophy, but for different reasons.- Metaphor in analytic philosophy :...

  • Pataphor
  • Reification (fallacy)
    Reification (fallacy)
    Reification is a fallacy of ambiguity, when an abstraction is treated as if it were a concrete, real event, or physical entity. In other words, it is the error of treating as a "real thing" something which is not a real thing, but merely an idea...

  • Simile
    Simile
    A simile is a figure of speech that directly compares two different things, usually by employing the words "like", "as". Even though both similes and metaphors are forms of comparison, similes indirectly compare the two ideas and allow them to remain distinct in spite of their similarities, whereas...

  • Tertium comparationis
    Tertium comparationis
    Tertium comparationis is the quality that two things which are being compared have in common. It is the point of comparison which prompted the author of the comparison in question to liken someone or something to someone or something else in the first place.If a comparison visualizes an action,...

  • World Hypotheses
    World Hypotheses
    World Hypotheses: a study in evidence is a book written by Stephen Pepper, published in 1942....


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