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Metaphors. Dr. Pedro Poitevin IDS 108-08. Conceptual Metaphor. A metaphor is a way to understand one conceptual domain in terms of another conceptual domain. Usually, concrete ideas (with which we have more experience) are mapped onto more abstract ideas. AN ARGUMENT IS WAR.

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Dr. Pedro Poitevin

IDS 108-08

Conceptual metaphor

Conceptual Metaphor

  • A metaphor is a way to understand one conceptual domain in terms of another conceptual domain.

  • Usually, concrete ideas (with which we have more experience) are mapped onto more abstract ideas.

An argument is war


  • Your claims are indefensible.

  • He attacked every weak point in my argument.

  • His criticisms were right on target.

  • I demolished his argument.

  • I’ve never won an argument with him.

  • You disagree? Okay, shoot!

  • If you use that strategy, he’ll wipe you out.

  • He shot down all of my arguments.

Love is a journey


  • Look how far we’ve come.

  • We’re at a crossroads.

  • We’ll just have to go our separate ways.

  • We can’t turn back now.

  • I don’t think this relationship is going anywhere.

  • Where are we?

  • We’re stuck.

  • It’s been a long, bumpy road.

  • This relationship is a dead-end street.

  • We’re just spinning our wheels.

  • Our marriage is on the rocks.

  • We’ve gotten off the track.

Ideas are food


  • All this paper has in it are raw facts, half-baked ideas, and warmed-over theories.

  • There are too many facts here for me to digest them all.

  • I just can’t swallow that claim.

  • Let me stew over that for a while.

  • That’s food for thought.

  • She devoured the book.

  • Let’s let that idea simmer on the back burner for a while.

Common source domains

Common Source Domains

  • The Human Body

    • The heart of the problem

    • To shoulder a responsibility

    • The head of the department

  • Health and Illness

    • A healthy society

    • A sick mind

    • She hurt my feelings

Common source domains ii

Common Source Domains, II

  • Animals

    • We talk about someone being a tiger, a dog, a sly fox, a bitch, a cow, a snake, and so on.

  • Plants

    • A budding beauty

    • He cultivated his friendship with her

    • The fruit of her labor

    • Exports flourished last year

Common source domains iii

Common Source Domains, III

  • Buildings and Construction

    • A towering genius

    • He’s in ruins financially

    • She constructed a coherent argument

  • Machines and Tools

    • The machine of democracy

    • Conceptual tools

    • She produces a book every year

Common source domains iv

Common Source Domains, IV

  • Games and Sport

    • To toy with the idea

    • He tried to checkmate her

    • He’s a heavyweight politician

  • Money and Business

    • Spend your time wisely

    • I tried to save some energy

    • She invested a lot in the relationship

Common source domains v

Common Source Domains, V

  • Cooking and Food

    • What’s your recipe for success?

    • That’s a watered-down idea

    • He cooked up a story that nobody believed

  • Heat and Cold

    • In the heat of passion

    • A cold reception

    • An icy stare

    • A warm welcome

Common source domains vi

Common Source Domains, VI

  • Light and Darkness

    • A dark mood

    • She brightened up

    • A cloud of suspicion

  • Movement and Direction

    • He went crazy

    • She solved the problem step by step

    • Inflation is soaring

Common target domains

Common Target Domains

  • Emotion: anger, fear, love, happiness, sadness, shame, pride, and so on are primarily understood by means of conceptual metaphors. The source domains of emotions typically involve forces.

    • She was deeply moved

    • He was bursting with joy

    • He unleashed his anger

  • Morality: moral categories such as good and bad, as well as honesty, courage, sincerity, honor, and their opposites, are largely understood by means of more concrete source concepts.

    • I’ll pay you back for this

    • She resisted the temptation

    • He’s a shady character

Common target domains ii

Common Target Domains, II

  • Thought

  • Society/Nation

  • Politics

  • Economy

  • Human Relationships

  • Communication

  • Time

  • Life and Death

  • Religion

  • Events and Actions

Love love love

Love, Love, Love

  • Love is fire

  • Love is physical unity

  • Love is insanity

  • Love is economic exchange

  • Love is illness

  • Love is magic

  • Love is rapture

  • Love is war

  • Love is a game

  • Love is a collaborative work of art

Sapir whorf


  • The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis postulates that a particular language's nature influences the habitual thought of its speakers: that different language patterns yield different patterns of thought.

  • This idea challenges the possibility of perfectly representing the world with language, because it implies that the mechanisms of any language condition the thoughts of its speaker community.

An argument is a dance


  • Imagine a language in which people spoke of arguments as dances

  • What kind of phrases do you imagine?

  • Do you think this would affect the nature of argumentation in this culture?

Inequivalent concepts

Inequivalent Concepts

  • “Dusa” is roughly the Russian equivalent of the English “soul.”

  • How does one explain the similarities and the differences between “roughly equivalent” concepts in different languages?

  • One way is to examine the metaphors that involve the concepts.

  • For example: in Russian, “Dusa is a play” works really well, but in English, “the soul is a play” does not work at all.

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