2010/1/26 Richard O'Keefe <o...@cs.otago.ac.nz>:
> On Jan 25, 2010, at 10:57 PM, alex wrote:
>> I think we can be influenced by metaphors without necessarily being
>> conscious of them.
>
> We can be influenced by a whole lot of things, including apparently
> the colour red.  The question is whether we are influenced *enough*
> to warrant our attention.

For novel, poetic metaphor, yes.  Lackoff and Johnson's book is about
everyday metaphor though, ingrained in a culture and used without
conscious effort.  The majority of our decisions are made without
conscious effort, and it seems that many of our conscious decisions
are actually specious post-hoc constructions.

>> Can you imagine using the word impact to describe two
>> balloons bumping off one another at a children's party (without being
>> humourous)?
>
> My M.Sc. is in physics, so *of course* I can.

But then CMT comes with the handy get-out clause that we all have our
own conceptual structures of meaning.

> Since "to bump someone off" means to murder them, no.
> You may have meant "bounced off", and no, in such a context
> the bouncing would not be salient, the collision would.
> The word used for one plane hitting another" is "collided".

Point taken.

> You can go up and down without a ladder.  Do not mistake talk of
> verticality with talk of LADDERS.  When people think of verticality
> in connection with musical scales, it is because they think of
> verticality in connection with *pitch*, not because of the word "scale"
> (from "scala", a ladder, still found in "scaling" and "escalator").

I'm not claiming that PITCH IS A LADDER is a likely conceptual
metaphor.  Pitch is an orientational metaphor - PITCH IS UP. This
allows us to relate pitch with ladders, and makes the linguistic
phrase 'musical scale' congruent within our conceptual system.  There
are many orientational metaphors. e.g. MOOD IS UP, CONSCIOUSNESS IS
UP, and they tend to be congruent with one another.  In fact Lackoff
and Johnson claim that most metaphors are orientational.  This is what
makes CMT a theory of embodied cognition -- concepts are organised in
metaphorical constructs grounded in orientational metaphors relative
to the body.

> But does anyone, Lakoff included, want to argue
> that "to be black is to look like the aftermath of a fire" is
> a fundamental structure of thought in _today's_ English-speaking culture?

I'm pretty sure he would not.

>> There are empirical psychological tests for trying to get at
>> metaphorical relations between concepts.  I don't know the literature
>> but have read that results have been mixed.
>
> None the less, just because a term was a metaphoric, we can't really
> claim that it affects someone's thinking until we have _demonstrated_
> it by something like that.

Well CMT flies against the popular Chomskian linguistic theory, and
although I think it is getting more attention recently, judging by the
few paragraphs dedicated to embodied theories in Murphy's review of
concept theories "The big book of concepts", is not a major player.
But embodied theories of cognition do have descriptive power, and so
deserve taking seriously I think.  I agree though that it's important
to look how its predictions have been tested.

> It's also worth noting that our thinking can be equally affected
> (infected?) by accidental sound resemblances that are _not_
> actual metaphors.  All sorts of things can spread activation.

Yes, and I think that's rather nice to think about.

alex

-- 
http://yaxu.org/

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