To frame this introduction carefully given our training focus is in NLP, this book (Metaphors we live by. By GEORGE LAKOFF and MARK JOHNSON.) is not NLP nor does it really mention NLP as far as I have noticed. It is just an excellent book about the pervasiveness of metaphors in our everyday language (English; and there is a Spanish version listed below).
To use the meatphor that a Book is Food, I have been devouring this book with enthusiasm.
The subtle metaphors refered to in this book are similar (in some ways) to the unstated presuppositions in the context of the Meta Model, in that the Metaphor may be unstated, but is the basis for some of the statements and choice of language that the speaker may use.
For example, the statements:
I’ve invested a lot of time in her.
I don’t have enough time to spare for that.
You’re running out of time.
You need to budget your time.
Have an unstated metaphor that might read: TIME IS MONEY.
It is these unstated metaphors that this book is about. In some ways, these metaphors could be considered presuppositions that are metaphors or mataphors used as presuppositions.
An excerpt from the book is here:
TIME IS MONEY, TIME IS A LIMITED RESOURCE, and TIME IS A VALUABLE COMMODITY are all metaphorical concepts. They are metaphorical since we are using our everyday experiences with money, limited resources, and valuable commodities to conceptualize time. This isn’t a necessary way for human beings to conceptualize time; it is tied to our culture. There are cultures where time is none of these things.
The metaphorical concepts TIME IS MONEY, TIME IS A RESOURCE, and TIME IS A VALUABLE COMMODITY form a single system based on sub-categorization, since in our society money is a limited resource and limited resources are valuable commodities. These sub categorization relationships characterize entailment relationships between the metaphors: TIME IS MONEY entails that TIME IS A LIMITED RESOURCE, which entails that TIME IS A VALUABLE COMMODITY.
We are adopting the practice of using the most specific metaphorical concept, in this case TIME IS MONEY to characterize the entire system. Of the expressions listed under the TIME IS MONEY metaphor, some refer specifically to money (spend, invest, budget, probably cost), others to limited resources (use, use up, have enough of, run out of), and still others to valuable commodities (have, give, lose, thank you for). This is an example of the way in which metaphorical entailments can characterize a coherent system of metaphorical concepts and a corresponding coherent system of metaphorical expressions for those concepts.
The very systematicity that allows us to comprehend one aspect of a concept in terms terms of another (e.g., comprehending an aspect of arguing in terms of battle) will necessarily hide other aspects of the concept. In allowing us to focus on one aspect of a concept (e.g., the battling aspects of arguing), metaphorical concept can keep us from focusing on other aspects of the concept that are inconsistent with that metaphor. For example, in the midst of a heated argument, when we are intent on attacking our opponent’s position and defending our own, we may lose sight of the cooperative aspects of arguing. Someone who is arguing with you can be viewed as giving you his time, a valuable commodity, in an effort at mutual understanding. But when we are preoccupied with the battle aspects, we often lose sight of the cooperative aspects.
A far more subtle case of how a metaphorical concept can hide an aspect of our experience can be seen in what Michael Reddy has called the “conduit metaphor.”‘ Reddy observes that our language about language is structured roughly by the following complex metaphor:
IDEAS (Of MEANINGS) ARE OBJECTS.
LINGUISTIC EXPRESSIONS ARE CONTAINERS.
COMMUNICATION IS SENDING.
The speaker puts ideas (objects) into words (containers) and sends them (along a conduit) to a bearer who takes the idea/objects out of the word/containers. Reddy documents this with more than a hundred types of expressions in English, which he estimates account for at least 70 percent of the expressions we use for talking about language. Here are some examples:
THE CONDUIT METAPHOR
It’s hard to get that idea across to him.
I gave you that idea.
Your reasons came through to us.
It’s difficult to put my ideas into words.
When you have a good idea, try to capture it immediately in words.
Try to pack more thought into fewer words.
You can’t simply stuff ideas into a sentence any old way.
The meaning is right there in the words.
Don’t force your meanings into the wrong words.
His words carry little meaning.
The introduction has a great deal of thought content.
Your words seem hollow.
The sentence is without meaning.
The idea is buried in terribly dense paragraphs.
In examples like these it is far more difficult to see that there is anything hidden by the metaphor or even to see that there is a metaphor here at all. This is so much the conventional way of thinking about language that it is sometimes hard to imagine that it might not fit reality. But if we look at what the conduit metaphor entails, we can see some of the ways in which it masks aspects of the communicative process.
First, the Linguistic EXPRESSIONS ARE CONTAINERS FOR MEANINGS aspect of the conduit metaphor entails that words and sentences have meanings in themselves, independent of any context or speaker. The MEANINGS ARE OBJECTS part of the metaphor, for example, entails that meanings have an existence independent of people and contexts. The part of the metaphor that says LINGUISTICS EXPRESSIONS ARE CONTAINERS FOR MEANING entails that words (and sentences) have meanings, again independent of contexts and speakers. These metaphors are appropriate in many situations–those where context differences don’t matter and where all the participants in the conversation understand the sentences in the same way.
Metaphors we live by (Series)
Metaphoric speech, normal conversation, ads, images
Can metaphors also create limited views?
Other metaphors to ponder
Metaphors in a business context
The Book: Metaphors We Live By
This book is linked with the post “Metaphors we live by (Part 1)”.