You are on page 1of 11

Vlado Susac

COGNITIVE CORPUS ANALYSIS - A SEMIOTIC APPROACH TO CULTURAL IDENTITY


For the last twenty years within the science of language, cognitive linguistics in particular, there have hardly been published so many scientific papers and articles about any language phenomenon as it is the case with metaphor. This interest is not being diminished; on the contrary, metaphor is becoming an interdisciplinary phenomenon, spreading on other fields of interest, from psychology, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, theology and other already established disciplines, to those newly founded such as media research, artificial intelligence, information systems, etc. Consequently, it is not surprising that this period is often called metaphor revolution. The basic question, therefore, is what attracts such a heterogeneous group of scientists to such an apparently trivial phenomenon, as it was considered until recently, and still being looked on by many. The latter especially in view of the fact that metaphor has traditionally been observed as a mere language ornament (ornatus) or a language anomaly, a deviant and superfluous way of language usage, which unnecessarily aggravates communication and is an obstacle to the understanding of a message. The answer to the question can be searched in a radical reversal that occurred at the moment when in the last decades of the previous century it started being approached not any more as a merely stylistic but rather a cognitive phenomenon, which affects the essential processes of human thinking and, consequently, the overall understanding and cognition of our environment. Such an approach has opened new and unexplored perspectives where metaphor takes central place because we have become aware that by means of metaphor we manage to understand each other and that without metaphor as a reflection of our experience we would hardly be able to cope with numerous abstractions that we have created as a human species from our first beginnings until nowadays. The pioneers of this

knowledge, namely, Lakoff and Johnson (1980/2003), have revealed to us that we are not only surrounded by metaphors in their ubiquity, but we also live by them even when we are not aware of it. If we take for example a common expression Ill be there around five oclock, we would hardly expect from an average speaker to recognize the preposition around as a metaphor, and that is exactly what it is, the metaphorical transfer from the concrete and visible world of space into the abstract and invisible world of time. And there is no other way of expressing it! Such an example and many similar ones will show that the internal structure of metaphors reveals itself as a universal category of human race, but at the same time the external realisation of metaphors in particular languages is revealed as a manifestation of particular cultures and all kinds of social groups and pertaining discourses. In order to understand this new approach we need to explain how metaphors work and how they are structured. The first distinction we should make is the one between conceptual and linguistic metaphors. Conceptual metaphor is a natural part of human thought, and linguistic metaphor is a natural part of human language (Lakoff and Johnson 2003, 247). Natural means intrinsic. Conceptual metaphor is explained as understanding and experiencing one idea in terms of another (Lakoff and Johnson 2004, 5) This process is called mapping, which takes place from a source domain of mainly our bodily experience into a more abstract target domain, e.g.: LOVE Target IS JOURNEY Source

One mapping within a conceptual metaphor LOVE IS JOURNEY can produce a number of linguistic metaphors where love is expressed and explained with the structure of journey: Look, how far weve come. We are at a crossroads. Well just have to go our separate ways. I think this relationship has gone off the track.

The initiators of this new cognitive approach recognize three basic types of metaphors: - structural - orientational (space) - ontological (entities) Structural metaphors are explained as the ones where some aspects of the target domain are understood and structured by corresponding aspects and structure of the source domain. Typical examples of such simple structural metaphors are: ARGUMENT IS STRUGGLE (WAR) She attacked every weak point in my argument. His criticisms were right on target. He retreated from his position on nuclear arms. Those comments about your wife were really below the belt. TIME IS MONEY You are wasting my time. This gadget will save you hours. Ive invested a lot of time in her. Dictionary making is very time-consuming. More complex cases of structural metaphors are orientational metaphors where we are not dealing any more with only one concept structured in terms of another but with a whole system of concepts with respect to one another. Typical examples are those related to spatial orientation: updown, in-out, front-back, deep-shallow, central-peripheral Such concepts are not arbitrary; they have a basis in our physical and cultural experience: HAPPY IS UP; SAD IS DOWN: Im feeling up Hes really low these days. I fell into depression. You are in high spirits

GOOD IS UP; BAD IS DOWN That was a low trick. She has high standards. But our physical experience is not entirely limited to spatial or orientational relations. It is closely associated to all kinds of physical and visible objects that surround us and which provide the basis for a wide variety of so called ontological metaphors. In other to grasp or understand abstract notions and non-physical things we materialize them and view them as physical entities and substances, a process known in Gestaltpsychology as reification: MIND IS MACHINE I cant process new ideas so late at night After the first ten minutes the audience just switched off. I could never discover what makes him tick. I am a little rusty today. KNOWLEDGE IS FLUID We were extremely impressed by the depth of his understanding. Our company has a reservoir of expertise. They have watered down his ideas. The committee diluted my proposals. These examples offer enough evidence how metaphors are structured and how deeply they are immersed in our ever-day language and our conceptualization of reality. If we accept the fact that metaphorical language and thought are closely interrelated, then we cannot avoid reflecting on the rather disputable Sapir Whorf Hypothesis. The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis is composed of two basic views of language and thought. The first is known as Linguistic Determinism, because it claims that peoples thoughts are determined by the categories available to them in their language (Pinker 1994, 56). This can be broken up into strong determinism, i.e. that thoughts are completely determined by language (in some cases that thought and language are identical), and weak determinism, which claims that thought is somehow affected by language. This leads us to the second component of the hypothesis, so called Linguistic Relativity claiming that people who speak different languages will think about the world in different ways. For example, the way we

divide or carve up the world is arbitrary, and this carving is different by each language. So, the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is claiming that language itself affects our perception and categorisation of the world, and that language will vary in this respect. Having in mind all pros and cons of those who speak in favour and those who speak against it, we can conclude that the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis in its radical form, implying that language determines our thoughts, proves to be far-fetched, but a weaker form, that claims that the way in which we understand reality may be influenced by the kind of language we use, is generally accepted. The above conclusion implies the question, can the way in which we use metaphors influence the way we see the world? If it can, how does it work? In other to answer this question some interactive metaphor relations have to be explained. The study of metaphor has shown that a metaphorical meaning is not limited by a mapping relation established between exclusively one source and one target domain, but instead we deal with much complex relations being the result of interaction of more different tenors and vehicles, i.e. target and source domains. In this respect, the most challenging inter-relations are multivalency and diversification (Goatly 2007, 12). Multivalency is described as the case when the same source domain is applied to various target domains: GOOD IS HIGH (Dubrovnik is a top destination) MORE IS HIGH (The prices of property in Dubrovnik is sky high). Because these different targets GOOD (MORALITY / QUALITY) share a multivalent source they may become associated into an equation MORE = GOOD. This concept, deeply enrooted in the Western economy and culture, reinforces patterns of excessive wealth accumulation and consumption as part of the society ethic. In the opposite sense it is worth remembering different religious attitudes which promote economic modesty as a moral imperative. Another pair of multivalent sources is: CHANGE IS PATH (Attitudes to women shifted in the 19th century)

SUCCESS IS PATH (She is intelligent and hardworking; I'm sure she'll go a long way). This might suggest equation CHANGE = SUCCESS which, according to A.Goatly is a pattern of consumers behaviour widely recognized in the Western culture especially in buying the latest and most fashionable products even if we dont need them, so we frequently change clothes, cars, mobile phones, etc. Particularly interesting is the case of diversification, which is the opposite of multivalency, and where different source domains lead to one target domain: POLITICAL ACTIVITY IS STRUGGLE (We have won our most difficult battles in the development of our country) POLITICAL ACTIVITY IS PATH (Weve passed the most difficult stages on our way to the EU). So, if we have accepted the idea deriving from Sapir-Whorf hypothesis that our thoughts are influenced by language, and if we accept the fact that our way of thinking is metaphorically structured, the question is whether we can identify somebodys value identity either individual or collective from the dominant metaphorical concepts in ones discourse. The research that I have done (Susac 2007) through the corpus analysis of four election campaigns registered in the Internet editions of three major daily newspapers in Croatia (Vjesnik, Vecerni list, Slobodna Dalmacija) spanned the period of five years and has proved from more than one thousand extracted examples that there is evidence of significant inclination of conservative and liberal parties towards different types of metaphors. The most dominant source domains in Croatian political discourse are STRUGGLE and PATH as shown in the Graph 1. and the first one is visibly preferred by the leading conservative party HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union), unlike the latter preferred by the leading social-democrat party SDP (Social Democratic Party). The latter is especially emphasised by the fact that the leading conservative party significantly outnumbers social-democrats in the overall number of metaphors used in election campaigns and that the metaphors of PATH used by the social-democrats are the only ones that outnumber any type of

metaphors used by conservatives. By coincidence or not, the previous name of the Social Democratic Party was the Party of Democratic Change, and if we recall the frequently present multivalency example CHANGE IS PATH, a possible pattern may be found that will support the assumption of ideologically loaded metaphors.
STRUGGLE
18 16 14 12 10 8 6 4 2 0 HNS SDP HSS HSLS HDZ HSP

PATH
20 18 16 14 12 10 8 6 4 2 0 HNS SDP HSS HSLS HDZ HSP

Graph 1. The distribution of the most dominant metaphorical source domains used by political parties members in Croatian election campaigns 2000 2004.

The question whether there are some ideologically loaded metaphors appears to be particularly interesting in the contemporary research in the field of cognitive linguistics. This has been the focus of interest of George Lakoff, the initiator of this new approach to metaphor ever since he pub-

lished his masterpiece book Metaphors we Live by in 1980 and of some recent researchers in particular Andrew Goatly who in his recently published book Metaphor and Hidden Ideology (2007) has traced back the etymology of numbers of dominant metaphors in Western society and showed us how deeply they are enrooted in our everyday language practice and thought respectively. So, it is not surprising that some prominent scholars in the field of cognitive linguistics like Zoltan Kovecses in the afterword of Goatlys book suggests that: we need to uncover these ideologicallyloaded metaphors and look for alternative ones'' This of course resembles the logic of political correctness and new language prescriptivism, but even if we do not approve of this new form of language prescriptivism, we should certainly be aware of it. Beside the issue of political identity possibly revealed via dominant metaphors, the above mentioned research was also aimed at carrying out a contrastive analysis of English and Croatian conceptual systems, especially focusing on the subject of metaphor universals and culturally specific metaphors. Namely, almost everything we have known about cognitive processes and metaphorical concepts relies on the analysis of the English based corpus and valid conclusions about universal metaphors and those culturally determined concepts are not possible without a deep insight into conceptual systems of as many world languages as possible. This is a rather new and an ongoing process in a few research projects carried out worldwide and as a major reference point most of the researchers indicate Master Metaphor List of the Berkely University created by Lakoff, Esperson and Scwartz (1991), and which served as initial point for creating other existing data basis. This in the first place refers to the data base browser available on the web sites of the University of Hamburg which makes possible automatic two-way research of source and target domains in German, English, and French, together with language examples found by the post-graduate students of linguistics of the University within their research of a given corpus. My research mostly relied on a model of less known METALUDE data base, but interactively the most elaborated data base created at the University of Lingnan in Hong Kong within the Department of the English language. It is the most unique data base launched by Andrew Goatley, only partly referring to the Berkely list, since the former one includes examples in Chinese as well. The metaphor research is classified according

to the lexeme units which further on indicate source and target domains or root analogies which correspond to basic metaphorical concepts. All this suggested that we were dealing with a useful and articulate browser which could provide various approaches to the metaphor research and presumably could serve as a solid model for a similar data base in the Croatian language and other languages as well. The results of the above mentioned corpus analysis and the respective metaphor classification have definitely justified a high applicability of Goatlys model on the conceptual analysis of the Croatian language, especially in view of the fact that it was limited to a rather specific type of discourse, namely the political one, and that the Metalude model was created on a much wider genre pattern in the English language. The results have shown that out of 179 conceptual mappings registered in Croatian language corpus, only 14 of them (8%) were not listed in Goatlys English classification (Susac 2007, 282). This offers us a firm proof of high compatibility between English and Croatian language conceptual systems, although they belong to two different language families (Germanic and Slavic). Beside the high similarity in the two conceptual systems the results have proven a high degree of overlapping in lexical items used for expressing the same concepts in both languages. Of the 668 lexemes registered in Croatian corpus the Metalude data base offers 375 English equivalents in the same conceptual meaning, which is over 50 %. Additional research of examples taken from British National Corpus or the existing metaphor dictionaries would certainly provide even a higher percentage, which proved to be right through just an evanescent overview of examples offered by Sommer and Weiss (1996). There is no doubt that all the registered differences between the two languages are culturally related and rather specific and should be treated as such. But the real question is whether all the metaphorical overlappings and similarities between the two languages can be viewed as metaphor universals? If we take as an example the above mentioned orientational metaphors, they reveal another important aspect of some metaphors and that is their metonymic motivation. Metonymy is not less important focus of cognitive

research than metaphor is and it is mostly based on cause-effect and part for the whole relations. The basic difference is that metonymic mappings occur within a single domain, unlike metaphors between two or even more domains as in latest theories of conceptual integration (Fauconnier, G. and Turner, M., 1998). This metonymic motivation is not surprising since the largest number of metaphors is a product of our bodily experience and we know that some physical reactions are caused by certain emotions. Namely, sadness is followed by lowering our heads and happiness by raising them. There are lots of similar concepts deriving form our bodily experience, e.g. DIFFICULTY IS HEAVINESS (difficulty of lifting heavy objects), KNOWING/UNDERSTANDING IS SEEING (most of information we gather through visual channel), AFFECTION IS WARMTH (the most primary physical sensation of a baby embraced by his/her mother) etc. This implies the hypothetical conclusion that all the metaphorical concepts deriving from our bodily experience and reactions that we all share as members of the same human race are metonymically motivated and as such universal. No doubt that the research of conceptual systems in other languages will further justify or partly reject such assumptions, but such research cannot be carried by taking random and intuitive language examples, but only with a hard mining work of corpus analysis. With the above conclusion the metaphorical and metonymical motivation of a language sign becomes the subject of semiotics because it puts in doubt the principle of the arbitrariness of the sign. This is also emphasized by a well known fact that metaphors can be found not only in language but the same ubiquity is present in non-verbal signs as well (Chandler, Daniel, 2002). In other words, iconicity, indexicality and symbolism of the sign are deeply enrooted in the theory of metaphor and ever since it started being viewed as a cognitive phenomenon the semiotics of all kinds will have to refer to it in order to get a deeper insight into the signs we live by and the way they are used as a means of communication between different cultures. Literature:
Deignan, A., 2005. Metaphor and Corpus Linguistics. Amsterdam, Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Co. Chandler, Daniel, 2002. Semiotics: the basics. New York: Routledge.

Fauconnier, Gilles and Turner, Mark, 1998. Conceptual Integration Networks. In: Cognitive Science, 22:2, 133-187. Goatly, Andrew, 2007. Washing the Brain Metaphors and Hidden Ideology. Amsterdam, Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Co. Goatly, Andrew, 1997. The Language of Metaphors. London, New York: Routledge. Hamburg Metaphor Database query. <http://webapp.rrz.uni-hamburg.de/~metaphern/domaenen_abfrage_en.shtml> [30.1.2007]. Kovecses, Zoltan, 2005. Metaphor in Culture: Universality and Variation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Lakoff, George and Johnson, Mark, 1980/2003. Metaphors We Live By (with new afterword). Chicago, London: The University of Chicago Press. Lakoff, George/Espenson, Jane/Schwartz, Alan 1991. Master metaphor list. Second draft copy. Cognitive Linguistics Group. University of California Berkeley. http://cogsci.berkeley.edu [30.1. 2007]. METALUDE Metaphor at Lingnan University Department of English. <http://www.ln.edu.hk/lle/cwd03/lnproject/home.html> [30.1.2007]. Pinker, Steven, 1994. The Language Instinct. London: Penguin. Sommer, Elyse and Weiss, Dorrie, 1996. Metaphors Dictionary. Detroit: Visible Ink Press. Susac, Vlado, 2007. Konceptualna metafora u politikom govoru (Conceptual Metaphor in Political Discourse). Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation. University of Zadar. Wierzbicka, Anna, 1999. Emotions across Languages and Cultures: Diversity and Universals. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.