Sunday, October 30, 2011

Let's Talk About Metaphors

I haven't really been sure what to post about, but I keep being drawn back to Killingsworth's statement that "Metaphors run throughout any discourse in a variety of directions, but they ultimately lead back to the body" (126). I think this idea about the physical undertones of language is interesting, in light of the fact that much of what we have been reading speaks so explicitly about how abstract language is. This seems to lead to a fundamental distinction between the way that language is created and/or functions as a system of signs, and the way that it is used, to link ideas back to the physical world. In other words, the structure of language is abstract, but its use is concrete.

And even if we have abstract words within this system of abstract signs and sounds, we explain them through metaphor in physical ways. Killingsworth states that it is the "tendency of all metaphors to...relate unfamiliar things to the familiar experience of physical existence" (124). Of course, one could argue that the "unfamiliar things" to which Killingsworth alludes include all of language, since a word doesn't resemble the idea it denotes/connotes in any way. However, he is making a distinction here between the words that are more abstract and complex signs, and those that are signs for objects in the physical world. And what we need for these complex signs, he implies, are more words that bring them back to the physical realm that we understand. To make language more comprehensible and more evocative, therefore, abstract words need to be paired with concrete words.

And what about the abstract structure of language in all of this? In a system of physical abstractions (letters/words that don't actually resemble anything) there are differing degrees of abstraction in meaning. And it is the aim of language to work within this system to make meaning as close to real life as it possibly can...

1 comment:

  1. I think that you totally nailed with Killingsworth's notion of relating unfamiliar things to the familiar experience of physical existence. It somewhat hearkens back to McCloud's idea that there are certain symbols that directly look like and represent that real object that they are standing in for, but in this case of a metaphor, a word does the job instead of an image. Metaphors almost act as written pictures that give the reader something physical and familiar to latch on to and more easily relate with in order to understand the message that the writer is hoping to get across. It all works together in a rather fascinating way.


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