Metaphor in Linguistic Thought and Theory

In: Cognitive Semantics
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  • 1 University of California, San Diego

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Metaphor is pervasive at all levels of the linguistic enterprise: from the conception of particular phenomena, to the formulation of theories, to “world views” such as the “formalist” and “functionalist” perspectives. Metaphor is not just unavoidable but essential to the enterprise, a source of insight and creativity. But since all metaphors are inappropriate in some respect, they can lead to spurious questions, conceptual confusion, misconception of the target, and pointless arguments. These points are illustrated in regard to several metaphors pertaining to lexicon and lexical meaning. Further illustration is provided by an extended case study comparing the network and exemplar models of categorization. When the actual models proposed are distinguished from their metaphorical descriptions, there is no fundamental conflict.

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