Makashova V.
Makashova V. METAPHOR AS AN OBJECT OF LINGUOPHILOSOPHICAL COMPREHENSION // Universum: филология и искусствоведение : электрон. научн. журн. 2022. 7(97). URL: (дата обращения: 22.05.2024).
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DOI - 10.32743/UniPhil.2022.97.7.14081



The problem of metaphor has long been of interest to researchers in various fields of knowledge. In each historical epoch, a special system of ideas about metaphor was formed: ancient scholars considered metaphor as a means of decorating artistic speech, medieval scholars saw it as a way of learning divine truth. Representatives of modern philosophy believed that metaphor was a source of confusion and ambiguity, therefore, it was subject to exclusion from the language of science. In the modern era, the linguophilosophical paradigm has undergone significant changes: metaphor has acquired the status of a cognitive phenomenon. This review article is devoted to the theoretical study of metaphor as an object of linguistic and philosophical understanding.


Проблема метафоры с давних пор вызывала особый интерес исследователей различных областей знания. В каждую историческую эпоху складывалась особая система представлений о метафоре: античная наука рассматривала метафору как средство украшения художественной речи, средневековая – видела в ней способ познания божественной истины. Представители философии Нового времени считали, что метафора являлась источником заблуждений и двусмысленности, следовательно, подлежала исключению из языка науки. В эпоху Новейшего времени лингвофилософская парадигма подверглась значительным изменениям: метафора приобрела статус когнитивного феномена. Данная статья посвящена теоретическому изучению метафоры как объекта лингвофилософского осмысления.


Keywords: metaphor, linguistic paradigm, philosophical paradigm, speech ornamentation, cognitive mechanism.

Ключевые слова: метафора, лингвистическая парадигма, философская парадигма, украшение речи, когнитивный механизм.



Currently the issues of metaphor research are of particular interest to scientists. Despite the centuries-old history of the study of metaphor, new disputes arise over the definition of metaphor, new classifications and grounds for metaphorical transfer.

For the first time the term "metaphor" was used by Isocrates. The ancient Greek philosopher and orator of the 4th century BC ranks metaphor as a means of speech ornamentation.

Early philosophical interpretations of metaphor belong to Aristotle. He defines metaphor as a substitute that is used exclusively in the field of rhetoric or poetics and goes beyond the representation of an object by means of formal logic. Thus, according to Aristotle, metaphor acts as a rhetorical figure, which is based on the principle of analogy.

The ancient Roman orator Marcus Tullius Cicero sees metaphor as a powerful weapon of rhetoric, but calls for its restrained use. Marcus Tullius Cicero repeatedly emphasizes metaphor just as a rhetorical figure which is not necessary.

In the Middle Ages, metaphor became a point of contact between divine knowledge and the human word. Just as in antiquity, this rhetorical trope approaches comparison. However, unlike the concepts of ancient thinkers, where metaphor measures the existence of man and the Cosmos, medieval philosophy presents metaphor as "the transfer of words from creatures to the Creator" [8, p. 122]. Medieval metaphor seeks to know the ideal reality, the miracle.

In the Renaissance, metaphor is interpreted as a means of decorating artistic speech, which allows the expression of individual judgments about the directly perceived world. In scientific discourse, the use of metaphor is unreasonable.

Modern philosophers representing the logical aspect believe that metaphor distorts direct meanings, and therefore acts as a source of confusion and ambiguity. Thus, T. Hobbes emphasizes that the use of words in a meaning that is not predetermined by "him" from above leads to deception of both the addresser and the recipient. Proponent of empiricism J. Locke argues that metaphor has no more than a manipulative function.

Unlike positivist philosophers, romantic philosophers define metaphor as the only way to express thought in particular and thinking in general. Rational-empirical cognition is complemented by imagination and intuition, for which the metaphor is interpreted as an impulse to expand the boundaries of human existence. Thus, the functions of metaphor highlighted by romantic philosophers are not limited by aesthetic and emotionally expressive ones. Metaphor is a method of cognition: through analogies, new semantic connections of objects are revealed in it.

In different years, such outstanding thinkers as F. Nietzsche, E. Cassirer, J. Ortega y Gasset, M. Black, etc. stood up to defend the metaphor. For example, F. Nietzsche declared the functional and cognitive potential of metaphor. He believed that, at its core, the process of cognition is metaphorical, has an aesthetic character and is not subject to verification.

The representative of German neo-Kantianism E. Kassirer [12, p. 35] defines a metaphor as a "reflex of mythological representations" and concepts, in turn, are formed by the merger of representations at a single point.

In work "Two Great Metaphors", the Spanish philosopher H. Ortega y Gasset considers metaphor as a transfer of the name, in which an ordinary native speaker instinctively understands that the word is not used in its direct meaning. H. Ortega y Gasset distinguishes two functions of metaphor: the first is the name, the second is an instrument of thinking. The metaphor is necessary not only to make the thought understandable to others through the received name, but also to make the object accessible to the thoughts of the knower himself.

In the 20th century, metaphor received a new impetus to its further development and theoretical understanding: two different approaches to the study of metaphor have been formed in linguistics [18, p. 231].

According to the first approach, metaphor is a means of speech ornamentation, a mechanism that allows the addressee to express some idea in a non-trivial way and attract the addressee's attention.

The second approach to the study of metaphor originates in the 1970s. In the last third of the twentieth century, the study of metaphor becomes a trigger for the emergence of new fields of linguistics, and in general contributes to the formation of cognitive linguistics, which considers language in relation to the thinking process.

Theory of interaction

In the 20th century the theory of interaction is gaining particular popularity, according to which metaphor is considered as a cognitive phenomenon. The founder of this concept, A. Richards, offers two working terms that characterize the structure of the metaphor. He calls one of them "tenor", and the other "vehicle". The "tenor" is the idea about which the metaphor unfolds, the "vehicle" is the idea that conveys this content: "The "vehicle" is not, as a rule, just an ornament of the "tenor", which remains unchanged: the "vehicle" and the "tenor" give in their interaction a richer meaning than each of these components taken separately" [19].

The ideas of A. Richards served as a starting point for the concept of M. Black, in whose work the concepts of "shell" and "content", introduced into scientific circulation by A. Richards, are developed further. Following A. Richards, M. Black notes the presence of two subjects in the metaphor structure: a literal main subject ("principal subject") and a metaphorical auxiliary subject ("subsidiary subject"), which he describes as integral systems. According to M. Black, the main and auxiliary subjects equally have their own conceptual systems of generally accepted associations related to them ("a system of associated commonplaces"). A. Richards did not define the boundaries of the term "vehicle": what exactly this term refers to – a metaphorical image or metaphorical meanings characterizing this image.

To differentiate these entities, M. Black introduced two concepts: a subsidiary subject explicating a metaphorical image, and a system of generally accepted associations related to it. In M. Black, the metaphor went beyond the level of words and began to express the generally accepted knowledge and ideas that these words expressed. A metaphor is an interaction of two conceptual systems, where the principal subject is endowed with some associated implications specific to the subsidiary subject. As a result, M. Black focuses on the fact that the cognition of reality and its interpretation in linguistic definitions are realized by a person who has the ability to correlate the known with the unknown.

Theory of conceptual metaphor

P. Ricoeur defines a metaphor (metaphorical meaning) as a model of individual-collective worldview and world perception transformation, as a "more radical way of looking at things" (Ricoeur, 1990, p. 427).

E. McCormac believes that metaphor is the result of the cognitive process influence on formal semantic structures. A metaphor receives linguistic expression in a certain cultural environment through reason ("embodied consciousness"). At the same time, language and reason (the way an individual perceives and comprehends reality) are simultaneously transformed by metaphor [15].

The main idea of the cognitive theory of metaphor given by J. Lakoff, M. Johnson consists in the fact that the metaphorization process is based on the procedures for processing knowledge structures – frames and scenarios. The knowledge contained in frames and scenarios is a generalized experience of an individual's interaction with reality.

Metaphorization is the interaction of the source-domain and the target-domain. The source-domain contains certain knowledge that a person receives as a result of direct experience of interaction with the outside world, both with the world of objects and with society. The target-domain, for its part, includes less specific knowledge about a certain phenomenon.

Stable correspondences between the source-domain (the function's departure area) and the target-domain (the function's arrival area), fixed in linguistic and cultural sets, are called conceptual metaphors by J. Lakoff and M. Johnson. Conceptual metaphors, from the linguists’ point of view, reflect the ways a person understands the surrounding world in a given cultural community.

D. Allbritton [1] highlights the fact that the most important thing in the study of metaphor is the difference in presenting it as an exclusively linguistic phenomenon or as a means of cognition, that is, the difference between the analysis of metaphorical language or metaphorical thinking.

D. Allbritton claims that conceptual metaphors schematize cognitive structures and perform the following functions:

1) They are a kind of filters that isolate the information corresponding to the filter and hide the information that does not correspond to it.

2) They organize incoming information.

3) They link separate blocks of information into a single whole. Metaphor is of great importance in understanding both figurative and literal (non–figurative) language.

D. Allbritton believes that conceptual metaphors are not temporary formations. The regularity with which they appear when describing a particular sphere suggests, rather, that they are part of long-term semantic memory.

Descriptive theory of metaphor

A. N. Baranov's descriptor theory offers a different view of the conceptual metaphor structure, where it is considered as a set of tuples of significative and denotative descriptors [4, p. 78].

The source area becomes the "departure area" of the specified function, and the target area becomes the "arrival area". Ultimately, a correspondence is established between the source and the goal, the stability of which is variable in each individual case – from the least stable creative metaphors to fixed "erased" metaphors reflected in the culture of a particular nation.

The source area (the function departure area) is a set of significative descriptors, that is, words and phrases reflecting the generalized experience of human interaction with reality. The target area (the function arrival area) is served by denotative descriptors, namely words and phrases of the sphere on which the significative descriptors are metaphorically projected.

It is also important to mention the term "metaphorical model (M-model)" introduced by A.N. Baranov. The metaphorical model is thematically related fields of significative descriptors.

Thus, in A.N. Baranov's descriptor theory, metaphors are pairs of mappings <a significative descriptor, a denotative descriptor> that are systematically recreated within the framework of a specific metaphorical model.

Theory of metaphorical modeling

Understanding the metaphor as "a mental operation, a way of cognition, categorization, conceptualization, evaluation and explanation of the world" [6, p. 18], linguists present it as "a model of deductive knowledge, a model of hypotheses" [14, p. 89]. The definition of metaphor as a model necessitates the study of individual metaphorical models and broader metaphorical modeling.

The metaphorical model is "the relationship between conceptual (notinal) areas that has developed in the minds of native speakers, in which the system of the mental sphere frames (slots, concepts) of the source is projected onto the system of frames (slots, concepts) of the magnet sphere" [7, p. 70]. The distinctive features of the metaphorical model include the following:

1. The source-sphere is the conceptual sphere of non-metaphorical meanings of those elements that the model encompasses.

2. The magnet-sphere is a conceptual sphere of metaphorical meanings of the elements corresponding to the model.

3. Frames related to this model are fragments of a naive linguistic worldview.

4. Slots are parts of frames, unique cells created to store individual units of information about an object or situation. Slots consist of basic concepts. A.P. Chudinov notes their mental nature.

5. A sign on the basis of which the convergence of the source-sphere and the magnet-sphere is established.

6. The discursive potential of the model – "the leading emotive characteristics of the model"  [7, p. 72].

7. The productivity of the model is the model expansion in the text and discourse by including new metaphorical expressions in the composition.

Metaphorical models are stored in individual and collective memory. They are based on the perception of reality, which, in turn, depends on reality itself, the peculiarities of human thinking and the experience of interacting with the world. Thus, the limits of metaphorical models are the limits of reality.


Summing up the linguistic and philosophical studies of metaphor, it should be emphasized that in the ancient tradition there were two ideas about the essence of this linguistic phenomenon: rhetorical and logical.

The analysis of the linguophilosophical practice of the last two centuries testifies to the paradigm shift in the study of metaphor. Metaphor dissolves the former unity of objectivity and conceptuality, forming the prerequisites for their freer synthesis. Metaphorical transference is aimed at the perception of wholes, at the comprehension of philosophical concepts in their entirety, at the discretion of the universal in the singular. In the philosophical views of the 20th century, the metaphor receives the status of a thinking structure with scientific legitimacy.



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Информация об авторах

PhD student, the department of General and Russian Linguistics, Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia, Russia, Moscow

аспирант кафедры общего и русского языкознания Российского университета дружбы народов, РФ, г. Москва

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