Frame-based constraints on lexical choice in metaphor

Sullivan, Karen (2006). Frame-based constraints on lexical choice in metaphor. In: Proceedings of the 32nd Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society. 32nd Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society, Berkeley, CA, U.S.A., (). 10-12 February 2006.

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Author Sullivan, Karen
Title of paper Frame-based constraints on lexical choice in metaphor
Conference name 32nd Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society
Conference location Berkeley, CA, U.S.A.
Conference dates 10-12 February 2006
Proceedings title Proceedings of the 32nd Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society
Journal name Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society
Place of Publication Berkeley, CA, U.S.A.
Publisher Berkeley Linguistics Society
Publication Year 2006
Sub-type Fully published paper
ISSN 0363-2946
Total pages 8
Language eng
Formatted Abstract/Summary
Most of what we know about conceptual metaphors like KNOWING IS SEEING and HAPPINESS IS LIGHT comes from metaphoric language (cf. Sweetser 1990, Kövecses 2002), yet there are some substantial gaps in our understanding of metaphoric language itself. For example, why do many semantically similar items have different metaphoric uses? Why does brilliant metaphorically mean ‘intelligent’, as in brilliant idea (via KNOWING IS SEEING), whereas sunny metaphorically means ‘cheerful’, as in sunny mood (via HAPPINESS IS LIGHT)? Both sunny and brilliant refer to qualities of light, so these items might be expected to have the same metaphoric uses and limitations. To further complicate the issue, the adjective bright can be used in either KNOWING IS SEEING or HAPPINESS IS LIGHT, as in bright idea ‘intelligent idea’ or bright mood ‘cheerful mood’.

In this paper I hope to strip away one layer of mystery surrounding lexical choice in metaphor, using the tools of frame semantics (Fillmore 1982). I argue that the frames evoked by lexical items’ nonmetaphoric senses can determine which items are chosen to express a given conceptual metaphor. I suggest that the Invariance Principle (Lakoff 1993) applies to frame structure as well as image-schema structure, and can help account for the role of frames in metaphoric extension.

My analysis is based on a study of the metaphoric and nonmetaphoric uses of a set of adjectives and adverbs in the British National Corpus. The metaphoric uses involve either HAPPINESS IS LIGHT or one of two submappings of KNOWING IS SEEING: INTELLIGENCE IS LIGHT-EMISSION or COMPREHENSIBILITY IS VISIBILITY. The nonmetaphoric senses of these modifiers evoke particular frames, which (in accordance with the extended Invariance Principle), must be carried over into the items’ metaphoric uses, making them either suitable or unsuitable for expressing HAPPINESS IS LIGHT, INTELLIGENCE IS LIGHT-EMISSION, or COMPREHENSIBILITY IS VISIBILITY. This analysis will explain, among other things, why brilliant means ‘intelligent’ but sunny means ‘cheerful’, and why bright can refer to either intelligence or cheerfulness.
Keyword Frame
Invariance Principle
Q-Index Code E1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status Unknown

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Created: Thu, 27 Oct 2011, 16:16:16 EST by Meredith Downes on behalf of School of Languages and Cultures