(Copyright © 2000 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
Once metaphor is defined as the process of experiencing something in terms
of something else, metaphor turns out to be pervasive, and not only in
language but also in action and thought.
The human conceptual system is fundamentally metaphorical in nature. Most concepts are understood in terms of other concepts. There is a continuum that extends between subcategorization (a category "is" another category in the sense that a category belongs to another category) and metaphor (a category "is" another category in the metaphorical sense).
Metaphors are used to partially structure daily concepts. They are not random, but rather form a coherent system that allows humans to conceptualize their experience. Metaphors create similarities.
Lakoff defines three types of metaphor: "orientational" (in which we use our experience with spatial orientation), "ontological" (in which we use our experience with physical objects), "structural" (in which natural types are used to define other concepts). Each metaphor can be reduced to a more primitive metaphor.
Conceptual metaphors transport properties from structures of the physical world to non-physical structures. Language was probably created to deal only with physical objects, and later extended to non-physical objects by means of metaphors. The human conceptual system is shaped by positive feedback from the environment.
Lakoff uses a theory of categories that draws from Wittgenstein's family resemblance, Eleanor Rosch's prototype-based categorization and Zadeh's fuzziness.
Language comprehension always consists in comprehending something in terms of another. All our concepts are of metaphorical and are based on our physical experience.
In accordance with Edward Sapir and Benjamin Whorf, language reflects the conceptual system of the speaker.
Metonymy differs from metaphor in that metaphor is a way to conceive something in terms of another thing, whereas metonymy is a way to use something to stand for something else (i.e., it also has a referential function).
Objective truth does not exist. Truth is a function of understanding, i.e. a function of an individual's conceptual system, i.e. a function of coherence with such a system.
Ritual can now be viewed as a crucial process in preserving and propagating cultural metaphors.