The discourse and epistemology of ideas : the role of metaphors

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Assumption University Press
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Assumption University. Graduate School of English
Asian Journal of Literature, Culture and Society 3, 2 (October 2009), 64-92
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The idea of ideas is potentially an illusive language claim. Whether as a word, as a concept, it implies an existential phenomenon which raises epistemological issues of how language shapes what we believe we know. The delineation and explication of ideas requires an examination of the roles of metaphor in such discourse. Considered from a cross-cultural perspective the fact that the concept idea recurs in various languages suggests at least a functional need as a reality creating device, a linguistic tool in the explications of our social discourses but an analysis of the underlying metaphoric patterns reveal significant divergences of intent in their use. An examination of the systems of our epistemologies of knowledge both historically and in contemporary discourse leads to an analysis of metaphoric patterns and the schema derived from underlying conceptual metaphors (Lakoff, Johnson, Gibbs, Goatly, et al.) in the social constructions we make. A cross-cultural perspective on the conceptual metaphors utilized provides insight into value structures and reveals culturally dependent structures and associated values in shaping our understanding of human and natural sciences in the building of models to give coherence to our understanding. Culture-based perspectives of social realities differ because they embody a variety of underlying conceptual or root metaphors. This leads to a re-examination of the implications of linguistic relativity (Wm. Von Humboldt; Sapir, Whorf with Cartesian rationalism). To investigate these potentially divergent patterns of thought with their differing assumptions about creating understanding, a conceptual metaphoric analysis (Lakoff and Johnson, 1980; Lakoff, 1987; Lakoff and Turner, 1989; Gibbs, 1994; Goatly, 1997) of contemporary English and Japanese discourse on expressing "ideas/kangae" was made. The discourse data were analyzed into eleven underlying metaphoric or conceptual patterns. E.g. IDEAS ARE FOOD, IDEAS ARE COMMODITIES, IDEAS ARE PATHS. The expressions in the data related to the key terms of IDEAS and KANGAE were collated from genre such as psychology, philosophy, cognitive linguistics, language learning, and reference works. While the eleven underlying patterns were found in both English and Japanese discourse, four cross-cultural semantic relationships were also examined. (1) essentially the same in form and meaning; (2) similar in form but different in meaning; (3) different in form but similar in intent; (4) miscellaneous items different in form and meaning (linguistically and semantically distinct). The degree of commonality in the conceptual metaphoric usage between the two languages was generally low with only one pattern showing a high degree of congruency. These divergences bring us to the conflicts in epistemologies which have historically shaped our discourses in the sciences and humanities in positivistic or phenomenological modes and bring us to the diversity of conceptualization patterns and schema which we use to bring order into our experiences and understanding.
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In English ; only abstract in English.
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