All posts tagged linguistics

  • Lakoff & Johnson | Metaphors we live by

    Literature Review //  Lakoff, George and Mark Johnson (2003) Metaphors We Live By. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


    This was a really delightful reading we did that argued that we really understand our world in terms of metaphors. Lakoff & Johnson explain that these are different from the metaphors we’re used to thinking that serve a more artist purpose, but they actually do work and influence our understanding of the world. Lakoff & Johnson are expanding metaphor away from merely language to be descriptive, but talking about how these metaphors frame our thought and our thinking.

    “The concepts that govern our thought are not just matters of the intellect. They also govern our everyday functioning, down to the most mundane details. Our concepts structure what we perceive, how we get around in the world, and how we relate to people. Our conceptual system thus place a central role in defining our everyday realities.”

    Lovely, right? He’s arguing that, because talk about and frame something like argument is war, we perform arguments as if they’re war. We talk about arguments as if they are a battle that can be won or lost. We recognize arguments as war like. Compared to, for example, a culture that uses a dance metaphor for arguing that implies collaboration and turn taking. We might not even recognize this activity was an argument because it doesn’t have the qualities we associate with war. It’s unconscious but persistent. This is called a structural metaphor.

    Orientational metaphors deal with direction. For instance, we have this idea that up means good/happy and down means bad/unhappy.

    Ontological metaphors describe a situation where we have made someone and entity and can now refer to and categorize them by that entity. The two types are metonymy (when one things stands in place for another) and synecdoche (where a part stands in for the whole to put emphasis on certain qualities). This also helps us quantify them as things that can be discretely bounded. Examples are (26-27):

    • Referring: “working towards peace”
    • Quantifying: “a lot of patience”
    • Identifying Aspects: “pace of modern life”
    • Setting goals and motivating actions:  “find true happiness”

    Container metaphors: can bound and area that does not such clear boundaries or does not bound at all. “Are you in the race?” This lets them be quantified as an amount of substance that might not actually exist.

    Metaphors have the power to highlight and hide things of the speakers choosing. Michael Reddy calls this a “conduit metaphor” and structures such rhetoric this way (pg 10):

    • Ideas (or meanings) are objects
    • Linguistic expressions are containers
    • Communication is sending  

    Lakoff & Johnson still emphasize context and speaker in order for a metaphor to be successfully performed and understood.

    Towards the end of his paper he argues from a greater collaboration from those who are objectionists and subjectivenists. He offers a third option which he calls “experientialist synthesis.” He feels that metaphor best combines reason and imagination (193). “Reason, at the very least, involves categorization, entailment, and inference. Imagination, in one of its many aspects, involves seeing one kind of thing in terms of another kind of thing–what we have called metaphorical though. Metaphor is thus imaginative rationality” (193). 

    Why I think this is relevant: 

    I was excited about this paper when I first read it was such a good marriage of language, thought, and our interactions with the world. I think about how much design might be influenced by these metaphors. Or, alternative, how much design is pushing for new metaphors where they might not have exist. I think about the infinity screens where you’re pulling down from the top (to refresh) and the information pours down. Once you get to the bottom, you can click to load older posts. Top means new, bottom means old. Does it stem from top means good? Have we created something new in our minds now? What does swiping left and right mean to us now? Naturally, it doesn’t mean anything to me. That’s why I always have to figure out which one saves and which one deletes. Some go left and some go right. We don’t have a clear metaphor in our minds about how that works. But hopefully we can fix it.

    But then this made me think, are we getting in to the old skeuomorphism debate? I asked Cameron about this and he said wasn’t import. Haha. I found it fascinating and really well written.

  • Fairclough | A Social Theory of Discourse

    Literature review // Fairclough, Norman. (1992) “A social theory of discourse.”  Discourse and Social Change. Cambridge: Polity Press. 62-100.

    Read in Language & Culture

    This was a slightly painful class because we, collectively, weren’t quite sure what we had just read but we kept getting asked questions about it. I mean, I appreciate interactive classrooms as much as the next kid, but I don’t know how helpful it is to try to comment on something we didn’t understand. Overall, Fairclough seemed to be talking a lot about agency through hegemonies and ‘orders of discourse.’ Orders of discourse is like a genre or social situation where people are producing language. In certain settings these are encoded into the way people behave.

    He distinguished hegemony not just as domination but of leadership and constructing alliances. To me what was interesting about this was that it was dominance through creating social structures and norms so that that the dominance performed through everyday actions unconsciously. And yet, wit these hegemonies are always ‘unstable equilibriums’  (92) that affects and is reflected by social discourse. Language can be used as a site of resistance of the power. Fairclough believed that language is involved in the power struggle of restructuring, supporting, or challenging hegemonies.

    Fairclough also detailed a framework for which to analyze text in two parts, the text level & the discursive practice:

    Text level:

    • Vocabulary. The actual word used. Jargon, connotations, metaphors. For example, using ‘freedom fighter’ versus ‘terrorist.’
    • Grammar. How words are combined (pronoun usage, passive voice, subject/object relationships).
    • Cohesion. How sentences are linked together. (Repetition, transitions).

    Discursive practices:

    • force of utterance. The purpose of the utterance (speech acts, illocutionary)
    • coherence of texts. the meaning-making the reader does, assumptions made, interpretations
    • Intertextuality. History of the text, how a text by be put into a new context (quotes) and why someone might do that. The connections betweent he texts
  • Austin | How to do things with words

    Literature review // Austin, J. L (1975) How to Do Things with Words, 2nd ed. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Lectures 1-3 & 7-9.

    Read in Language & Culture class.

    1.What is Austin’s motivation for his theory of performative utterances? What problems in philosophy of language is he responding to? How does Austin’s work provide a new look at language? How does this connect to culture?

    Austin was exploring exactly how to we doings with words and how me make sense of them. This had to do with culture because both the speaker and receiver must have a predetermined agreement on how to accomplish things with words through cultural norms. He was responding to theorists like Saussure who were only interested in the semantic meanings of words in disagreement.

    2. Define the performative utterance. What are the critical features of Austin’s concept? What are some examples (beyond his own)? What kind of utterance is not a performative utterance?

    A performative utterance compared to a constative utterance (or a statement) performs an action. He evaluated them as being either happy or unhappy through a set of felicity conditions. These terms generally described how ‘well’ something was performed in a the social context of the word. This evaluation would be on the whole act of the utterance, rather than just the words.

    This was unlike constatives, which are statements that aren’t merely descriptive. They can be evaluated as either true/false and are an objective state in the world.

    3. What are the felicity conditions? What are the types of infelicities? How hard and fast are these rules? Is there any grey area? Especially consider his comments on 36-38.

    His felicity conditions are basically that…there is a conventional procedure, that the people involved in the procedure are appropriate, that they participate correctly, completely, with certain thoughts and feelings, and must conduct themselves appropriately afterwards. I don’t think these are hard and fast rules because as Austin points out in page 37, there can be uncertainties in how the audience receives and interprets the data, despite best intentions.

    4. In Lecture VIII, Austin distinguishes locutionary, perlocutionary and illocutionary acts. What are the differences between these different acts? How does this help us understand language use?

    Locutionary: utterance with meaning that we take the ‘regular sense and meaning of the words”

    Illocutionary: Doing the act you’re saying. To make the audience do something in a social context.

    Perlocutionary: Audience’s response to the illocutionary act. This is outside the speech act.

    For example: If someone says “Is there any salt?”

    • Locutionary: Questioning if salt in existence
    • Illocutionary: A request for salt.
    • Perlocutionary: Act of causing someone to pass the speaker the salt.

    5. Pay close attention to the first full paragraph on page 100. Why is it important for us to consider that “the occasion of an utterance matters seriously”? How does this connect to Whorf and Bourdieu? What are similarities and differences of their perspectives on language and culture?

    Austin believes the context is important because the words are explained by the context (100). Given the example Austin includes, I would agree that without the context the words would take on completely different meanings than the original speaker had intended. Whorf and Bourdieu also believed that social context played an important role in evaluating language. In fact, Bourdieu references Austin’s speech acts in his essay.

  • Bourdieu | Language & Symbolic Power

    Literature review // Bourdieu, Pierre (1991) Language & Symbolic Power. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. (38-89)

    Read in Language & Culture class

     First, I want to remind future-Jacklynn how poorly-written this article was. Bourdieu seemed to have a phobia of ending a sentence and would avoid them at all costs. Loved interjections, hated interjections. Take this sentence chosen at random:

    ” What guides linguistic production is not the degree of tension of the market or, more precisely, its degree of formality , defined in the abstract, for any speaker, but rather the relation between a degree of ‘average’ objective tension and a linguistic habitus itself characterized by a particular degree of sensitivity to the tension of the market: or, in other words, it is the anticipation of profits, which can scarcely be called a subjective anticipation since it is the product of the encounter between an objective circumstance, that is, the average probability of success, and an incorporated objectivity, that is, the disposition towards a more or less rigorous evaluation of that probability. ” (81)

    Now just imagine reading 60 pages of that. 

    Anyway, on to the analysis:

    This paper introduced me to many interesting concepts that I can imagine using throughout the class and hopefully in the work I’m doing through my thesis.

    So first, we compared Bourdieu and Saussure and how Bourdieu built off of this background in his work. Saussure, apparently, is now accepted as a more dated theory in linguistics but is important as a foundation. In summary Saussure kind of argued for linguists to focus and study on the dictionary, formal language (lange) instead of the spoken language, the language in use (parole).  With that in mind, Bourdieu definitely explored the parole side of things more in this work.

    “Grammar defines meaning only very partially: it is in relation to a market that the complete determination of the signification of discourse occurs.”  (38)

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