Metaphor and metonymy: A diachronic approach

Metaphor and metonymy: A diachronic approach. By Kathryn Allan. (Publications of the philological society 42.) Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2008. Pp. x, 255. ISBN 9781405190855. $40. Reviewed by Min-Chien Lee and Siaw-Fong Chung, National Chengchi University

In Ch. 1of this book, Kathryn Allan probes into different factors which motivate the mappings of the conceptualization of INTELLIGENCE in three concept groups: SENSE, DENSITY, and ANIMALS. Rather than presenting a comprehensive explanation of how each corpus example could map to INTELLIGENCE, A reveals the factors motivating the mapping for INTELLIGENCE by using the ‘actual usage of metaphor by people’ (14, citing Steen Gerard, Understanding metaphor in literature, 1994).

For the first core concept of SENSES (Ch. 2), A presents and discusses four subgroups (VISION, TOUCH, TASTE, and HEARING) and their semantic mapping to INTELLEGENCE using crosslinguistic resources. The mapping shows that abstract concepts such as knowing and understanding are understood by humans’ embodiment experiences. However, A finds that the mapping from the concrete source to the abstract target, which was claimed by traditional study to explain how metaphors operate, is not always right. Sometimes the mapping operates in an opposite way (i.e. from abstract to concrete), and sometimes the concrete lexical item and its abstract metaphorical meaning are conflated. Therefore, A thinks that what might be a more suitable way to discuss the mapping is through the ‘Conflation theory’ (54), since in many cases, the meanings are conflated at first and do not separate until later.

In Ch. 3, ‘DENSITY’, A concentrates on four subgroups (WOOD, EARTH, FOOD, and MISCELLANEOUS). Based on the corpus analysis, A investigates the connection between INTELLEGENCE and DENSITY according to the source substance property—‘the property of having physically close texture’ (88). Most of the entries in the DENSITY group signify STUPIDITY, and there is a complicated operation behind the mapping of the DENSITY group. A concludes that with the diachronic approach that incorporates a corpus-based methodology and the ‘Blending theory’ (97), which allows the consideration of a wider range of factors concerning the mapping, future directions of research could be seen.

In Ch. 4, ‘ANIMALS’, A discusses the ANIMAL metaphors (MAMMALS, BIRDS, INSECTS, and FISH) by studying the corpus data. A finds that over ninety percent of the ANIMAL data are mapped to STUPIDITY. The mapping can be explained by the great chain metaphor. ‘The Great Chain is a scale of forms of being – human, animal, plant and inanimate object’ (139), in which each form of living beings is described by ‘a scale of properties’ such as behavior or biological function. A argues that the mapping between animals and humans is best demonstrated by the connection of their shared behavior properties or traits.

In the conclusion (Ch. 5), A states that there are various factors, including intralinguistic/semantic and extralinguistic/cultural ones, that trigger distinct motivation for the connection between INTELLIGENCE and the data of SENSES, DENSITY, and ANIMALS. A
proposes that it is not feasible to categorize metaphors as being either ‘metaphor’ or ‘metonymy’ because ‘neither have generally agreed upon [sic] definitions’ (182). A argues that the most appropriate way to discuss the metaphors is through a metaphor-metonymy continuum, in which the examples could be located anywhere between the two ends.