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Review of  Metaphor: A Practical Introduction

Reviewer: Magdalena Zawislawska
Book Title: Metaphor: A Practical Introduction
Book Author: Zoltan Kovecses
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics
Ling & Literature
Issue Number: 13.1703

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Kovecses, Zoltan (2002) Metaphor: A Practical Introduction. Oxford
University Press, xvi+285 pp, paperback ISBN 0-19-514511-9, $19.95.

Magdalena Zawislawska, Institute of Polish Language, Department of Polish
Philology, University of Warsaw


The main goal of this monograph is to recapitulate a 20-year study on
metaphor from the perspective of cognitive linguistics. The book consists
of 17 chapters, a glossary, a key to exercises, references, a general
index, and a metaphor and metonymy index.

In the chapter ''What is metaphor'' the author defines metaphor and
introduces many problems concerning the subject and promises to solve all
those problems are in following chapters. In the first place author
presents typical source and target domains in English. Apparently the most
common source domains are: human body, health and illness, animals,
plants, buildings and constructions, machines and tools etc. The target
domains are emotion, desire, morality, thought, society, politics,
economy, etc. The next chapter ''Kinds of Metaphor'' is devoted to
classification of metaphors. Different kinds of metaphors are
distinguished depending on their conventionality (how well they are
established in the usage of a linguistics community), their cognitive
function (structural, ontological or orientational metaphors), their
nature (image-schemas or image metaphors) and levels of generality
(generic-level or specific-level metaphors).

Then the metaphor in literature is discussed -- the author puts a question
if the literary metaphor is in some way different from the one used in
every-day language. It seems that poets and writers mostly use conceptual
metaphors common for the whole language community, but they transform them
in various ways, by:
- extending (introducing a new conceptual element in the commonly used source
- elaborating (expressing already existing element of source domain in a new,
unconventional way),
- questioning (critical revision of commonly used metaphor), or
- combining (activating several typical metaphors at the same time).
In the chapter ''Nonlinguistic Realizations of Conceptual Metaphor'' the author
presents different ways of metaphor manifestation -- in films, cartoons, art,
architecture (e.g. metaphor GOD IS UP can be seen in churches), advertisement
(e.g. washing powder presented as a good friend), symbols (like the American
Statue of Liberty), myths and dreams.

''The Basis of Metaphor'' part is devoted to grounding of metaphors in our
experience. The basis of metaphor creation can be for example in
correlation, e.g. MORE IS UP (we can observe that the level of liquid in
the container is rising as we are pouring more fluid in it) or perceived
similarities as in LIFE IS A GAMBLING.

In the seventh chapter ''The Partial Nature of Metaphorical Mapping'' the
author discusses some properties of metaphorical mapping, such as
highlighting by the source domain only some aspects of a target domain and
hiding others. The explanation he offers is that this partial mapping is
caused by the structure of complex metaphors -- they are built with
primary metaphors and they capture only those aspects of target domains
which are motivated in the primary ones.

In the ''Metaphorical Entailments'' the author asks whether the rest of our
rich knowledge, not used in the metaphor mapping, is ignored or maybe can
be used in the process of metaphor understanding. The answer is that this
knowledge is some kind of ''domain potency'' which still can be activated
unless it breaks the invariance principle (only these pieces of knowledge
can be used which do not conflict with the target domain's structure).

The next chapter ''Scope of Metaphor'' tries to solve the problem of how
many and what kinds of target domains can be characterized by a single
source domain. Then author presents metaphor system in English -- or to
be more precise -- two separate systems: Great Chain with its subsystem
Abstract Complex System metaphor and Event Structure metaphor.

The eleventh part of the book is about metonymy. The author shows the
differences and similarities between metonymy and metaphor; the first is
characterized by continuity while the second by similarity. Moreover, in
the case of metonymy we deal with only one domain while metaphor uses two.
Also, according to the author, metaphor helps with understanding target
domains and metonymy gives access to more abstract or less salient
entities in the same domain. In this chapter, some connections between
metonymy and metaphor are also discussed, for example that some metaphors
might originally derive from metonymies.

In the part ''The Universality of Conceptual Metaphors'' some examples of
universal (or near universal) metaphors like ANGER IS A FLUID are given
from different languages such as Japanese, Zulu, Chinese, Tahitian, Wolof,
Polish, Hungarian. Following that, the author characterizes certain
examples of cultural variation in metaphor and metonymy and gives an
explanation where those differences are coming from (e.g. different
traditions, influences of the natural environment etc.).

The next chapter describes the relationship among metaphor, metonymy and
idioms. The author draws our attention to the importance of this problem
in second language acquisition -- knowledge about metaphor, which is a
base for idioms, significantly raises the effectiveness of learning.

The following part ''Metaphor and Metonymy in the Study of Language'' is
devoted to problems like polysemy, historical semantics, grammar (mostly
morphology). In the chapter called ''Metaphors and Blends'' the theory of
Fauconnier and Turner is described, and also why the model of metaphor
described as mapping between two domains is insufficient and why it is
necessary to introduce a network model.

Finally the author distinguishes three levels of metaphor -- the
supraindividual level, the individual level and the subindividual level.
On the first we have metaphors extracted by researchers from different
data (mainly linguistics), the second one is in our minds, and on the
third metaphor becomes natural and motivated for speakers.

I really enjoyed reading this book -- its language is simple and
comprehensible, there are many examples from various languages. It was a
very good idea to place a further reading part after each chapter. The
exercises are also very interesting and diverse, also, what is very often
omitted, a key for exercises. In the glossary one can easily check all
definitions of the terms used in the book. The metonymy and metaphor index
is also a very good idea.

Nevertheless I have some reservations about the book. First of all the
title ''Metaphor: A Practical Introduction'' is a little confusing -- it
would be better to add the information that this introduction is made
strictly from the cognitive perspective. I have another problem with the
examples -- I think there are too many old, well-known metaphors from the
book by Lakoff and Johnson ''Metaphors We Live By'' like e.g. LOVE IS A

My next remark also concerns examples -- in the first paragraph of chapter
12 ''The Universality of Conceptual Metaphors'' the author quotes some
citations in Chinese with English translation and later on, in the very
same chapter, he gives only translations for such languages as Hungarian,
Japanese, and Polish.

More importantly, I find the classification of metaphors very
questionable. I still can't see the difference between structural,
ontological and orientational metaphors, for example why personification,
like ''Life cheated me'', is an ontological metaphor (which ''provide less
cognitive structuring for target concepts'') and TIME IS MOTION is a
structural metaphor (''provides relatively rich knowledge structure for the
target concept'')? What does ''relatively'' mean? What exactly is it related
to? The same problem concerns the ontological metaphor, which ''provides
less knowledge'' -- less then the structural metaphor? This is some kind
of a vicious circle. The next question is what exactly does this knowledge
consist of? How can we measure it and how can we be sure that it really
has a structure? I am quite aware that this classification is from
''Metaphors We Live By'', but it still needs much more explanation in my

My next problem concerns ''image-schemas'' and ''image metaphors''. The author
says they both are based on image whereas the other kinds of metaphor are
based on knowledge. The terms ''image'' and ''knowledge'' are not defined in
the book and there are not enough examples to see the difference. It looks
like the ''image- schemas metaphor'' has something to do with the
orientational metaphor (for both types almost the same examples are
given), but what they have in common is not explained.

The author also discusses ''primary'' and ''simple'' metaphor. I don't
understand what the difference is between them (if there is a difference
at all), because there are two separate definitions for those terms in the
glossary, while in the book they are treated effectively as synonyms.

Finally, I do not accept the definition of metonymy according to which it
''gives access to more abstract or less salient entity in the same domain''.
It means that in the example ''I read Thomas Mann a lot'' -- Mann is more
salient and less abstract than his works. I am not convinced. However,
despite my questions, I think this book can be useful for students or for
teachers, as it sums up two decades of the study on the metaphor and
includes a very rich bibliography.
Magdalena Zawislawska teaches Polish grammar at the Department of Polish
Philology. Her doctoral dissertation was about Polish verbs of visual
perception from the frame-semantics perspective. Currently she is doing
research on metaphors in the language of science. Her other interest,
besides cognitive semantics, is second language acquisition.