CASCA/IUAES2017 Conference in Ottawa
Metaphor, from the Greek metapherin, or transfer, has become central to multidisciplinary inquiries in language and cognition. This panel invites submissions that explore the implications of recent arguments concerning the metaphorical nature of human language and cognition for anthropology.
Multidisciplinary studies in language and cognition have argued for decades that the metaphorical nature of human language is a symptom of the fundamentally metaphorical nature of human cognition. For centuries metaphor, from the Greek metapherin, or transfer, was primarily the purview of rhetorical, literary, and most recently linguistic study. What are the implications for anthropology of recent arguments concerning the metaphorical nature of language? How does language move our minds, frame our conceptions, and animate our realities? How does human language, as a symbolic system always in motion, inhibit or undermine ideological attempts to fix cultural paradigms and practices? How do human beings construct stable realities (or the illusion thereof?) from fluid forms and semantic values?
This panel encourages the submission of papers concerning language in motion and as motion. In the face of literacy, urbanization, and programs of national identity, languages have changed, with outcomes from standardization to creolization to language death. How do people innovate linguistically in situations where they called on to extend and change cultural paradigms and practices? As they construct new syntheses of past and present, what kinds of stories do people tell about themselves, their histories, and their futures, and how do they use use new media to tell those stories? Finally, what role do artists play in both perpetuating existing structures of meaning and extending language?
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
Metaphor derivation in the popular language of leisure: the trajectory of 'vacillare'
This paper presents an analysis of metaphor derivations in the trajectory of the Latin verb vacillare and the contemporary popular uses of the Spanish vacilar, vacilón, y vaciladera.
The Latin verb vacillare, which denotes a swaying, staggering walk, is the root of the Spanish verbs vacilar, the English vacillate, and the French vaciller. In the three recipient languages the original meaning of vacillare became, through metaphor, the condition of displaying an unsettled will or opinion that sways between different options. A second derivation took place in Caribbean, Mexican and Central American Spanish: through this vast area, vacilar is nowadays a popular term used to denote activities that are intently unserious, as in the teasing, joking, and double entendre that playfully sways meaning during informal conversation. Associated nouns for the verb are are vacilón and vaciladera: these terms can be used in a positive sense (as for expressing "this is fun!"), or scornfully (e.g., for accusing someone of not taking something seriously enough). In Cuba, a musical sub-genre, along with its swaying dance steps, became wildly popular in the 1950s: el vacilón.
A case of semantic derivation illustrates the role of metaphor in linguistic change, and its links to broad cultural practices. The work of Tim Lomas, within the perspective of positive psychology, consists of an inventory of "untranslatable" words related to well-being and pleasure in many languages. This paper proposes introducing a diachronic dimension to his approach by analyzing etymological roots and metaphor derivations in the history of popular speech.
Language as a metaphor for cultural diversity in Lebanon
The paper examines if and to what extent Spanish, Arabic and/or English are involved in speakers' internalization or display of identities (regional, religious, social, etc.) and if they view this as a manifestation of Lebanese cultural diversity.
This study investigates multilingual individuals and how the languages they speak relate to their notions of social and personal identities. The paper examines if and to what extent Spanish, Arabic and/or English are involved in speakers' internalization or display of identities (regional, religious, social, etc.) and if they view this as a manifestation of Lebanese cultural diversity. I will discuss language ideologies and present preliminary findings of an ongoing study in the Beqaa Valley of Lebanon. I argue that speakers' use of Spanish is an iconic representation and index of their belonging to a specific social group (Irvine and Gal 2000; Albirini 2016). I also consider the significance of co-existing languages (i.e. English and Spanish vis-à-vis Arabic) that often overlap in social and educational domains and how this relates to their membership of social groups.
Names between invention and convention: naming practices among mixed families in Iceland
From planets to pets – and everything in between, is bestowed with a name. Which factors influence the choice of the given name and the surname or patronym/matronym among mixed families in Iceland? As names are positioned within the realm of language, I discuss the interrelatedness of language and identity.
I bring forth the question of personal names and patronyms/matronyms in Iceland. I place personal names in the wider context of language practices, politics and ideologies. Icelandic narratives of the past have greatly influenced the perception of the culture and the language within it. Icelandic language, names and the system of patronyms have been playing an important role in the 'nationalization of culture'. The discourses of purity and the need to preserve and protect, concern both: the sphere of culture - especially formal and informal regulations about the language and names - and the sphere of nature and environment. Icelandic language is imagined as a direct, unbroken link to the glorious past. Language protectionism, mostly on the realm of legislation on personal names, triggers numerous public polemics in Iceland - I present some of those cases. I continue with the naming practices among mixed families in Iceland. As less rigid name regulations apply for them, they represent an interesting liminal group - the national identities of each parent influence the decision for the name. Being bestowed with a name never happens in vacuum - I focus on various factors that influence the naming processes. Ethnographic work, collected during my fieldwork in Iceland shows the parents' awareness of the double nature of a name - it individuates and collectivises the person at the same time. This double role of a name reflects also in the naming practices, as parents balance between inventiveness and recognition of the social conventions.
Metaphor and the passage from the unknown to the known
This study examines the metaphorical process as individuals imagine a potential, yet unrealized reality: human extra-planetary existence. This paper examines how individuals deploy metaphors to make use of cultural frames and previous knowledge in order to 'make sense' of the unknown
This study examines the metaphorical process as individuals imagine an "unknown unknown" (Laurence 1917): human existence beyond the planet Earth. My paper presents results from dozens of individual interviews conducted over a nine month period. Individuals are asked to describe how they imagine feelings, experiences, sensations and challenges for human life beyond the Earth. This data is then analyzed using critical discourse analysis (Van Dijk 1997) and Conceptual Metaphor Theory (Charteris-Black 2004) in order to respond to the question: How does metaphor facilitate 'sense-making' of the unknown using past experience and cultural frames?
This process is key to understanding how language, especially metaphor functions to 'wor(l)d build' by facilitating the cognitive processes that bridge human imagination and emergent reality. Metaphor necessitates a value judgement by highlighting and hiding particular characteristics of a target domain (Charteris-Black 2004). Therefore, in the case of emergent reality, the metaphors we use do much to delineate what is considered possible and impossible (or desirable or undesirable) and therefore to shape how we build future realities.
Metaphor in wider contexts
This paper considers implications of the metaphor/metonymy opposition in ritual language, anthropological writing, and, time permitting, in Indian as contrasted with Western theory.
Similarity and contiguity have been taken to be the fundamental poles of mental association in most of Western history, from the ancient Greeks to Medieval schoolmen to Enlightenment literary theorists to British empiricist philosophers and psychologists to the linguistics of Kruszewski and the poetics of Jakobson and the anthropology of Lévi-Strauss. Metaphor, a figure based on similarity, has, then, always been defined in distinction to metonymy, a figure based on contiguity. This paper briefly considers the consequences of taking the movement of metaphor (literally "carrying beyond") not by itself, but in relation to that of metonymy (literally "naming beyond") in three contexts. 1) That of ritual language, in which metaphor can be seen as a process of worldmaking and metonymy as one of anchoring that world in lived experience; 2) that of contemporary anthropology discourse, in which the heavy use of metaphor, a typically Romantic trope, characterizes periods of optimistic exploration (Boasianism, structural anthropology, symbolic anthropology, perhaps the "ontological turn") and that of metonymy, a typically Realist trope, that of pessimistic critique (post-modernism, the reflexive turn); 3) finally, if there is time, a comparison of the central Western dichotomy of similarity and contiguity with comparable ones in Indian philosophy and aesthetics.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.