God Didn't Say That

Bible Translations and Mistranslations

On Metaphorical Dissonance

George Lakoff (in More than Cool Reason) points out that metaphors are conceptual, not merely linguistic. Then he has an example of how metaphors might differ, and what the consequences would be.

I think it’s helpful to keep these issues firmly in mind as we translate across cultures.

Here’s what Lakoff has to say:

1. One metaphor for us is “argument is war”:

It is important to see that we don’t just talk about arguments in terms of war. We can actually win or lose arguments. We see the person we are arguing with as an opponent. We attack his positions and we defend our own. We gain and lose ground. We plan and use strategies[….] Many of the things we do in arguing are partially structured by the concept of war[….] It is in this sense that the ARGUMENT IS WAR metaphor is one that we live by in this culture; it structures the actions we perform in arguing. (p. 4)

2. Cultures could (and do) differ:

Try to imagine a culture where arguments are not viewed in terms of war, where no one wins or loses, where there is no sense of attacking or defending[….] Imagine a culture where an argument is viewed as a dance, the participants are seen as performers, and the goal is to perform in a balanced and aesthetically pleasing way. In such a culture, people would view arguments differently, experience them differently […] and talk about them differently. But we would probably not view them as arguing at all. (pp. 4-5)

October 29, 2009 Posted by | general linguistics | , , , , | 1 Comment