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McCARTHY, Michael. Discourse analysis for language teachers

Links & Letters
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  • Linguistics


Reviews Links & Letrers 3. 1996 155 Raymond W. Jr. GIBBS. The Poeth ofMind. Figurative Thought, Lanpage and Understanding. N e w York: Cambridge University Press, 1994. ix + 527 pages. An unprejudiced look at language use leaves little doubt that non-literal speech is all-pepasive. From there, it is natural to question whether such a ubiquitous phenornenon requires special cognitive operations for its production and com- prehension, as one is led to believe if one follows traditional assurnptions in rheto- ric and rnuch of linguistic theory. This commonsensical start to the study of non-literal language use led Gibbs -a psy- chologist interested in language com- prehension and production- to test in the laboratory his intuition that the same interpretive mechanisms might be at work in literal and non-literal uses of language. He found, in line with discoveries by other cognitive scientists and assumptions by some pragmaticians, that there was often no evidence that comprehenders arrived at non-literal interpretations via so called literal meaning. Having quest- ioned the primacy of literal language and thought, Gibbs then goes one step fur- ther and, following G. Lakoff and asso- ciates, turns standard assurnptions on their head: figuratively structured concepts are at the heart not only of figurative uses in speech but also of what we cail literal lang- uage, and are therefore basic to human cognition and language. The assumption that thought and language are inherently literal is therefore challenged and even- tually nailed to the coffin by the over- whelrning arnount of evidence that Gibbs presents. Now, what are these conceptual metaphors that the author claims are cen- tral to human cognition and language? The basic idea is that abstract concepts such as time, causation, love, or anger, are represented in the mind as metaphoricaily structured concepts. For example, TIME IS MONEY is one of the conceptual metaphors for understanding ordina

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