The Role of Metaphor in Expressing Emotions

Topics: Emotion, Systemic functional grammar, Linguistics Pages: 28 (5504 words) Published: June 16, 2011
Part I: Introduction

1 Rationale

Metaphor, based on the association of similarity, is one of the two basic types of semantic transference that have been an interest for many linguistic researchers. Galperin ( 1981: 139-40) states that the term ‘metaphor’ can be understood as the transference of some quality from one object to another. Metaphor is widely used to designate the process in which a word acquires a derivative meaning.

In theory, there are at least three communicative functions that metaphor might serve (Ortony 1975). First, they might allow one to express that which is difficult or impossible to express if one is restricted to literal uses of language. Evidence for this "inexpressibility" claim would constitute encouraging support for the necessity-of-metaphors view. A second possible function of metaphors is that they may constitute a particularly compact means of communication. Although conscious experience is continuous in form, the linguistic system we use to talk about it is comprised of discrete elements (lexical items). Unlike more literal forms of language, metaphor may enable us to convey a great deal of information in a succinct manner by obviating the need to isolate the predicates to be expressed into their corresponding lexical representations. Finally, metaphors may help capture the vividness of phenomenal experience. If metaphors convey chunks of information rather than discrete units, they can paint a richer and more detailed picture of our subjective experience than might be expressed by literal language. This we call the "'vividness" claim.

In this paper we are interested in the first and last of these possible functions. Thus, we need to examine a discourse domain for which a prima facie case can be made for supposing that literal language will often be inadequate and which lends itself to variations in vividness. There doubtless are many such domains. The one that we selected was that of internal states, in particular, emotional states. The literature on the linguistic expression of emotions suggests a relatively high incidence of figurative language use (Davitz 1969), providing pragmatic reasons for believing that the context of (linguistic) emotional expression may be a profitable one within which to study metaphor production. Emotional states seemed well-suited because they tend to have an elusive, transient quality that is difficult to describe using literal language, although, of course, they can usually be labeled using literal language. Thus, while it might be easy for a person to label an emotional state as, for example, "fear," it is difficult to provide a literal description of the quality of some particular experience of fear. Furthermore, because emotions vary in intensity, one might expect differential levels of vividness.

Our thesis is entitled “ An investigation into the role of metaphor in description of emotions in English poetic disscourse” and focused on William Shakespeares’ sonnets. The choice is based on two reasons. Firstly, recent research states that “Metaphorical modes of expression are characteristic of all adult discourse”. Secondly, as stated above, the literature on the linguistic expression of emotions suggests a relatively high incidence of figurative language use (Davitz 1969).

2 Aims of the study

This study aims to investigate the characteristics of metaphor in poetry from a systemic functional perspective. The objective of the study is:

- To examine the characteristics of metaphor in poetry from the approach of Systemic Functional Linguistics.

More details on the aimed objective of the study are discussed in Part 2, chapter 2- Methodology.

3 Scope of the study

This study only attempts to explore metaphorical modes of expression of emotions in English poetry discourse and takes William Shakespeares’ sonnets as an illustration due to their available presence in the discourses.

Halliday (1994:341) states that: “ lexical...
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