What Metaphors Mean - 17 What Metaphors Mean Metaphor is...

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17 What Metaphors Mean Metaphor is the dreamwork of lanauale and. like all dreamwork, itl interpretation reflects as much on the interpreter as on the originator. The interpretation of dreams requires collaboration between a dreamer and a waker, even if they be the same person; and the act of interpretation is itself a work of the imagination. So too understanding a metaphor is as much a creative endeavour as making a metaphor, and as little guided by rules. These remarks do not, except in matters of degree. distinguish metaphor from more routine linguistic transactions: all communi- cation by speech assumes the interplay of inventive construction and inventive construal. What metaphor adds to the ordinary is an achievement that uses no semantic resources beyond the resources on which the ordinary depends. There are no instructions for devising metaphors; there is no manual for determining what a metaphor 'means' or 'says'; there is no test for metaphor that does not call for taste. I A metaphor implies a kind and degree of artistic success; there are no unsuccessful metaphors, just as there are no unfunny jokes. There are tasteless metaphors, but these are turns that nevertheless have brought something off. even if it were not worth bringing off or could have been brought ofTbetter. This paper is concerned with that metaphors mean, and its thesis is that metaphors mean what the words. in their most literal interpretation, mean, and nothing more. Since thisthesis flies in the face of contemporary views with which I am familiar. much of what I have to say is critical. But I think the picture of metaphor that I I think Max Black is wrong when he says. 'The rules of our lanauaae determine that some expressions must count as metaphors: ('Metaphor" 29.) There are no such rules. I ,I j 1 J.
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246 Limits of the Literal emerges when error and confusion are cleared away makes meta- phor a more, not a less, interesting phenomenon. The central mistake against which I shall be inveighing is the idea that a metaphor has, in addition to its literal sense or meaning, another sense or meaning. This idea is common to many who have written about metaphor: it is found in the works of literary critics like Richards. Empson, and Winters; philosophers from Aristotle to Max Black; psychologists from Freud and earlier to Skinner and later: and IinluitUti from Plato to Uricl Weinreich and Oeora e LakofT. The idea takes many forms. from the relatively simple in Aristotle to the relatively complex in Black. The idea appears in writings which maintain that a literal paraphrase of a metaphor can be produced. but it is also shared by those who hold that typicallyno literal paraphrase can be found. Some stress the special insight metaphor can inspire and make much of the fact that ordinary language, in its usual functioning, yields no such insight. Yet this view too sees metaphor as a form of communication alongside ordinary communication; metaphor conveys truths or falsehoods about the world much as plainer language does, though the message may be considered more exotic, profound, or cunningly garbed.
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