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LEXICOGRAPHICAL METAPHOR VINCENT DAVID REGAN Modern lexicographical practice works to describe semantically , syntactically, and succinctly a native understanding of individual words and multi-word lexical units. Dictionary definitions follow any of several methods of treatment: analytic , synthetic, functional, or synonymous. Whichever treatment or combination of treatments is brought to articulate a word's definition, the guiding principle is objectively and descriptively bound, as opposed to being subjectively and prescriptively founded. Effectively, such a logical, objective system attempts to filter out as much human interference as possible by regarding the world from an impartial or "God's eye" perspective. This insures a fair representation, nondiscriminatory and unbiased, of lexical reality. In an unreal, totally abstract world, perhaps. But we must in common sense acknowledge the human factor with experientially based explications . It would seem that, if there were a philosophical paradox in the make-up of dictionary definitions, the path to its resolution would not involve metaphorical language usage. After all, metaphor has long been ignored in both linguistic and lexicographical theory and only superficially appreciated in literary theory. It has generally been regarded as a nonliteral use of language, i.e., figurative or poetic language. LakofF and Johnson introduced their penetrating study of metaphor by noting that it traditionally was understood as a "rhetorical flourish," constituting "extraordinary rather than ordinary language" (3). And this orientation seems doomed to 2 Vincent David Regan contrived manifestations on the dictionary page. It would be hardly conducive to objective lexicographical analyses. Metaphoric representations of word meaning would be all too susceptible to inexact, variable, and emotional findings. At issue here first is the overriding and all-pervasive scientistic infatuation with objective notions and, concomitantly, the abhorrence and avoidance of unempirical subjective conclusions . Such a theoretical dichotomy presented to the writer of dictionary definitions is simplistic at best and, at worst, unrealistic and fallacious. Missing from this philosophical framework is the role of a third possibility, which transcends the false duality of "either/or" constructs—the very human experiential notions initially mentioned at the end of the first paragraph. This article will be promoting just this experiential tack to the composition and understanding of lexicographical definitions , though ironically such an approach is presently extant in all dictionaries and has ever been so. Whereas the thrust herein will advance the conscious manipulation of metaphor for lexical interpretation, in fact the very nature of language is such that unconsciously language users, including lexicographers, have always worked metaphorically to explain the world. The conceptual system that underlies a language effectively controls the substance and scope of that language's constituent parts. This system is largely imperceptible because the medium for its explanation is that which in itself entails the problem. In effect, language cannot serve to explicate language because language use is problematic by the nature of the very vehicle that disseminates itself. Simply put, the way we conceptualize the world works mentally outside the domain of language and within that of experiential, sociocultural activity. One's conceptual system plays a cen- Lexicographical Metaphor3 tral role in defining everyday reality, and it usually is not something conscious, but rather automatic. Our most reliable evidence for the system's existence is, oddly enough, linguistic and lexical despite the fact that language is the only amenable medium to be used in contriving an understanding of both the medium and its contents, language . Insofar as language is controlled by its users, who are unaware of how it works (people take language for granted), and inasmuch as metaphor is omnipresent in language (literally , not figuratively), our language is structured in large part metaphorically. At a deeper level, as the language is, so also our thoughts and actions are structured. While this presupposes an alinguistic source for our thinking ability, it renders by and large our thinking a relatively automatic phenomenon. Unconsciously it proceeds, instigating metaphorical reflexes to our understanding of reality. "The essence of metaphor is understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another" (Lakoff and Johnson 5). Structurally complex or superficial, metaphorical concepts are systematic and prioritized to the mainstream culture of the speaker's language. They derive orientationally or ontologically from primal human body functioning in the...


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