The Interplay of Metaphor and Iconicity: A Cognitive Approach to Poetic Texts

Masako K. Hiraga



This essay attempts to clarify the interrelationship between the notions of metaphor and iconicity in the theory of cognitive metaphor, particularly in the model of ‘blending’ (Turner and Fauconnier 1995, in press, Fauconnier and Turner 1996, Turner 1996, 1998, among others). In cognitive and semiotic terms, ‘icons’ and ‘metaphors’ share that property of signification ‘motivated’ by similarity. Connecting things of similarity is one of the basic operations of the human mind. The treatment of metaphor and iconicity in an interrelated fashion will provide a more cohesive and integrated explanation of various linguistic phenomena. The list of such phenomena includes word formation, word order, grammaticalisation, semantic change, poetic discourse, signed languages and writing systems, as manifestations of the interplay between metaphor and iconicity. This study shows that poetic texts, in particular, serve as an optimal example in this exploration because in poetic discourse, the interplay of metaphor and iconicity is foregrounded rather than backgrounded as in everyday discourse (Jakobson and Waugh 1979). This paper, therefore, aims to contribute in the following two issues. Firstly, theoretical clarification of the interplay of metaphor and iconicity will be given in cognitive terms. Particularly, with the model of blending, we can specify which part(s) of the metaphorical process - whether the input, generic, or blended spaces - relate(s) to the iconic mapping of form and meaning. Secondly, the analysis will demonstrate how the interplay of metaphor and iconicity is manifested in linguistic signs in general, and in poetic texts in particular. It will be claimed that there are two major types of manifestation: (i) that there are iconic moments in metaphor; and (ii) that a form acquires an iconic meaning via metaphor.


metaphor; iconicity; cognitive metaphor; poetic texts

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