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the present paper "Metaphors and Metonymy in Cognitive Linguistics" aims at presenting two important aspects of cognitive linguistics, that of metaphors and metonymies, their characteristics, the similarities and differences between them as well as their importance in everyday communication.

Recent years have witnessed a growing interest in cognitive linguistics. In fact, cognitive linguistics emerged in the 70s as a reaction against the generative approach of language. It emphasizes the semiological function of the language and the important role of conceptualization in human interaction. Cognitive linguists analyze the linguistic structures in accordance with the human abilities like perception, attention, categorization, and they believe that language cannot be separated from them. Language, in fact, is fully-dependent of cognition and experience.

Of high importance to the cognitive approach of language are both metaphors and metonymies. Lakoff and Johnson initiated the new study of metaphor over twenty years ago. Their work has defined in part cognitive linguistics itself as we know it today. Metaphor plays an important role in human thought, understanding and reasoning and, beyond that, in the creation of our social, cultural and psychological reality. Trying to understand metaphor means attempting to understand a vital part of who we are and what kind of world we live in.

Metonymy also plays an important part in cognitive linguistics. Metonymy is seen as a mechanism for conceptualization, being able to give a form to the everyday speaking and thinking. It is a mental strategy and a structuring principle of knowledge, being very important to categorization. It is found in both what is usually considered to be the domain of linguistic meaning (semantics) and the domain of linguistic use (pragmatics) showing that it may be difficult to draw a borderline between them.

Thus, both metaphor and metonymy are "figures of speech" of high importance in our cognitive activities.


cognitive linguistics belongs to the functionalist tradition since they both consider language as being shaped and constrained by the functions it serves and by a variety of factors such as environmental, psychological, developmental, historical, biological and even sociocultural.

Mariana Neagu in her book entitled "Cognitive Linguistics. An Introduction" defines cognitive linguistics as "an approach to language that is based on our experience of the world and the way we perceive and conceptualize it. In order to understand the nature of language we have to look at our conceptual world and how it has shaped the signs. Language covers only part of the world of concepts which human have or may have." (Neagu, Mariana, Cognitive Linguistics. An Introduction, Ed. Didactica si Pedagogica, Bucharest, 2005, p. 3)

Cognitive linguistics views language as a reflection of general cognitive abilities governed by neural processes and not as a simple mental faculty. There are no boundaries between all sorts of cognition, we may specify the cognition based on body or that based on cultural experience.

The present paper is organized in four chapters, presenting some of the most important aspects of cognitive linguistics.

Chapter one places this leading linguistics movement within modern linguistics, presenting some general features of cognitive linguistics, definitions offered by several cognitivists, its main assumptions and its relation to other linguistic schools.

In chapter two, the focus is on metaphors and metonymies, more exactly on the differences between the traditional views and the cognitive ones when dealing with these two important "tropes". The traditional concept of metaphor can be briefly characterized by pointing out some of its commonly accepted features: metaphor is a property of words, a linguistic phenomenon; it is used for artistic and rhetorical purposes; it is based on a resemblance between the two entities that are compared and identified. At the same time, the traditional approach sees metaphor as a conscious and deliberate use of words which needs a special talent to be able to use it. It was also considered that metaphor is not an inevitable part of everyday human communication, since this can be done very well without using any metaphors. In cognitive linguistics, metaphors are seen as fundamental to human language and conceptualizing. They are in fact a major and indispensable part of our ordinary, conventional way of conceptualizing the world, and our behavior reflects in fact our metaphorical understanding of experience. The contemporary theory of metaphor shows that the place of metaphor is in thought, in the way we conceptualize one mental domain in terms of another.

We can use metaphors in our everyday speech to express abstract concepts such as time, space, purpose, etc. In cognitive linguistics, according to Lakoff, the study of literary metaphor is in fact an extension of the study of everyday metaphor which is characterized by many cross-domain mappings and is made use of in novel metaphor.

In the traditional view, metonymy is the use of a word in place of another in order to refer to some entity, where one word can be used for another if the meanings of the words are related. In the cognitive linguistic view, metonymy is conceptual in nature; its main function is to provide mental access through one conceptual entity to another; it is based on ICM's with specific conceptual relationships among their elements.

In chapter three, the attention is turned to one of the most important topics that made cognitive linguistics refreshingly different from earlier views - metaphor. Several definitions of metaphors are presented together with the importance of metaphor in our lives as well as in the study of cognitive linguistics. The second part of the chapter presents the different types of metaphors, beginning with Reddy's "conduit metaphor" considered as being the basis for the presumption that metaphors are fundamental to human language and the way we conceptualize different situations, and going on with the classification of metaphors according to the degree of conventionality, their cognitive functions as well as the level of generality, discussing their features and offering some typical examples, broadly used in everyday communication.

The last chapter approaches the cognitive notion of metonymy, discussing its nature, scope and functions. It shows that metonymy is essentially conceptual in nature and not a simply linguistic phenomenon. Metonymies manifest themselves in the shape of linguistic expressions, being motivated by general cognitive principles. One may find metonymic expressions at all levels of language, be it morphology, syntax or lexis, taking into consideration the fact that more than one cognitive principle may be applied to a certain type of metonymy.

Chapter I

Introduction in Cognitive Linguistics

Definition of cognitive linguistics

cognitive linguistics is an approach to language that is based on our experience of the world and the way we perceive and conceptualize it. In order to understand the nature of language we have to look at our conceptual world and how it has shaped the signs. Language covers only part of the world concepts which humans have or may have.

In other words, there is no direct correspondence (mapping) between elements of the external world and linguistic forms (as has traditionally been claimed in linguistics) because particular situations can be constructed (viewed) in different ways and different ways of encoding a situation constitute different conceptualizations. Thus, one of the major strengths of Cognitive Linguistics is its descriptive and explanatory power. The basic cognitive claim is that meaning is conceptualization (rather than a straightforward encoding of the objective properties of the situation).


Based on empirical research in different areas such as cognitive psychology (Rosch, 1973,1977,1978,1983, Rosch and Mervis 1975) and anthropological linguistics (Berlin and Kay, 1969, Kay 1975) cognitive linguistics argues that features of language and our ability to learn and use them are accounted for by general cognitive abilities, our visual and sensimotor skills and our human categorization strategies, together with our cultural, contextual and functional parameters.

The most fundamental tenet in cognitive linguistics is embodiment (Johnson, 1987; Lakoff, 1987; Lakoff and Johnson 1980, 1999). Mental and linguistic categories are not abstract, disembodied and human independent categories; we create them on the basis our concrete experiences and under the constraints imposed by our bodies. Human conceptual categories, the meaning of words and sentences and the meaning of linguistic structure at any level are not a set of universal abstract features or uninterpreted symbols (Barcelona, 1997: 9). They are motivated and grounded more or less directly in experience, in our bodily, physical, social and cultural experiences.

Therefore, for cognitive linguists meanings do not exist independently from the people that create and use them (Reddy, 1993); all linguistic forms do not have inherent forms in themselves, they act as clues activating the meanings that reside in our minds and brains. This activation of meaning is not necessarily entirely the same in every person because meaning is based on individual experience as well as collective experience (Barcelona, 1997).


The notion of concept may be understood as a person's idea of what something in the world is like. More specifically, concepts can relate to single entities such as the concept I have of my mother and or they can relate to a whole set of entities, such as the concept 'vegetable'. This type of concept has structure, in that it includes certain entities such as carrots, cabbages, lettuce, etc. and excludes others such as apples and pears. Such concepts which slice reality into relevant units are called categories. Conceptual categories are concepts of a set as a whole.


Different people may categorize the same thing in the world differently and even the same person may do so at different times. The term construal refers to our manifest ability to conceive of and portray the same situation in alternate ways. One person may describe a half-filled glass of wine as half-full and another person may describe the same thing as half-empty. Each person's choice between various alternatives is called construal. Another instance of construal, i.e. of encoding the same situation in different ways is given below:

(3) a. John gave the book to Mary.

b. John gave Mary the book.

Lee (2001:2) argues that, while in (3) both constructions are natural or appropriate, in the following modes of construal one of the constructions is odd:

(4) a. John gave the fence a new coat of paint.

b. * John gave a new coat of paint to the fence.

(5) a. He brought the wine to the table.

b. * He brought the table the wine.

The notion of construal, i.e. the cognitive strategy by which a speaker decides on a particular alternative in portraying a given conceptualization, becomes evident if we compare the names for the same referent in various languages. For instance, what English construes as horse-shoe 'shoe for horse' is construed in French as fer cheval 'iron for horse' and as Hufeisen 'hoof iron' in German. All these signs are motivated. English and French see a relationship between the animal as a whole and the protecting device, while German relates the protecting device is made of, whereas English by using shoe takes an anthropocentric view of the scene (Dirven and Verspoor: 1999). The construal of a conceptualization often depends on what has been called 'perspective', i.e. the viewpoint adopted by the conceptualizer/speaker of a referent or a situation. Thus, the English grand piano perspectivizes the size, while the French piano queue 'tail paino' and the German Flgel 'wing (piano)' suggest that the focus is on shape or position. The metaphorical similarity with an animal body-part, e. g. tail, also occurs in the English compound tailcoat but not in its French correspondent, habit (noir) where colour is perspectivized.

In some other examples the perspective used is on the material, as in the English pavement, unlike in French where its equivalent, trottoir, derived from trotter 'to rush, to trot', focuses on the function, whereas in German, Brgersteig 'part of the road for the civilians' points to the Agent, i.e., the people who use it.

The fact that different languages could make different choices in the case of compound terms based on metaphor shows that convention does indeed play a significant role. Actually, the notion of construal itself predicts that there should be some degree of conventionality or arbitrariness at work since in situations that lend themselves to different construals, it is to be expected that different languages will make different choices for their preferred coding.

Chapter II




Human categorization is one of the major issues in linguistics. The ability to categorize, i.e. to judge that a particular thins is or is not an instance of a particular category is an essential part of cognition.

The NSC Approach

The necessary and sufficient conditions (NSC) approach or the classical approach can be traced back to the time of Aristotle when entities were assumed to have two kinds of properties: essential and accidental. Accidental properties were thought to be incidental properties playing no part in what a thing was.

The representational assumptions of the classical view can be summarized as follows:

a.       The representation of a concept is a summary description of an entire class rather than a set of various subsets or exemplars of that class. For instance, in representing the concept of bird a summary representation is given instead of separate descriptions for different species or for specific instances.

b.      The features that represent a concept are singly necessary and jointly sufficient to define that concept. Medin and Smith (1981: 23) sometimes refer to necessary and sufficient features as defining features. For example, the necessary and sufficient features of the concept square are 'closed figure', 'four sides', 'sides equal in length', and 'equal angles'.

c.       If concept X is a subset of concept Y, the defining features of Y are nested in those of X. for instance, the defining features of birds (i.e. 'animate' and 'feathered' are nested in those of robin since robins are a subset of birds.)

The three assumptions of the classical view (i.e. summary representation, defining features, nesting of concept's defining features in its subsets) say nothing about possible relations between features - that is, the features are treated as if they were independent. They cannot be unrelated in the case of animal concepts such as robin, bird, animal and organism. For example, the feature 'animate' (defining for animal) implies the feature 'living' (defining for organism).

The basic principles of the classical approach have been summarized, in modern times, as follows:

Things are assumed to be in the same category if and only if they have certain properties in common. These are called defining features.

Features are binary. They can take on only one of two values, either [+] when they are present, or [-] when they do not characterize the entity in question.

Categories have clear boundaries.

All members of a category have equal status. In other words, there are no degrees of membership in a category, i.e. there are no entities which are better members of the category than others, etc.

Against the classical view the following arguments have been put forth:

It does not consider abstract, functional features

It excludes the existence of disjunctive concepts which are often superordinate concepts (Rosch, 1976)

It cannot handle unclear cases. For example, tomato can be an unclear case of fruit because tomato matches a comparable number of features of fruit and vegetable.

It fails to specify defining features. This argument was pursued by Wittgenstein (1953) who maintained that a game cannot be defined as something that must have a winner since there are instances of children's games that have no such feature (e.g. ring - around - a - rosy).

The feature approach

With the feature approach feature lists often represent concepts and the relation between concepts is given in terms of common and distinctive features. The feature approach avoids the difficulties faced by the classical view and is based on experimental findings (Smith and Medin, 1981:14). The assumptions used by its proponents are the following:

The representation of a concept is the result of an abstraction process, a summary description.

The features that represent a concept can be non-necessary, non-defining features. For instance, 'flies' is a non-defining feature for bird because members such as chicken, penguin, flamingo, owl, do not have it. Nevertheless 'flying' is a very salient property that is true of most birds: bluebird, falcon, robin, sandpiper, seagull, starling, swallow, and vulture.

The concepts for all these birds, except for robin, share the feature 'feathered'. The feature 'winged' is the third most likely to enter the summary representation of bird since it has a high probability of occurring with the concept members.

It is consistent with disjunctive concepts. For instance, both chair and rug (although very different in nature) match enough feature of feature.

The merits of the feature list approach were generally acknowledged even by linguists positing an alternative mode of semantic description: Lakoff (1987), Taylor (1989). Thus, it has been shown that:

a.       with a feature analysis we can capture other kinds of relations between words:

e.g. man is superordinate to bachelor

bachelor is a hyponym to man.

b.      features make it possible to define natural classes of items. For example, [HUMAN] defines the class of nouns denoting humans, [CONCRETE] and [ANIMATE] the class of inanimate nouns, etc.

c.       features throw light on types of sentence meaning, e.g. *This bachelor is my sister is false because of the incompatibility of the feature [FEMALE] of sister and [MALE] of bachelor.

d.      features make it possible to account for certain kinds of semantic relationship between sentences: entailment, synonymy, and contradiction.

e.g. John is a bachelor contradicts John is married.

Unlike the classical view of concepts according to which all instances of a concept share common (necessary and sufficient) properties, the feature or probalistic approach proposes that instances of a concept can vary in the degree to which they share certain properties and therefore they can vary in the degree of membership in a category.


Prototype categorization stems from Ludwig Wittgenstein's (1953) thesis that necessary and sufficient conditions are not appropriate for defining the meanings of many words. In the prototype approach categories have two types of members: the prototype and several less central members related to the former in a motivated way. The prototype is the best, the most prominent and the most typical member of a category. It is the example that first comes to mind when one thinks of that category.

In the last three decades much work has been done on the concept of categorization by cognitive anthropologists (Lounsbury, 1964; Berlin and Kay, 1969), psychologists like Eleanor Rosch and linguists like Fillmore, Lakoff, Labov, Langacker, Taylor, Kleiber.

Starting with the mid 1970s when Eleanor Rosch's research into the principles of human categorization became available, word meaning is described and interpreted from a different perspective.

The traditional account of meaning is completely at odds with everything Lakoff and Johnson (1980) and Lakoff (1987) claim. They argue that an adequate account of meaning requires:

viewing objects only as entities relative to out interactions with the world and our projections on it

viewing properties of objects not as inherent to them but as interactional

viewing categories as experiential gestalts defined via prototype instead of viewing them as rigidly fixed and defined via set theory. Lakoff's experiential or subjective view meaning reveals the limitations of what he calls "the myth of objectivism". For Lakoff, cognitive linguistics began with the discovery that our conceptual systems are grounded in our bodies.

The discovery came simultaneously in the areas of colour, of basic level concepts and of spatial relations. For example, colours arise from our interaction with the world, they do not exist outside of us. It is known that colour categorization is partly a matter of cultural convention, i.e. different cultures have different boundaries for basic colour categories and partly a question of gendered language in the sense that women make far more precise discriminations in naming colours than do men (Lakoff, 1975: 221).

The cognitive approach claims that meanings do not exist independently of human perception and cognition but are created by the way in which humans experience and think of the phenomena that surround them.

The cognitive view could account for the flexibility of word meaning and explain why definitions of words are often so difficult to make precise. It concentrates on how language is shaped by human experience and cognitive processes. Cognitive linguists argue that categories are conceptual in nature and that many, if not all of our conceptual categories are laid down in language as linguistic categories.

According to the cognitive view the words of a language reflect conceptual distinctions made by a particular culture. For example, some languages like English use eleven colour terms which name the following colour categories: BLACK, WHITE, RED, YELLOW, GREEN, BLUE, BROWN, PURPLE, PINK, ORANGE and GREY.

Other languages use only two basic colour terms (black and white), three basic colour terms (black, white and red) etc. Actually, when there are fewer than eleven basic colour terms in a language, one basic term names a union of basic colour categories; for example, BLUE + GREEN. For a colour term to be basic it must meet the following requirements (Lakoff, 1987: 25):

it must consist of one morpheme, like blue, rather than more than one, as in dark-blue.

the colour denoted by the term must not be contained in another colour. Scarlet, is, for example, contained within red.

it must not be restricted to a small number of objects; for example blond.

it must be common and generally known, like yellow as opposed to saffron.

Driven and Radden (1997: 4) illustrate how the Anglo culture and the German culture carve up the conceptual continuum of atmospheric conditions at different points. Thus, the Anglo culture makes a distinction between three categories of atmospheric conditions for which the German culture provides two categories:

Anglo culture




German culture



Figure 1.

As a result, speakers place their experience of visibility and air moisture under one of the categories provided by their culture

Versions of the prototype theory

Starting from two ways in which notion of prototype can be understood Taylor (1989: 59) proposes that prototype theory should be viewed as having two stages: the prototype-as-exemplar view and the prototype as schema view. The former stage corresponds to the application of the term to the central member or to the cluster of central members of a category. In the latter stage the prototype is understood as a schematic representation of the conceptual core of a category.

Kleiber (1990) distinguishes two versions of the prototype theory - the standard version and the extended version, which roughly correspond with the two stages in the development of prototype theoretical research.

In the first phase prototypicality can briefly be described as referring to concepts or single senses of items whereas in the second stage the term (prototypically organized) category concerns lexical items or polysemous clusters of senses (Geeraerts, 1992a: 224). In other words, in the first stage, the prototype is the representation of a concept by means of its best exemplar (hence, the term representational interpretation proposed by Geeraerts 1992a).

In the second stage of the development, various kinds of prototypical (ity) effects are identified and seen as resulting from degrees of membership. Geeraerts (1992a: 224) calls this shift from the earlier to the present situation in prototype theory as the phenomenal interpretation (conception) of prototypicality because the focus is placed on prototypicality as a phenomenon involving treatment of the salience relations among the various senses of an item.

Prototypes as central members

The validity of the classical, traditional view of categories was first questioned by cognitive psychologists who postulated that categories, in general, are represented by prototypes or optimal specimens. The phrase 'optimal specimen' or the 'best example' of a kind is an elliptical way of saying that humans tend to regard it as the best example.

Therefore, the notion of prototype is understood as the best representative of a category, a typical instance of a category. For instance, the prototypical member of the FRUIT category was found out to be the apple, and that of the BIRD category - the robin. The prototype is conceived as having the highest degree of category membership.

Taking up the question whether people perceive category membership as a clear-cut issue or a matter of degree, Eleanor Rosch (1973) challenged the classical theory by showing, on the basis of a set of experiments, that informants judged certain members of the categories as being more representative of the category than other members. Thus, within the birdiness hierarchy, robins were found to be more representative than chickens, ducks and geese. Less typical were found penguins and pelicans while bats were ranked as the least birdy birds.

Category membership is defined relative not only to the degree of similarity to the prototypical member but also to the degree of difference from members of other categories. Thus the contrast set of two categories is also important in establishing category membership. An object may then exist at the boundary between two categories if it contains elements of both.

For instance, bat is at the boundary between the BIRD and the MAMMAL category, scooter and skates at the boundary between the category TOY and the category VEHICLE.

Empirical data showed that the typical members of a concept are the first ones learned by children, this result can be explained by the fact that parents teach typical members since their features capture many of the concept's features. (Smith and Medin, 1981: 70)

Second, it has been shown that the typical members of a concept are likely to be named first (when subjects are asked to produce all members of a category). For example, when asked to list members of the categories FRUNITURE, WEAPON, SPORT, the subjects named first chair, gun, football.

Prototype theorists discuss the process of making category judgements in term of having the prototype in mind or using the prototype in making comparisons. The result of this process can be seen in what has been called prototypical effects, i.e. asymmetries within categories and gradations away from a best example (Lakoff, 1987: 59). For instance, reconsidering the case of bachelor defined in NSC terms as 'an unmarried (adult) male person', Fillmore (1982) observes that 'bachelor is defined relative to an idealized model of the world, one in which there is a social institution of marriage, marriage is monogamous and between people of opposite sexes'.

As is known, idealized cognitive models do not fit the world, as we know it. When these models are placed within the context of our knowledge about the world some discrepancies arise between the background assumptions of the model and some aspects of our knowledge.

Relative to the concept 'bachelor' these aspects ay concern the existence of male participants in long term unmarried couplings, celibate priests, homosexuals, etc. Such cases are regarded as deviations from prototypical bachelorhood, marginal or bad example of bachelors that stand or prototype effects. Prototypical effects have been used as evidence against the classical view.

Putnam (1975) anticipates the idea of 'prototypical effects; when he argues that extension often involves idealization so that in the description of term there appear features of the kind that are typical, or 'normal', or at any rate stereotypical. Hence, the notion of stereotype, "a conventional frequently malicious) idea (which may be wildly inaccurate) of what an X looks like or acts like or is" (Putnam, 1975: 169). A stereotype has as central features criteria features identified with the classical necessary conditions for category membership.

The fact that Putnam admits the existence of non-normal or unrepresentative members in a category (i.e. prototypical effects) is obvious in the following statement:

"If tiger lost their stripes they would not thereby cease to be tigers, nor would butterflies necessarily cease to be butterflies if they lost their wings" (Putnam, 1975: 170).

Lakoff (1987: 169) considers that Putnam makes on important step away from objectivism in the sense that his account "does not require that the concepts we think in terms of correspond to entities and categories in the world. For this reason his account of stereotypes is sometimes linked to prototype theory.".

Prototypes as schematic representations

Categorization by schemas is not incompatible with categorization by prototypes, although at first appear quite different from each other.

Langacker (1987: 371) discusses both models in terms of membership: "A prototype is typical instance of a category, and other elements are assimilated to the category on the basis of their perceived esemblance to the prototype; there are degrees of membership based on degrees of similarity. A schema is an abstract characterization that is fully compatible with all the members of the category it defines (so membership is not a matter of degree)".

Actually schemas are generalizations extracted from specific instances, involving elaboration rather than extension, as in the case of prototypes.

According to Langacker (1987: 372) categorization based on schematicity provides full sanction which corresponds to the linguistic notion of well formedness, while categorization based on extension provides only partial sanction and figures in assessments of deviance (non-conventionality).

The two modes of categorization are inherently related in that categorization by extension typically presupposes and incorporates schematic relationships.

Considering a concept X, the category defined by a prototype PT and the commonality perceived in PT and X represented by a schema SCH, the relationship between them can be depicted as in Fig. 2:



Figure 2

Therefore extension from prototypes and extraction of schemas tend to co-occur as interrelated facets of the same expansive mechanism. For example, in the process of learning the various senses of the word tree, a child first associates the word with specific instances of the TREE category (e.g. oaks, elms, maples). What these instances have in common represents a schema which will subsequently function as a prototype.

The symbolic relationship between the concept and the category prototype is [[TREE] / [TREE']]. When pines are also associated with the TREE category (although they are not fully compatible with the [TREE'] schema since they don't have leaves, the learner can extract a further schema [TREE"] which represents what is common to [TREE'] and [PINE], e.g. a tall central trunk with branches.

Suppose the child next acquires the concept [PALM], [TREE"] will function as a prototype for extension of the category to palm trees. Although palms share with the prototype a tall central trunk, they conflict in another specification, e.g. palms do not branch. The categorizing relationship [[TREE] ---> [PALM]] indicates that palm is a peripheral member of the class (Fig 3).


[TREE'] -------> [PALM]


Figure 3

[TREE"] may further function as a prototype for metaphorical extension, i.e. genealogical trees and phrase structure trees of linguistic description get associated with [TREE"] on the basis of their branching structure (Taylor, 1989: 66).

Another point to consider is a prototype for metonymic extension. For instance, the prototype for cat is the conception of small domestic feline. The metonymic extension of cat to designate any feline regardless of sex and domesticity implies the categorizing relationship [[CAT] / [cat]] ----> [[FELINE] / [cat]]

Apart from the absence of necessary and sufficient conditions, prototypicality has been said to involve categorization on the basis of salient members of a category, vague category boundaries, and a radial set relationship among the various applications of a category.

Actually these represent prototypicality effects that need not be coextensive: some of them might be typical of single meanings (the separate senses of a lexical item), whereas others could be typical of the meaning of lexical items as a whole (i.e., of structured sets of senses).


The notion of prototypicality

Prototypicality, in Rosch's original sense involves the relation between the conceptual and the referential level. Prototypicality is a model of categorization and it is the proper domain of psychology rather than linguistics.

In this respect the moderate attitudes concerning the application of the notion of prototypicality in linguistics are worth mentioning. Tsohatzidis (1990: 9) states that "the range of semantic phenomena to which the notion of prototype could in principle be applied is more restricted than one tends to believe.

Polysemy, however, is included among the linguistic phenomena that can be analyzed in ways that make essential se of the notion of prototypicality. For example, the prototypical use of hand refers to the part of the body, while its non-prototypical senses are motivated, related to the non-prototypical senses in a systematic way. In The hour hand of the clock and My life is in your hands the link is carried out by means of metaphor, whereas in They are taking new hands the link is metonymical.

Lehrer (1990 b: 381) acknowledges the importance of PT for lexical semantics in terms of constructing definitions for words and of highlighting interesting aspects of lexical relations (e.g. hyponymy and antonymy) and of semantic fields.

Concerning the way lexicographers, lexicologists and semanticists construct definitions for words, Lehrer (1990: 370) suggests that definitions contain features that must be arranged in order of importance or by marking some of them as optional. She also points out that the definition of a word can be thought of as pertaining to the most typical, normal cases - the prototypes. For example, the prototypical sense of boil is "cook food in water at a full boil with rolling bubbles".

As for semantic relations, she assumes that superordinates are more prototypical than hyponyms (e.g. bird and dog are more prototypical than robin and poodle) and the unmarked members in antonymic pair show more PT effects than the marked members (e.g. long and big show more PT effects than short and small).

Re-examining cooking verbs in English, Lehrer (1990: 375) argues that verbs like fry, roast, broil, and boil are more prototypical than those lower in the hierarchy - poach, stew, braise. Peripheral terms include verbs like shirr, rissole and flamber.

Prototype effects have been demonstrated with verbs from other semantic fields such as KILL, SPEAK and WALK. The data obtained by Pulman (1983) can be used to construct hierarchies with the category label as a mother node and the other words as hyponyms. For instance, in the category KILL - which includes members such as murder, assassinate, execute, massacre, sacrifice, commit suicide - assassinate is presumably a hyponym of murder. Similarly, the verb categories SPEAK which includes members such as recite, mumble, shout, whisper, drone, stutter and WALK which contains verbs like stride, pace, saunter, march, stumble, limp have prototypical members that are closest in meaning to the meaning of the category.

Prototype effects in language

One of the major gains of the prototype theory relates to prototype effects existing not only at the level of conceptual categories but also in language.

One such example is the notion of "markedness" which in phonology shows up as the distinction between voiced and voiceless consonants. For example, the consonants /b/, /d/, /g/ having the feature / + voiced / are marked while their voiceless counterparts /p/, /t/, /k/ are unmarked.

If we consider further the category represented by the phoneme /k/ we can identify one prototypical member, i.e. unaspirated velar [k] in school and three non-prototypical members (allophones): aspirated velar [kh] in cool and unaspirated palatal [k'] in ski and aspirated palatal [k'h] in keel.

The idea that the marked terms have a greater semantic specificity and consequently a greater rarity in language is also valid at the level of semantics. The notions of prototype and markedness are useful for discussing some uses of nouns denoting animals (see Neagu, 1999: 111).

Among the first extend Rosch's findings which were for physical objects to linguistic categories were Coleman and Kay (1981). In their study they show that the prototype phenomenon is also to be found in the semantics of words referring to less concrete things - a type of speech act, namely lies.

Making a prototype analysis of lie Coleman and Kay (1981: 28) characterize the prototypical lie in terms of three elements (a) falsehood, i.e. X knew that what he said to Y was not true, (b) deliberate and (c) intended to deceive.

The properties hypothesized to exist for the semantic category lie are not a set of necessary and sufficient conditions but elements that may possess different degrees of importance; that is, one element may be more important than the others for determining category membership. Thus, (b) (deliberate) is ranked as the most important element of the prototype; (c) (intended to deceive) is the next most important; and (a) (falsehood) is the least important.

Therefore a statement that has the second (deliberate) and the third (intended to deceive) property but not the first (falsehood) is a pretty good example of lie. A statement that has the third (intended to deceive) and the first (falsehood) properties but not the second (deliberate) is a less good example of a lie.

To illustrate, we can consider insincere utterances such as What a lovely dress or That was a great party or I'm going to the candy store (when the speaker is going to the cinema but will be stopping by the candy store on the way). These examples may be categorized as partial lies. In this category we can also include false reassurances given to terminally ill patients, or answers which are literally true but which are intended to mislead or deceive the addressee (e.g. Where are you going? We're out of coffee).

Marginal case of category lie, then, include instances of social lie (Drop in any time), white lie, exaggeration, joke, kidding, oversimplification, tall-tale, fiction, fib, mistake. All these cases are seen as deviations from idealized cognitive models or ICMs (Lakoff, 1987: 73).

Following Coleman and Kay (1981), more recently Tsohatzidis (1990: 3) also argues that humans tend to conceptualize not only concrete objects but also the most abstract ideas in ways that force them to regard some of their instances as best examples of their kinds and to evaluate the rest on the basis of how well they resemble - or can be expected to resemble - the prototypical instances.

Brugman (1981: 7) argues that lie is a category at a single level (i.e. has only one sense) and proposes instead an approach to over, a polyseme which is in essence 'a category of categories'.

Prototypical and peripheral senses

As mentioned earlier, polysemy can be analysed in a way that makes essential se of the notion of prototypicality. In his introduction to Meanings and Prototypes. Studies in Linguistic Categorization, Tsohatzidis (1991: 1) puts forward the idea that "one of the basic principles according to which cognitive and (under their influence) linguistic categories are organized is the prototype principle".

He further describes the prototype principle as "a principle whereby elements are assigned to a category because they exhibit to a greater or lesser extent certain types of similarity with a particular category member that has been naturally or culturally established as the best example (or prototype) of its kind." (1991: 1).

Within linguistics, the prototype approach was first of all presented as a novel way of dealing with word meaning and any linguistic phenomenon involving categorization.

One such phenomenon is polysemy that Lakoff (1987: 378) considers to be "a special case of prototype-based categorization where the senses of a word are the members of a category. The application of prototype theory to the study of word meanings brings order into an area where before there was only chaos".

In what follows we will test the hypothesis that animal terms have prototypical and peripheral senses.

Prototypical senses, by analogy with prototypical members of a category, have a high rate of occurrence and are first named by language learners. With animal nouns, prototypical senses are, as a rule, the meanings denoting the species. Consider, for instance, the senses below:

a.       goose1 = common domestic web-footed bird larger then a duck

b.      duck1 = common domestic water-bird smaller than a goose

c.       cat1 = small furry domesticated animal often kept as a pet or for catching mice (felis domesticus)

d.      dog1 = common domesticated animal kept by human beings for work, hunting or as a pet (canis familiaris)

e.       cow1 = a domesticated bovine animal (regardless of sex or age)

f.        monkey1 = small, long-tailed, tree-climbing animal (used with reference to the specific class that contrasts with apes)

Peripheral senses, also called atypical or marginal because they are less frequently used and retrieved by language learners, usually denote the genus of the animal in question:

a.       goose2 = a general name for large web-footed birds larger than ducks and smaller than swans, including Anser, Branta, and other genera

b.      duck2 = any various types of common water birds domestic and wild.

c.       cat2 = any wild animal belonging to the cat family (felines)

d.      dog2 = any of the various wild animals related to the dog (canines)

e.       cow2 = the female of various other large animals as the elephant, rhinoceros, whale, seal, etc.

f.        monkey2 = any animal of the order Primates except man and the lemurs (primates)

Another type of extension from the prototypical meaning is represented by uses for sex marking. For instance, the categories BULL and COW are not restricted in application to bovines; they are also properly used of male and female elephants, whales, seals, alligators, rhinoceros. Thus, the categories BULL and COW have elephants, whales, seals, alligators and rhinos as marginal, atypical members. The peripheral uses of bull and cow are examples of meaning extensions from bovines (prototypical meaning) to other kinds of large animals.

Further, the categories BUCK and DOE have antelopes, hares, rabbits as marginal, atypical members. Other animal nouns that have specific uses for sex marking are DOG and BITCH that point to male or female foxes, hyenas, otters, wolves. The categories COCK and HEN have pheasants, sparrows, robins as atypical, peripheral members.

Most of the words considered above function both as subordinate and superordinate terms. Thus, dog3 denoting "male domesticated animal" is a hyponym of dog1 meaning "domesticated canine (regardless of sex)"

However, in her conclusion she maintains: "prototype effects are not very general and not all of them are applicable to the traditional concerns of lexical semantics semantic facts do not automatically or mechanically follow from PT effects. What is needed is a deeper understanding of the mechanisms involved from which PT effects are a consequence."

Last, but not least, Wierzbicka (1995: 149) examines "the uses and abuses of prototypes in linguistics". By choosing two sets of examples, Wierzbicka aims at illustrating both the tendency to abuse the concept of prototype (the "prototype save" attitude) and the usefulness of this concept when it is used as a specific analytical tool and not as a universal "thought saving" device.


Categorization is one of the topics of special interest for cognitive linguists who have tried to show that the insights we may gain into the categorization of the non-linguistic world may be profitable applied to the language structure itself. This is possible because the categories which human beings perceive in the non-linguistic world around them are analogous to the structural categories of language itself. Consequently, linguistic categorization exploits principles that are not specific to language but characterize most if not all processes of cognition.

The two basic principles according to which cognitive and (under their influence) linguistic categories are organized are the prototype principle and the family resemblance principle. The former is a principle whereby elements are assigned to a category not because they exemplify properties that are absolutely required for each one of its members but because they exhibit to a greater or a lesser extent certain types of similarity with a particular category member that has been (naturally or culturally) established as the best example (or prototype) of its kind. The latter is the principle according to which the members of a category are not linked because they all share criteria set of attributes but because they are similar to each other in different respects (or along different dimensions) very much like the members of one family.

Both principles are very important for lexicography, lexicology and lexical semantics: prototypes are applicable in constructing definitions for words and in highlighting interesting aspects of sense relations (hyponymy and antonymy) and semantic fields. The family resemblance model is a powerful tool for explicating the structure of polysemous lexical items such as climb and over.


Categories do not only display internal structuring in having prototypical and peripheral members, but they are also part of larger external structures. Kleiber (1990: 47) emphasizes that prototype theory deals with the issue of categorization both horizontally (by analyzing the internal structure of a category) and vertically (by providing conceptual hierarchies):

"La thorie du prototype fournie une rsponse .deux problèmes envisageant la catorization sous l'aspect horiziontal - l'organization interne de la catgorie - et, sous l'aspect vertical, la structuration intercatgorielle hirarchique."

In contrast with the classical view on categorization that neglected categories in the middle of a taxonomic hierarchy, a cognitively adequate theory of categories also gives special importance to these categories (Lakoff, 1987: 46).

A taxonomic hierarchy may have any number of increasingly specific levels along its vertical axis, but most categories can be placed within a three-level taxonomy: a superordinate category at the top level, basic level categories at the middle level and subordinate categories at the bottom level:


categories: mammal plant substance vehicle furniture

Basic level

categories: dog tree water car chair


categories: greyhound fir-tree soda water sports car stool

A more specific subordinate level may expand a taxonomic hierarchy. For example, the subordinate category SPORTS CAR includes makes of sport cars such as Porsche Carrera, Ferrari and BMW 740I.


The basic level notion meshes with the prototype structure because prototype structure because prototype categories are most fully developed at the basic level and basic level categories only function as they do because they are structured as prototype categories.

From a conceptual point of view, the basic or generic level constitutes the level where salience effects are most outspoken. The member with the greatest saliency is the one that comes to mind first and that may occur more often than others.

Relative to this, Cruse (1986: 146) states that "the most significant level of a taxonomy from the point of view of the speaker of language is undoubtedly the generic level. This is the level of the ordinary everyday names for things and creatures: cat, oak, carnation, apple, car, church, cup."

Rosch (1978) who maintains that it is at this level that people conceptualize things as perceptual and functional Gestalten stresses the importance of the basic level of categorization. Basic level categories are conceptually more salient, that is they stand out more conspicuously or prominently than those at the superordinate or subordinate levels. Basic level categories/concepts include:

natural kinds: tiger, water, gold

artefacts: chairs, books, coats, cars

actions: running, eating, drinking

properties: tall, hard, heavy, hot

Basic level terms are used in neutral contexts. For example, There's a dog on the porch can be used in a neutral context, whereas special contexts are needed for There's a mammal on the porch or There's a wirehaired terrier on the porch.

The use of superordinate or subordinate terms is typical of special situations often involving expertise. For instance, vehicle in Several vehicles collided on High Street last night is used by the Department for Motor Vehicles or in traffic reports.

Car experts like salespersons, mechanics or car fanatics might use a specific term like BMW 740I. The choice of level (I the category) often depends on the individual speaker and the communication demands (e.g. level of style) of the situation.

Morphologically, basic level terms are likely to be simple whereas items that occur at the superordinate or specific levels are particularly likely to be morphologically complex and compound (e.g. blackbird, cocker spaniel, horse-chestnut, office-block, wheelchair, etc.)

At the basic level, individual members of a category have the most in common with each other (they maximize the number of attributes shared by the members of the category) and have the least in common with members of a related basic level category (they minimize the number of attributes shared with members of other categories).

Basic level or generic categories achieve an ideal balance between internal similarity (similarity to other members within the same category) and external distinctiveness (distinctiveness from other categories). For example, each kind of dog (Alsatian, collie, greyhound) shows a great deal of similarity with other kinds of dog, yet all dogs are distinguished from cats, lions, whales, elephants, mice by what seems to be characteristic 'dogginess' (barking, tail wagging).

In terms of gestalt perception, basic level categories have a characteristic 'shape', i.e. a common gestalt, that not only unites the members of a specific category (e.g. all kinds of dogs) but also distinguishes them form the members of other basic level categories (e.g. ELEPHANT, MOUSE, WHALE). If we approach organisms on the superodinate level (e.g. MAMMAL), there is no common shape, i.e. no common gestalt, for the category that applies to dogs, elephants, mice and whales.

In contrast, subordinate level categories (categories on the level of species) like ALSATIAN and TERRIER do have a common characteristic shape just like basic level categories and this shape is shared by all kinds of Alsatians and by all kinds of terriers, i.e. they have an almost identical gestalt. However, this shape is less helpful in distinguishing alsatians from terriers because both being dogs, the differences in shape are much smaller than between dogs and elephants or whales.

Therefore, internal similarity works neither with subordinate categories nor with superodinate categories. For the latter case we may consider the superodinate category ANIMAL which embraces such a disparate variety of items (elephants, mice, whales) that the similarities are obviously very small.

As has been shown earlier, basic level categories include natural kinds such as animals, plants, and substances. Among plants and animals the basic level is the level of the genus. Basic level structures are in the middle of the taxonomic hierarchy, having an intermediate status:

superordinate level: animal, mammal, bird, fish

basic level (the level of the genus): elephant, cat, dog, mouse, whale, crane

subordinate level (the level of the species): alsatian, terrier, greyhound, poodle

Unlike the superordinate level terms that encode vague and undifferentiated concepts, basic level terms are more specific. Although they belong to the same level, i.e. the basic level, natural kind categories differ from artefact categories in point of the attributes characteristic of each group.

Attributes represent similarity relations between category members. Attributes are dimensions along which different entities are regarded as similar. For example, in the domain of GARMENT, items such as TROUSERS, SKIRTS and COATS may be considered basic level members. All members of the category SKIRT have in common the following attributes: (1) they do not cover the legs separately (2) they are normally restricted to female wearers (3) they cover the body from the waist down and (4) they usually are no shorter than the upper thighs. Features that skirt has in common with trousers or sweater are much more difficult to find. On the other hand, members of categories at a higher level such as undergarment and garment have only one rather general characteristic in common: they all represent "a layer of clothing".

Ungerer and Schmid (1996: 67) argue that the basic level on which the largest bundles of naturally correlated attributes are available for categorization.

At the same time attribute bundles distinguish certain categories from other categories. Compare, for example, the attributes available for artefacts, to those that characterize animal concepts:

Natural kinds Attributes

Artefacts colour, form, size, function

Animals  species, sex, age, state of neutering

Basic level terms are said to be more salient than others (e.g. superordinate and subordinate terms) because, while learning a language, young children tend to acquire basic level terms such as tree, cow, horse, fish, skirt, before more general names like plant, animal, garment, vehicle, fruit, or specific names such as oak-tree, Labrador, jeans, sports car, etc.


Superordinate categories do not have a common overall shape and, consequently, no common underlying gestalt that applies to all category members. However, this does not mean that we cannot approach the objects categorized as FRUIT or FURNITURE or VECHICLE holistically. For the superordinate category FURNITURE there are only two attributes: 'large movable object' and 'makes a house suitable for living in'.

The fact that we do not realize that we draw the attributes for the superordinate category FURNITURE from basic level categories such as CHAIR, TABLE, SOFA, BED, SHELF, CUPBOARD can be explained by the family resemblances which can be noticed between category members.

The effect of the family resemblance principle is even more important in the case of superordinate categories like TOY for which we can find only a single category-wide attribute: 'used to plat'. Another superordinate category where it is difficult to extract even a single category wide attribute is GAME (frequent associations are 'spending time in a basically pleasant way', 'leisure activity', 'fun').

Superordinate terms (e.g. FURNITURE, VEHICLE, MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS) differ from basic level terms in the following (1) they are not short, one-syllable words (2) they do not come to mind first before the respective basic level terms and (3) they are learnt by children only after basic level words have been acquired.

One of the main reasons for creating superordinate lexical categories (e.g. vehicle, toy) is the highlighting of salient general and mostly functional attributes. Thus, calling a bus vehicle, we automatically stress its function of moving persons or things around; calling it a means of public transport we emphasize that a bus is capable of carrying a large number of people and can be used by everybody. Another attribute apart from function which seems to be so salient that it supports names for superordinate categories include 'material' (for TEXTILES, MINERAL and EARTHENWARE).

Unlike the traditional view which accepts only one superordinate of basic categories, the cognitive view accepts several superordinates of basic level terms, e.g. CUTLERY and WEAPON for KNIFE, ANIMAL and PET for CAT, VEHICLE and TOY for CAR.


Subordinate categories represent the most frequent type of lexical category apart from basic level categories. There are kinds of dogs, of flowers, of cars and boats, of beds and tables, and all of them can be understood in terms of cognitive categories. The attribute lists for subordinate categories are even more detailed than those provided for basic level categories. They include shared attributes borrowed from the basic category (this is commonly called parasitic categorization) and some specific attributes. For instance, 'has stem, 'has bloom' and 'has leaves' are the shared attributes of DANDELION and DAISY. The jagged shape of the dandelion's leaves and the daisy's yellow disc and white rays are their specific attributes.

Unlike the general attribute of the superordinate categories that are also shared by all the basic level categories (e.g. the attributes 'edible' and 'grows on a tree or bush' which are shared by both FRUIT and by APPLE, ORANGE and BANANA), the attributes of subordinate categories are specific, i.e. they specify the category in question; they are not normally shared by other categories: jagged leaves are a characteristic property of dandelions and not part of the attribute lists of DAISY, ROSE or TULIP.

Morphologically, subordinate categories are not only rendered by simple words like daisy, dandelion, poodle, terrier, quarter or dime as relying on the basic level categories FLOWER, DOG or COIN, but also (and even more often) by composite forms, which include compound forms such as blackbird, apple juice or wheel chair, and also syntactic groups like black bean or black hair.

Noun compounds may have different patterns (1) noun + noun (e.g. kitchen chair, wheel-chair, armchair, apple-juice, coat collar, shoelace), (2) adjective + noun (e.g. high chair, easychair, electric chair, blackbird) and (3) verb + noun (e.g. rocking chair, swivel chair, dining chair, dining-car, hiding-place, freezing-point, waiting room, washing machine).

In the case of noun + noun compounds such as apple juice fully developed basic level categories are involved, both providing a mnumber of attributes for the subordinate category. The attributes borrowed from JUICE are 'liquid', 'no alcohol', 'thirst quenching', 'supplied in bottle or carton', 'served in glasses'. The attributes borrowed from APPLE are 'yellow or similar colour' and 'fruity'. In addition, there are three attributes, 'tastes sweet or sour sweet', 'is healthy' and 'tastes good' that are borrowed from both JUICE and APPLE. The attributes that are specific to APPLE JUICE are 'naturally cloudy' and 'mixed with soda water'.

Concerning the varying dominance of one source category in subordinate categories (e.g. the dominance of RAIN in RAINCOAT, of COAT in COAT COLLAR or of SHOE in SHOELACE), Ungerer and Schmid (1996: 90) assume that in categorizing on the subordinate level we rely more heavily on the source category which is not just a basic level category, but it is particularly vital for our human concerns. This would explain why we derive more attributes from source categories denoting essential items of clothing like coat and shoes at the expense of categories referring to parts or accessories like COLLAR and LACE.

However, there are cases in which the same source category (i.e. COAT) provides fewer attributes to the subordinate category. For example, in RAINCOAT the modifier/modifying category RAIN has more attributes in common with RAINCOAT than the head category COAT. These attributes concern wetness and water, thunderstorms and gales, cold and bad weather in general. Actually these are also included in category descriptions.

To understand things more clearly we will consider one more example, in which the source category, an action category, is used as a modifier and it is dominant. The case in point is WASHING MACHINE, where the cognitive links with the modifier category WASH seem to yield more attributes than the links with the head category MACHINE do. We tend to think more of what happens to the laundry and not so much of the technical aspects of carrying out the cleaning process automatically. Other examples with a dominant verbal modifier category are compounds like dining car, hiding place, freezing point and waiting room.

As has been mentioned at the beginning of this section, subordinate categories can also be rendered by simple words of the daisy type. Seemingly unanalysable subordinates such as daisy, dandelion, poodle, terrier, quarter or dime that rely on basic level categories such as FLOWER, DOG and COIN are referred to as darkened compounds. A word like daisy, which derives from "day's eye", i.e. a flower opening up early in the morning, shows that during the course of time a compound gets entrenched so deeply in the language that it is no longer analysed and not felt to be different from a simple word any longer.

Dandelion, derived from the French 'lion's tooth', is an obvious reference to the jagged shape of its leaves. Though blurred by their historical development, the two words, i.e. daisy and dandelion, denote specific attributes of the respective subordinate categories. Actually many plant names are based on metaphor which links the subordinate category (the target domain) to several source categories (DAY and EYE in the case of DAISY, LION and TOOTH with DANDELION).

To mention two more examples, the term buttercup expresses metaphorical links with cup (indicating its shape) and with butter (indicating its yellow colour), and tulip comes from a Persian word for 'turban' (again a reference to shape).

Considering quarter and dime, we find that they both denote fractions of a dollar (dime is derived from Latin decimus, the tenth') and are based on a metonymic relation in which the value stands for the coin.

With poodle and terrier the metonymy is less obvious; according to dictionaries, poodle has something to do with puddles of water, and terrier is linked to Latin terra 'earth' because in hunting a terrier would pursue foxes or badgers into their burrows.


One of the merits of cognitive linguistics is that it offers an adequate theory of categories both horizontally (by analyzing their internal structure) and vertically (by providing conceptual hierarchies). While the classical theory of categories gives no special importance to categories in the middle of a taxonomic hierarchy, the cognitive approach stresses the psychological revelance of these categories, called basic level categories.

The view of categories as parts of larger cognitive structures has significant implications for lexical analysis in that it facilities the understanding of sense relations (e.g. hyponymy) and semantic fields.




In the cognitive semantics, a special attention is given to metaphor. Lakoff and Johnson view metaphor as an essential element in the categorization of the world and humans' thinking processes. It is also related to other fundamental structures such as image, schemas and mental spaces.

Metaphors in cognitive linguistics can go from linguistic metaphors to conceptual ones and vice versa. Cognitive linguists have used the abundant and systematic presence of metaphors as a basis for the existence of conceptual metaphors, which shows the movement from language to thought. This movement shows that metaphor is an important part of people's everyday conceptual systems.

Following Lakoff, we can state that "our conceptual system, in terms of which we both think and act, is fundamentally metaphorical in nature [..]. since communication is based on the same conceptual system, language is an important source of evidence for what that system is like". (Lakoff, George, Johnson, Mark, Metaphors we Live by, Chicago University Press, 1980, p. 3)

In their 1980 collaborative study "Metaphors We Live By", Lakoff and Johnson approach metaphor from a perspective that borrows aspects of philosophical constructivism or the rejection of notions of an absolute or objective reality in favor of a view of the world as constructed through language. Their constructivist model represents an attempt to address the complex questions of linguistic structure, placing particular emphasis on the problem of how to characterize the literal and the metaphorical in language. Their understanding of metaphor is based on Putnam's internal realism, or "experientialism", as they call it. Experientialism necessitates an approach to language and meaning that, first, presupposes the existence of the cognizant subject and, second, demands that a distinction be made between metaphor of thought - what Lakoff and Johnson call "conceptual metaphor" - and "poetic" metaphor, or metaphor of language, the tropological device familiar to literary theorists and critics.

According to Kovecses, "in the cognitive view, metaphor is defined as understanding one conceptual domain in terms of another conceptual domain. Examples of this include when we talk and think about life in terms of journeys, about theories in terms of buildings, about ideas in terms of food, about social organizations in terms of plants, and many others. A convenient short-hand way of capturing this view of metaphor is the following: CONCEPTUAL DOMAIN (A) IS CONCEPTUAL DOMAIN (B), which is what is called a conceptual metaphor". (Kovecses, Zoltan, Metaphor. A Practical Introduction, Oxford University Press, 2002, p. 4)

Both "conceptual metaphor" - the metaphor that we use to develop concepts - and "linguistic metaphor" - the metaphor that we actually express using the resources of a lexicon - derive from the same cognitive material. The difference between them lies in the media through which they are manifested: conceptual metaphor provides the material structures for human thought processes, while linguistic metaphor imports those conceptual structures into the semiotic media of human voice and gesture.

Lakoff and Johnson have presented a series of conceptual metaphors which make us think of "ideas":










Conventional metaphors reflect persuasive conceptual metaphors and are perhaps the best source for discovering these metaphoric schemes of thought. Thus, metaphors can be conceptual and linguistic. Conceptual metaphors involve two concepts, the target domain being understood in terms of the source domain. Linguistic metaphors or metaphorical linguistic expressions are linguistic manifestations of conceptual metaphors.

The cognitive linguistic study of metaphor is related to the study of other linguistic domains such a polysemy, grammaticalization and categorization.

Concerning the importance of metaphor in our lives as well as in the study of cognitive linguistics, Kovecses believes that "one of the best (but not quite serious) illustrations of the seriousness and importance of metaphor can be found in the myth of Oedipus. As part of the myth, Oedipus arrives in Thebes where he finds that a monster, called the Sphinx, is guarding the road to the city. She poses riddles to everyone on their way to Thebes and devours them if they are unable to solve the riddles. So far, everyone has been devoured when Oedipus arrives. The Sphinx asks him the riddle: Which is the animal that has four feet in the morning, two at midday, and three in the evening? Without hesitation Oedipus answers: Man, who in infancy crawls on all fours, who walks upright in maturity, and in his old age supports himself with a stick. The Sphinx is defeated and kills herself. Oedipus thus becomes the king of Thebes. How was Oedipus able to solve the riddle? At least a part of this must have been his knowledge of conceptual metaphor. There appear to be two metaphors operative in figuring out the riddle. The first is the metaphor THE LIFE OF HUMAN BEINGS IS A DAY. Oedipus must have been helped by the correspondences that obtain between the target concept of life and the source domain of day. Morning corresponds to infancy, midday to mature adulthood, and evening to old age. Since he knew these mappings, he offered the correct solution. Another, and maybe less important, metaphor that may have played a part is HUMAN LIFE IS A JOURNEY. This metaphor is evoked by the frequent mention and thus the important role of feet in the riddle. Feet evoke the concept of journey that may provide a clue to the successful solution of the riddle through the HUMAN LIFE IS A JOURNEY metaphor. This reading is reinforced by the fact that much of the myth is a tale of Oedipus's life in the form of a journey.

All in all, Oedipus's life, at least on this occasion, is saved in part by his knowledge of metaphor. Can there be a more important reason and better motivation to find out about metaphor?" (Kovecses, Zoltan, Metaphor. A Practical Introduction, Oxford University Press, 2002, p. 9)


In 1979, Michael Reddy published an article about the so-called "conduit metaphor", which Lakoff considered as being for the presumption that metaphors are fundamental to human language and the way we conceptualize different situations. Reddy believed that human communication is based on a speaker or writer who delivers a message in words and a listener or reader who understands the meanings of the words transmitted. Thus, the sender takes ideas out of the mind, puts them into words and directs them towards a listener or hearer who extracts the meaning-objects from the word-containers. Michael Reddy believed that everyday language is highly metaphorical, and metaphors are indispensable for the ways we conceptualize the world around us. Like Reddy, Lakoff agrees with the idea that our everyday behavior reflects our metaphorical understanding of experience.

Therefore, "the conduit metaphor is a complex conceptual entity which largely defines our idea of what communication is and which is reflected automatically and unconsciously in our everyday language. The conceptual structuring provided by the conduit metaphor gives us a coherent understanding of the concept of communication itself" (Neagu, Mariana, Cognitive Linguistics. An Introduction, Ed. Didactica si Pedagogica, Bucharest, 2005, p. 66)

"A major way in which metaphors can be classified is their degree of conventionality. In other words, we can ask how well worn or how deeply entrenched a metaphor is in everyday use by ordinary people for everyday purposes. This use of the notion of conventionality is different from the way this concept is usually used in linguistics, semiotics, and the philosophy of language. The typical application of the term in these fields is synonymous with that of the term 'arbitrary', especially as this is used in explaining the nature of linguistic signs. However, 'conventional' is used in the sense of well established and entrenched." (Kovecses, Zoltan, Metaphor. A Practical Introduction, Oxford University Press, 2002, p. 29)

Therefore, metaphors can be highly conventional or conventionalized. Both conceptual and linguistic metaphors are highly conventionalized, since they are used without any efforts by people in their everyday speech.

The everyday conventional metaphor is the most important part of the contemporary theory of metaphor since we need a conventional system to understand the vast majority of poetic metaphors. "A mapping is conventional in the sense that it is a fixed part of our conceptual system, one of our conventional ways of conceptualizing something." (Neagu, Mariana, Cognitive Linguistics. An Introduction, Ed. Didactica si Pedagogica, Bucharest, 2005, p. 66)

A metaphor does not just set up a single point of comparison; the source and the target share common features so that it is possible to extend the metaphor. This feature is called systematicity and represents an important aspect in cognitive semantics. Lakoff and Turner (1989) used the metaphor LIFE IS A JOURNEY which implies a mapping between two concepts.

In fact, for this metaphor, Lakoff uses a set of ontological correspondences:

The lovers correspond to travelers.

The love relationship corresponds to the vehicle.

The lovers' common goals correspond to their common destination on the journey.

Difficulties in the relationship correspond to impediments to travel.

Thus, we are able to see different ways of characterizing love by different linguistic expressions. Some persons may use this metaphor Life is a journey but they cannot use expressions like Love is magic. "Such variation between people within a community may have important effects on their experience of specific linguistic expressions as conventional or new, easy or difficult, appropriate or inappropriate, and so on, and may influence people's production and comprehension of specific linguistic expressions in concomitantly varying ways." (Gibbs, Raymond and Steen, Gerard, Metaphor in Cognitive Linguistics, Selected Papers from the Fifth International Cognitive Linguistics Conference, Amsterdam, July, 1997, p. 3)

"Conventional conceptual metaphors, such as ARGUMENT IS WAR, LOVE IS A JOURNEY, IDEAS ARE FOOD, THEORIES ARE BUILDINGS, etc., are deeply entrenched ways of thinking about or understanding an abstract domain, while conventional metaphorical linguistic expressions are well worn, clichd ways of talking about abstract domains. Thus, both conceptual and linguistic metaphors can be more or less conventional". (Kovecses, Zoltan, Metaphor. A Practical Introduction, Oxford University Press, 2002, p. 30)

Poets and writers may use metaphors beyond their general forms in everyday language. By means of extending, elaborating and composing, they form new conventional metaphors with a completely different meaning. For example, Shakespeare in Sonnet 73 uses a sentence that includes several metaphors: "black night does take away" implying that death is night, life is a precious possession, and the events are actions.

Novel metaphorical expressions have their source in poetry or literature. At the same time, there are many creative speakers that can produce novel linguistic metaphors based on conventional conceptual metaphors.

In the following examples, Frost uses the conventional metaphor LIFE IS A JOURNEY unconventionally:


a)      He had a head start in life.

b)      Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

(Robert Frost, "The Road Not Taken")

Kovecses explains the use of the conventional metaphor unconventionally as "He employs linguistic expressions from the journey domain that have not been conventionalized for speakers of English; 'two roads diverged' and 'I took the one less traveled by' are not worn out, clichd linguistic expressions to talk about life in English. As linguistic metaphors, they strike us as unconventional and novel, but the conceptual metaphor that they realize remains conventional. While it may be difficult for most of us to conceive of life in other than the JOURNEY conceptual metaphor, we probably couldn't find these linguistic expressions in a dictionary or hear them every day from ordinary speakers for everyday purposes of communication". (Kovecses, Zoltan, Metaphor. A Practical Introduction, Oxford University Press, 2002, p. 31)

Taking into account their cognitive functions, conceptual metaphors are classified into three types: structural metaphors, orientational metaphors and ontological metaphors.

Structural metaphors enable speakers understand one concept in terms of another. This takes place by conceptual mapping between the elements of the source and the target. A typical example would be the metaphor ARGUMENT IS WAR, which forms a series of everyday expressions:

Your claims are indefensible.

He attacked every weak point in my argument.

I demolished his argument.

I've never won an argument with him.

He shot down all my arguments.

Thus, the concept ARGUMENT is structured, understood and used in term of the other concept - WAR.

Another typical example of structural metaphors is the expression TIME IS MONEY. The first concept, that of TIME is understood and used in the terms of the other concept MONEY. At the same time, MONEY can be seen as a substitute for RESOURCE or VALUABLE COMMODITY.

Thus, TIME IS MONEY entails that TIME IS A RESOURCE or that TIME IS A VALUABLE COMMODITY. All these can be seen in different expressions like:

You need to budget your time (for the metaphorical concept TIME IS MONEY).

I'm run out of time (for the metaphorical concept TIME IS A LIMITED RESOURCE).


Thank you for your time (for TIME IS VALUABLE COMMODITY).

"As Lakoff notes, these metaphorical concepts forms a single system based on subcategorized since in our societies money is a limited resource and limited resources are valuable commodities". (Neagu, Mariana, Cognitive Linguitics. An Introduction, Ed. Didactica si Pedagogica, Bucharest, 2005, p. 69)

The conceptual metaphor TIME IS MOTION, has two special cases: TIME PASSING IS MOTION OF AN OBJECT and TIME PASSING IS AN OBSERVER'S MOTION OVER A LANDSCAPE. In the first version, the observer is fixed, while in the second, time is fixed and the observer is moving with respect to time.


The time will come when .

The time has long since gone when .

The time for action has arrived.

In the weeks following next Tuesday .

On the preceding day .

I'm looking ahead to Christmas.

Thanksgiving is coming up on us.

Time is flying by.


There's going to be trouble along the road.

His stay in Russia extended over many years.

He passed the time happily.

We're coming up on Christmas.

We're getting close to Christmas.

The second type of metaphors is called orientational or spatial since they are based on a spatial orientation. All these metaphors are associated with the UP-DOWN orientation. These metaphors are based on our experiences of lying down or getting up and their associations with health, power, etc. In such instances, we cannot talk about the use of metaphors in order to flourish our language but we may speak of ordinary language conceived by people to express happiness, sadness, health, etc.

For example, HAPPY IS UP, SAD IS DOWN, can be accounted in a series of ordinary expressions:

I'm feeling up.

My spirits rose.

You're in high spirits.

I'm feeling down.

My spirits sank.

The same can be exemplified for MORE IS UP, LESS IS DOWN:

The number of books printed each year keeps going up.

The amount of artistic creativity has gone down.

My income rose last year.

My income fell last year.


She's always in top shape.

He fell ill.



He's an upstanding citizen.

That was a low down thing to do.

Thus, concepts like "happy", "healthy", "virtue" are associated with an upward orientation, while their opposites receive downward orientation. Kovacses believes that this type of conceptual metaphor may be named "coherence metaphor" according to their function in cognitive linguistics, where certain target concepts tend to be conceptualized in a uniform manner.

Not all positive-negative evaluations are oriented up-down. They may also be evaluated as whole-not whole, center-periphery, no link, imbalance, out, no goal, back are seen as negative. For example, the "whole" versus "not whole" opposition is viewed in the English expression "He is half the man he used to be", the expression half the man showing a person who is not positively viewed or perceived.

The ontological metaphors help us understand our experiences based on objects and substances. The physical objects and the experiences related to them help humans view events, activities, emotions or ideas as entities.

"Although ontological metaphors do not provide elaborate structures for abstract concepts, they enable us to see more sharply delineated structure where there is very little or none; in other words, undelineated experiences receive a more delineated status via ontological metaphors and then the experience so conceptualized can be structured further by means of structural metaphors. For example, if we conceptualize the mind as an object, we can easily provide more structure for it by means of machine metaphor of mind". (Neagu, 2005)

Lakoff adds to the ontological metaphor THE MIND IS AN ENTITY two American expressions: THE MIND IS A MACHINE and THE MIND IS A BRITTLE OBJECT.

THE MIND IS A MACHINE can be found in a series of exemplifications:

My mind isn't operating today.

I'm a little rusty today.

We've been working on this problem all day and now we're running out of steam.

We're still trying to grind out the solution to this equation.

All these examples present the human mind as a mechanism that may not always work properly.

For THE MIND IS A BRITTLE OBJECT, we may find several instances where the focus is placed on various aspects of mental experience:

Her ego is very fragile.

You have to handle him with care since his wife's death.

I'm going to pieces.

His mind snapped.

According to Lakoff, the human body can be viewed as a container having a surface and an in-out orientation. Besides objects, substances can also been seen as containers. The container metaphor explains why people conceptualize the visual field in terms of a container seeing the inside part:

The ship is coming into view.

There is nothing in sight.

That's in the centre of my field of vision.

"Ontological metaphors are used in interpreting events, actions, activities and states. Events and actions are conceptualized metaphorically as objects, activities as substances and states as containers." (Neagu, Mariana, Cognitive Linguistics. An Introduction, Ed. Didactica si Pedagogica, Bucharest, 2005, p. 72)

An example where the event is seen as an object might be: "Did you see the race?" where "the race" is the object. In the example: "He's immersed in washing the windows right now", the activity of washing is seen as a substance.

Personification is seen as a form of ontological metaphor. It is very common in literature but it also appears in everyday language when we offer human qualities to nonhuman entities.

His theory explained to me the behavior as a form of ontological metaphor. It is very common in literature but it also appears in everyday language when we offer human qualities to nonhuman entities.

His theory explained to me the behavior of chickens raised in factories.

Life has cheated me.

Inflation is eating up our profits.

Cancer finally caught up with him.

The computer went dead on me.

All these above-mentioned examples are instances of personification used in everyday language when we attribute the human characteristics to the nonhuman entities such as 'theory', 'life', 'inflation', 'cancer', etc.

All the above-mentioned metaphors are based on the basic knowledge of concepts. There is another kind of conceptual metaphor called image-schema metaphor where the conceptual elements of image-schema are mapped from a source to a target.

Kovecses talks about these metaphors as having source-domains that have skeletal image-schemas. Image-schemas are not limited to spatial relations, such as in-out. "these basic image-schemas derive from our interactions with the world: we explore physical objects by contrast with them; we experience ourselves and other objects as containers with other objects in them or outside of them; we move around the world; we experience physical forces affecting us; and we also try to resist these forces, such as when we talk against the wind. Interactions such as these occur repeatedly in human experience. These basic physical experiences give rise to what are called image-schemas, and the image-schemas structure many of our abstract concepts metaphorically." (Kovecses, Zoltan, Metaphor. A Practical Introduction, Oxford University Press, 2002, p. 37)

Image-Schema Metaphorical Extension

In-out I'm out of money.

Front-back He's an up-front kind of guy.

Up-down I'm feeling low.

Contact Hold on, please.

Motion He just went crazy.

Force You're driving me insane.

Metaphors can be also classified according to the level of generality at which they can be found. Metaphors can be generic level ones or specific-level. LIFE IS A JOURNEY, ARGUMENT IS WAR, IDEAS ARE FOOD, etc., are specific-level metaphors, since life, journey, argument, food, are specific-level concepts. EVENTS ARE ACTIONS, GENERIC IS SPECIFIC, are generic-level metaphors since events, generic, actions are generic-level concepts.

One principle of high importance to the conceptual metaphors and their mapping is called "The Invariance Principle" which states that are metaphorical mappings preserve the image-schema structure of the source domain, consistently with the inherent structure of the target domain. Thus, the source domains interior correspond to the target domains interior and not to the target domains exterior, while the source domains exterior correspond to the target domains exterior and not to the target domains interior.

As a conclusion, metaphors can be classified according to conventionality, function, nature and level of generality. "Both linguistic and conceptual metaphors may be highly conventionalized or they may be unconventional or novel. Conceptual metaphors may be universal and culture-overlapping at a more abstract level and culture-specific at a more specific level. Due to the large amount of human experience that is universal or at least shared by several cultures, it is not the conceptual metaphor that is culture-dependent, but its linguistic realization." (Neagu, Mariana, Cognitive Linguistics. An Introduction, Ed. Didactica si Pedagogica, Bucharest, 2005, p. 74)



Metonymy was first brought into discussion in 1980 when Lakoff and Johnson published their most influential book "Metaphors We Live By". Later on, Lakoff introduced the notion of idealized cognitive model or ICM, a concept further explored by Raden and Kovecses who are considered to be metonymy theorists. Metonymy is seen as a mechanism for conceptualization, being able to give a form to the everyday speaking and thinking. It is a mental strategy and a structuring principle of knowledge, being very important to categorization.

Kovecses defines metonymy as "a cognitive process in which one conceptual entity, the vehicle, provides mental access to another conceptual entity, the target, within the same domain, or idealized cognitive model (ICM). (Kovecses, Zoltan, Metaphor. A Practical Introduction, Oxford University Press, 2002, p. 145)

Langacker believes that metonymy is a cognitive process by which we acquire access to a mental activity through another mental activity. In his "Reference-pint Constructions", he assumes that "the entity that is normally designated by a metonymic expression serves as a reference point affording mental access to the desired target (i.e. the entity actually being referred to). (Neagu, Mariana, Cognitive Linguistics. An Introduction, Ed. Didactica si Pedagogica, Bucharest, 2005, p. 90)

In the case of metonymy, the target gets accessible by the means of the vehicle within the same ICM. It is a reversible process since either of the two elements may stand for the other. Yet, there are some cognitive processes that help us use a certain vehicle and thus, create the so-called default cases of metonymy.

"Ruiz de Mendoza and Otal Campo (2002:62) argue that no adequate definition of metonymy can be made if we do not first distinguish the notion of domain from that of ICM. The main point is that in spite of the apparent similarity between Langacker's domains and Lakoff's cognitive models, we have to notice that these notions need to be kept distinct: a cognitive model is a conventionally structured semantic configuration (e.g. the bird model, the nurturance model, the marital model, the genetic model, the genealogical model) whereas a domain is a frame of reference for the activation of part of the information of a cognitive model. Finally, a cognitive model should be understood not just as a base domain but also as internally structured by a number of subdomains." (Neagu, Mariana, Cognitive Linguistics. An Introduction, Ed. Didactica si Pedagogica, Bucharest, 2005, p. 91)

In "Metaphors We Live By", Lakoff and Johnson pointed out that, in addition to metaphor, there is related conceptual mechanism that is also central to human thought and language: conceptual metonymy. Like metaphor, metonymy has traditionally been analyzed as a trope: a purely linguistic device. However, Lakoff and Johnson argued that metonymy, like metaphor, was conceptual in nature. Some scholars have become to suggest that metonymy may be more fundamental to conceptual organization than metaphor, and some have gone so far as to claim that metaphor itself has a metonymic basis.

For example, in the expression: "The pepperoni pizza is very amused", one cannot understand the meaning without a certain context. Yet, if we come to think that this sentence is uttered by a waitress to another in a restaurant, then we have an instance of metonymy. Two entities are associated so that one entity (the item the customer ordered) stands for other (the customer). Thus, this sentence is an example of the fact that linguistic metonymy is referential in nature: it relates to the use of expressions to "pinpoint" entities in order to talk about them.

At the same time, the above-mentioned expression shows that metonymy is different to metaphor in its functions. To be metaphorical, we would understand the expression "pepperoni pizza" in terms of a food item with human qualities. When discussing metonymy, we understand "pepperoni pizza" as an expression referring to the customer who ordered it.

If we think of a cartoon, then we can imagine the "pepperoni pizza" as sitting at a table in a restaurant. On this interpretation, we attribute human qualities to the pizza, motivated by the metaphor AN INANIMATE ENTITY AS AN AGENT.

While metonymy is the conceptual relation "X stands for Y", metaphor is the conceptual relation "X understood in terms of Y".

A further defining feature pointed out by Lakoff and Johnson is that metonymy is motivated by physical or causal associations. Traditionally, this was expressed in terms of contiguity: a close or direct relationship between two entities. This explains why the waitress can use the expression "pepperoni pizza" to refer to the customer: there is a direct experiential relationship between the "pepperoni pizza" and the customer who ordered it.

Metonymy is often contingent on a specific context. Within a specific discourse context, a salient vehicle activates and thus highlights a particular target. Hence, conceptual metonymies are motivated by communicative and referential requirements.

The reason why "the pepperoni pizza" represents an instance of metonymy is because both the target (the customer) and the vehicle (the pepperoni pizza) belong to the same domain (restaurant).

Metonymies are represented by the formula "Y for X", where Y is the vehicle and X the target e.g. Place for Institution. This contrasts with the "X is Y" formula that represents conceptual metaphor.

Thus, in the case of metonymy, one thing comes to stand in place of something else due to a contiguity relationship: e.g. "a tasty dish". At the same time, metonymy is conceptual in nature just like metaphor, but metonymy is pervasive in predications and speech acts. All these metonymies: referential, predicational, illocutionary, have the property of highlighting. Metonymy is found in semantics as well as in pragmatics, no borderline existing between the two domains.

Metonymy is used referentially when a certain word may have specialized uses in specific contexts. "The question which quite interestingly arises is whether the use of such dehumanizing sentences as the appendicitis is not feeling well today contradicts or not the principle human over non-human which accounts for the default cases of metonymy involving possession, production and control." (Neagu, Mariana, Cognitive Linguistics. An Introduction, Ed. Didactica si Pedagogica, Bucharest, 2005, p.92)

The first pattern implies the use of the name of a certain instrument to denote its user, highlighting the fact that metonymy, unlike metaphor, is a matter of reference.

The cellos sit across from the violins.

The sax has the flue today.

The raiding party consisted of ten rifles.

The shot-gun stepped back for a wider view.

An example of costume - wearer pattern would be the following:

The blue jerseys are winning.

But not

The blue jerseys are winning even though they need to be soaked in bleach.

The case of possession-possessor pattern is the same with the other patterns or principles. We may say:

The ten million inheritance just walked in.

And not

The ten million inheritance just walked in to be reinvested.

The two pairs of examples show us that the case of metonymic extension is irreversible. Once the metonymy occurs, we cannot return to the primary sense. It is about a closed referential polysemy with an asymmetrical activation spread. Yet, there are some cases when anaphora is allowed and where a symmetrical activation spread may occur:

I don't subscribe to the newspaper because it won't hire me.


The newspaper won't hire me, so I don't subscribe to it.

The word "newspaper" stands for either an edition of the publication or for the publishing organization itself. In the following example,

The newspaper Mary works for was featured in a Madonna video

the subject denotes the publishing organization and "the predicate in the main clause has a transferred reading where it contributes a property that the organization acquires from the fact that one of its copies was featured in a video." (Neagu, Mariana, Cognitive linguistics. An Introduction, Ed. Didactica si Pedagogica, Bucharest, 2005, p.93)

Radden and Kovacses believe that the theoretical framework of idealized cognitive models (ICMs) may capture metonymic processes best. The ICM concept includes both the knowledge of a specific domain and their cultural models. It may cross the ontological realms since it is not restricted to the real world or the world of conceptualization. They also have psychological reality since they form associations exploited in the metonymic transfer.

"Defining metonymy as a cognitive process in which one conceptual entity, the vehicle, provides mental access to another conceptual entity, the target, within the same idealized cognitive mode (ICM), Radden and Kovecses (1999) set up a taxonomy where metonymic mappings are classified according to the ICM they belong to. First they suggest that the types of metonymy-producing relationships be subsumed under two general configurations: whole ICM and its parts and parts of an ICM".

Thus, according to the ICM, metonymies can be classified in two parts: the whole-part metonymic configuration and the part-part metonymic configuration. Kovecses believes that "A conceptual domain, or ICM, can be viewed as a whole that is constituted by parts; more specifically, the conceptual entities, or elements, are the parts that constitute the ICM that is the whole. Giving this way a looking at ICM's, metonymies may emerge in two ways: either a whole stands for a part or a part stands for a whole". (Kovecses, Zoltan, Metaphor. A Practical Introduction, Oxford University Press, 2002, p. 150)

In the first category, we may speak of metonymies related to Constitution ICM, to Event ICM, Category and Member ICM, as well as Category and Property ICM.

The whole-part metonymic configuration relates entities that are parts with respect to the whole ICM. It is a relationship applied mainly to things. In this category we may speak of WHOLE FOR PART Metonymy and PART FOR WHOLE Metonymy. Examples of WHOLE FOR PART metonymy are:

The E.U. has just passed new human rights legislation.

My car has developed a mechanical fault.

In these examples, the E.U. is seen as a whole of all the countries belonging to the Union, referring to the European area, while "my car" stands as a whole for the "car's body".

When talking about PART FOR WHOLE metonymy, we may offer the following examples:

England passes through a difficult period.

My wheels are parked out the back.

These examples present England as a part that stands for The Great Britain including Wales and Scotland, while "my wheels" stand for "the car" as a whole.

The PART FOR WHOLE metonymies are also known as Synecdoches which are less ubiquitous than the WHOLE FOR PART metonymies and are usually used with physical things such as hand, head, face, etc. which may stand for the whole person:

e.g. Lend me a hand.

She's not just a pretty face.

Another relationship between the whole and the part may be found in the so-called Constitution ICM, which involves materials or substances as part of a thing. Here we may talk about the OBJECT FOR MATERIAL metonymy and the MATERIAL FOR OBJECT metonymies. The relationship between the object and the material is the same with the difference between countable and uncountable entities.

e.g. I smell skunk.

This iron is too difficult to use.

At the same time, an event may stand for one of its subevents and vice versa in the so-called Event ICM.

e.g. He smokes cigarettes.

He speaks English.

The first example offers an instance of EVENT FOR SUBEVENT, since the prime event of smoking includes other subevents such as lighting a cigarette, inhaling smoke, etc. The second example offers an instance of SUBEVENT FOR EVENT since when speaking a language, one has to be able to comprehend, read or write.

The simple use of Present Tense for habitual events or with future reference is an instance of metonymy.

The Category and Member ICM presents examples typical for the Whole-Part configuration. Here we may speak of CATEGORY FOR MEMBER, and of MEMBER FOR CATEGORY as well as of GENERIC FOR SPECIFIC and SPECIFIC FOR GENERIC.

e.g. I take pills before going to sleep. (Where "pill" stands for "Birth control pills")

Do we have any aspirins left? (Here "aspirin" stand for "any pain relieving tablets")

The metonymic relationship between a generic and a specific is another important aspect of Category and Member ICM.

e.g. Boys don't cry. (GENERIC for SPECIFIC)

Blind blames the ditch. (SPECIFIC for GENERIC)

Another category of the whole-part metonymic configuration is called Category and Property ICM where the category may stand for property: "jerk" for "stupidity" or the property may stand for category: "blacks" for "black people".

The second major category in the taxonomy of metonymies according to the ICM is The Part-Part Metonymic Configuration. Here we may talk about metonymies that are related to: Action ICM, Perception ICM, Causation ICM, Production ICM, Control ICM, Possession ICM, Containment ICM, as well as Location ICM.

The action ICM includes several types of metonymic relationships:

Agent for Action: e.g. to author a book

Agent for Agent: e.g. snitch (slang: "to inform", "informer")

Instrument for Action: e.g. to ski, to shampoo one's hair

Action for Instrument: e.g. can opener, paper cutter

Object for Action: e.g. to dust the room

Action for Object: e.g. The flight is waiting to depart.

Result for Action: e.g. They landscape their garden every spring.

Action for Result: e.g. He made a deep cut in his knee.

Means for Action: e.g. He sneezed the tissue off the table.

Manner for Action: e.g. She tiptoed to the door.

Time period of action for action: e.g. summer in Paris.

Destination for Motion: e.g. to land, to beach, to ground

Instrument for Agent: e.g. the ballot box for "democracy", the scalpel for "surgeon".

(Examples taken from: Neagu, Mariana, Cognitive Linguistics. An Introduction, Ed. Didactica si Pedagogica, Bucharest, 2005, p. 98)

Perception has a main importance in a cognitive linguistics, thus having its own ICM: the Perception ICM. Instances may be the following:

Thing Perceived for Perception: e.g. There goes my head.

Perception for Thing Perceived: e.g. Mary with sunglasses is scaring.

In the Causation ICM, we may have either a CAUSE FOR EFFECT metonymy or an EFFECT FOR CAUSE metonymy (e.g. "He has a long face."). The latter has several subtypes:

State/ Event for The Thing/ Person/ State that Caused it:

e.g. He is a total failure.

2. Emotion for the Cause of Emotion:

e.g. He is my happiness.

3. Mental/Physical State for Object/Person Causing It:

e.g. He's a real pain in the ass. (for He is disturbing)

The Production ICM implies activities where one of the participants or entities is a product of that action. We can mention the PRODUCER FOR PRODUCT which is not reversible in the sense that we cannot have *PRODCUT FOR PRODUCER.

e.g. I've just bought a new Citroen.

Pass me the Shakespeare on the shelf.

She likes eating Burger King.

The Control ICM presents the relationship between the controller and the thing or person controlled. Thus, we may talk about either a CONTROLLER FOR CONTROOLED metonymy or a CONTROLLED FOR CONTROLLER metonymy:

e.g. Osama bombed World Trade Center.

The Citroen is present.

The Possession ICM presents the relationship of POSSESSOR FOR POSSESSED as well as of POSSESSED FOR POSSESSOR:

e.g. You have a tire. (instead of "your car")

She married money. (instead of "a rich person")

In the Containment ICM, we find the following relationships: CONTAINTER FOR CONTENTS and CONTENTS FOR CONTAINER.

e.g. The cup is sweet.

The coffee is on the table.

The Location ICM is based on the premises that certain place is often associated with important institutions, monuments, as well as with events or inhabitants. Therefore, the following examples are part of the Location ICM configuration:

PLACE FOR INSTITUTION: e.g. Buckingham Palace denied the rumors.

Downing Street refused comment.

Paris and Washington are having a spat.

INSTITUTION FOR PLACE: e.g. My house is near Buckingham Palace.

PLACE FOR EVENT: e.g. American public opinion fears another Vietnam.

EVENT FOR PLACE: e.g. The name of this village is Battle.

PLACE FOR INHABITANTS: e.g. Bucharest is in the streets.

INHABITANTS FOR PLACE: e.g. The Romanians host the concert this year.

From the classification presented above, one may observe that not all relationships are reversible. It mainly depends on the cognitive and communicative principles that represent the basis for the taxonomy of metonymic relations.

The cognitive principles include the human experience, the perceptual selectivity as well as the cultural preference while the communicative principles are based on the principle of clarity and that of relevance.

"As human experience is based on our anthropocentric view of the world and on our interaction in the world, humans take precedence over non humans, things are viewed from a subjective rather than objective perspective, concrete objects are more salient than abstract entities, things we interact with are selected over things we do not interact with and functional things are more important to us than things which are non-functional". (Neagu, Mariana, Cognitive Linguistics. An Introduction, Ed. Didactica si Pedagogica, Bucharest, 2005, p. 102)

The perceptual selectivity is determined by the things people find and perceive in their immediacy, they are usually large things with clear boundaries while the cultural preference shows how the salience of a member depends on some cultural aspects.

The principle of clarity requires an avoidance of obscurity and ambiguity in the utterance while the principle of relevance emphasizes the importance of relevant elements or concepts in communication.

As a conclusion, metonymy is essentially conceptual in nature and not a simply linguistic phenomenon. Metonymies manifest themselves in the shape of linguistic expressions, being motivated by general cognitive principles.

One may find metonymic expressions at all levels of language, be it morphology, syntax or lexis, taking into consideration the fact that more than one cognitive principle may be applied to a certain type of metonymy.

Metonymy is easier to interpret if we compare it to metaphor where we need to find several similar attributes between the conventional and intended referents.


Cognitive linguistics is defined as an approach to language that is based on our experience of the world and the way we perceive and conceptualize it. In order to understand the nature of language we have to look at our conceptual world and how it has shaped the signs.

Cognitive linguistics views language as a reflection of general cognitive abilities governed by neutral processes and not as a simple mental faculty. There are no boundaries between all sorts of cognition, we may specify the cognition based on body or that based on cultural experience.

Cognitive linguists analyze the linguistic structures in accordance with the human abilities like perception, attention, categorization, and they believe that language cannot be separated from them. Language, in fact, is fully-dependent of cognition and experience.

It is known that people view different situations in different ways, they have different ideas or concepts related to specific items, they conceptualize differently the same situations. Thus, we cannot claim that there is a direct correspondence between how we see or perceive things and the world around us. This situation has as result the use of different linguistic forms. Meaning is conceptualization, it is not a simple encoding of properties.

In cognitive linguistics, metaphors are seen as fundamental to human language and conceptualizing. They are in fact a major and indispensable part of our ordinary, conventional way of conceptualizing the world, and our behavior reflects in fact out metaphorical understanding of experience.

The contemporary theory of metaphor shows that the place of metaphor is in thought, in the way we conceptualize one mental domain in terms of another.

Metaphors are used in all domains, be it sports commentaries, newspaper articles, literary forms, etc. they can be associated to similes, with the difference that whenever we use metaphors, we actually transfer properties from one concept to another. The starting point is often called the target while the comparison concept is referred to as the source domain.

Metaphors are classified according to their degree of conventionality, examples of conventional conceptual metaphors being ARGUMENT IS WAR, LOVE IS A JOURNEY, or IDEAS ARE FOOD; they can also be classified according to their cognitive functions in structural metaphors like: ARGUMENT IS WAR, TIME IS MONEY, orientational metaphors: HAPPY IS UP, SAD IS DOWN, MORE IS UP, LESS IS DOWN, or ontological metaphors: THE MIND IS AN ENTITY, THE MIND IS A MACHINE, THE MIND IS A BRITTLE OBJECT.

Nowadays, linguists and psycholinguists see metonymy as a cognitive phenomenon underlying our everyday thinking and believe that the use of metonymy in language is a reflection of its conceptual status.

Metonymy is seen as a mechanism for conceptualization, being able to give a form to the everyday speaking and thinking. It is a mental strategy and a structuring principle of knowledge, being very important to categorization. It is defined as a cognitive process in which one conceptual entity, the vehicle, provides mental access to another conceptual entity, the target, within the same domain, or idealized cognitive model (ICM). According to the ICM, they can be classified in two parts: the whole-part metonymic configuration and the part-part metonymic configuration.

Within cognitive linguistics, metaphor and metonymy are two major cognitive mechanisms which should not be confused with their linguistic or nonlinguistic expressions; literary metaphors and metonymies are in fact the product of conventional mappings.

Both metaphor and metonymies are basic imaginative processes of equal importance which should not be considered simple figures of speech.

The difference between metaphor and metonymy is offered by the nature of relationship between the domains involved, metaphor and metonymy interacting with each other in quite intricate ways. One important interaction is seen the metonymy - based metaphor, and another important one is found in the metaphorically motivated metonymy. The functioning of metaphor and metonymy in discourse is explained by the theory of blending or conceptual integration which creates networks of connections between mental spaces.

Metaphor is based on similarity while metonymy is based on contiguity, that is, on elements that are parts of the same ICM; metaphor involves two distinct domains while metonymy has a single domain; metaphor is used to understand a system of entities in terms of another while metonymy is used to provide access to a single entity within a single domain. At the same time, while metaphor occurs between concepts, metonymy occurs between concepts as well as between linguistic forms and concepts and between linguistic forms and events or things in the world.

Yet, metaphors and metonymies often interact in particular linguistic expressions, expressions that are interpreted as metaphor from metonymy or metonymy within metaphor.

Both metaphors and metonymies are of high importance to the study of cognitive linguistics, being essential elements in our categorization of the world and our thinking processes.


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Lucrarea de fata "Metafora si metonimia in lingvistica cognitiva" prezinta doua aspecte importante ale lingvisticii cognitive - metafora si metonimia, oferind explicatii si exemple legate de caracteristicile celor doua procedee lingvistice, asemanarile si diferentierile dintre ele cat si importanta acestora in comunicarea interumana zilnica.

Lingvistica cognitiva a aparut la inceputul anilor 70 ca reactie impotriva abordarii generative a limbii. Este caracterizata prin accentul pe care il ofera functiei semiologice a limbii dar si prin importanta pe care o ofera conceptualizarii in interactiunea umana.

Lingvistii analizeaza structurile lingvistice in conformitate cu abilitatile si competentele umane si considera ca limba nu poate fi separata de acestea. De fapt, aceasta este dependenta de cunoastere si experienta.

Lingvistica cognitiva este definita drept o abordare a limbii ce se bazeaza pe experienta umana si pe modul in care oamenii o percep si o conceptualizeaza. Pentru a intelege natura limbii trebuie sa privim lumea exterioara si la modul in care aceasta a format semne ce trebuie luate in considerare.

Metaforele si metonimiile prezinta o importanta majora in cadrul lingvisticii cognitive. Lakoff si Johnson au initiat un nou studiu al metaforei din perspectiva cognitiva acum douazeci de ani. Metafora joaca un rol important in gandirea umana dar si in crearea unei realitati sociale, culturale si psihologice.

Pe de alta parte, metonimia, este privita drept un mecanism al conceptualizarii. Este vazuta drept o strategie mentala si un principiu de structurare a cunostintelor avand o mare importanta in activitatile cognitive.

Primul capitol prezinta caracteristicile lingvisticii cognitive, definitiile oferite de anumiti cercetatori de baza dar si relatia pe care abordarea cognitiva o are cu alte ramuri ale lingvisticii. O importanta deosebita in studiul acestei ramuri o au studiile realizate de Lakoff si Johnson, Fauconnier, Fillmore, Langacker ce pot fi considerati clasicii acestei scoli. De fapt, lingvistica cognitiva considera limba drept o reflectie a capacitatilor cognitive generale guvernate de procese neurale si nu drept o simpla facultate mentala. Semantica cognitiva nu ia in considerare diferentele dintre cunoasterea lingvistica si cunoasterea lumii exterioare precum si cele dintre limbajul literar si cel figurat.

Scopul lingvisticii cognitive este acela de a explora potentialul descriptiv si explicativ al limbii, luand in considerare si numeroasele fenomene legate de schimbarile limbajului, topologie, achizitie, etc. Sensurile nu pot exista fara ca oamenii sa le formeze si sa le foloseasca in anumite situatii in cadrul comunicarii interumane.

In cel de-al doilea capitol, se pune accentul pe metafore si metonimii, si, mai exact, pe diferentele dintre abordarea traditionala si cea cognitiva. In lingvistica traditionala, metafora era vazuta drept o proprietate a cuvintelor un fenomen pur lingvistic. Se considera ca este folosita doar in scopuri artistice si retorice, fiind bazata pe o asemanare intre doua entitati ce sunt comparate si identificate. In acelasi timp, abordarea traditionala prezenta metafora drept o folosire constienta si deliberata de cuvinte pentru care este nevoie de un talent deosebit. Metafora nu era considerata drept o parte inevitabila a comunicarii umane zilnice, deoarece, se considera ca aceasta poate avea loc si fara folosirea metaforelor.

In lingvistica cognitiva, metaforele sunt percepute drept parti fundamentale ale limbajului si conceptualizarii umane. Reprezinta o parte majora si indispensabila a comunicarii zilnice, a modului in care oamenii percep lumea exterioara dar si a comportamentului uman. Teoria metaforei arata faptul ca locul acesteia este in gandire, in modul in care conceptualizam un anumit domeniu in termenii altui domeniu.

Metaforele se pot folosi cu usurinta in comunicarea zilnica chiar pentru a exprima concepte abstracte precum timp, spatiu, scop, etc. Lakoff considera ca, studiul metaforei literare reprezinta de fapt o extensie a studiului metaforei folosite in vorbirea zilnica.

In abordarea traditionala, metonimia este explicata drept folosirea unui cuvant in locul altuia pentru a ne referi la o anumita entitate numai in cazul in care intelesurile celor doua cuvinte sunt legate intre ele. In lingvistica cognitiva, metonimia este conceptuala prin natura sa; rolul sau este acela de a oferi accesul mintal spre o entitate conceptuala prin intermediul alteia.

In capitolul al treilea, atentia este indreptata spre un subiect important al lingvisticii cognitive, si anume metafora. Sunt prezentate cateva definitii ale metaforei din perspectiva cognitiva dar si importanta acesteia in studiul cognitiv al limbii. Partea a doua a acestui capitol prezinta diverse tipuri de metafore, mai exact clasificarea acestora in functie de gradul de conventionalitate, functiile cognitive indeplinite de acestea precum si de nivelul de generalitate. Sunt discutate caracteristicile fiecarui tip din clasificarea mentionata anterior si, totodata, sunt oferite anumite exemple tipice des folosite si intalnite in comunicarea zilnica.

De fapt, metafora este definita drept intelegerea unui domeniu conceptual prin intermediul unui alt domeniu conceptual. Mai exact, DOMENIUL CONCEPTUAL (A) ESTE DOMENIUL CONCEPTUAL (B), ceea ce este numit in lingvistica cognitiva metafora conceptuala. Atat metafora conceptuala - cea folosita pentru dezvoltarea conceptelor, dar si metafora lingvistica - cea exprimata folosind resursele lexiconului, deriva din acelasi material cognitiv. Diferenta dintre ele consta in modul prin care se manifesta: metafora conceptuala ofera structuri materiale pentru procesele gandirii umane, in timp ce metafora lingvistica importa aceste structuri conceptuale in vocea si gesturile umane.

Capitolul patru se ocupa de notiunea de metonimie discutand natura, scopul si functiile sale. Se arata faptul ca metonimia nu este un simplu fenomen lingvistic, ci, mai degraba este conceptuala in natura sa. Expresiile metonimice se pot intalni la toate nivelele limbii, fie morfologice, sintaxa sau lexic, luand in considerare faptul ca mai mult de un singur principiu cognitiv poate fi aplicat unui anumit tip de metonimie. De fapt, metonimia poate fi prezentata prin relatia conceptuala X IN LOC DE Y, unde X este domeniul sursa si Y domeniul tinta precum in exemplul: Locul pentru (in loc de) Institutie: Palatul Buckingham a infirmat zvonurile.

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