|Title||Metonymy: a vital resource in communication and conceptualization|
Roman Jakobson, in his 1956 essay on aphasia, identifies metaphor and metonymy as fundamental processes in communication. He sees communication progressing along one of two paths, the metaphoric and the metonymic, and claims that “in normal behaviour both processes are continually operative” (Jakobson 1956:90). Metaphor has subsequently been the focus of intense scholarly activity, thanks to the pioneering work of Lakoff and Johnson (1980, 1999) and now Metaphor Studies is a discipline in its own right. In contrast, metonymy (the relationships, especially part-whole, between closely-related concepts/words/things) has received much less notice in spite of its importance. Metonymy is important in understanding word categories eg, synonyms, hyponyms, prototypes and sense vs reference; it is the mechanism behind the process of ‘narrowing’ involved in understanding literal language and ‘highlighting/hiding’ in metaphoric language; it plays a vital role in naming individual entities and complex social practices, by selecting a single salient feature; it is used in discourse to give an ‘ultra-realistic’ register and to persuade by exemplification. The relationship between an original text and a translation is metonymic, so is the relationship between British English and American English and between a learner’s first and second languages. Metonymy has been overlooked, perhaps because it is less obvious and less colourful than metaphor. This has meant that a hugely important source of linguistic expression has been little researched and under-exploited in applied linguistics, although, being concerned with ‘relatedness’, it is a resource which is readily to hand, already within the user’s grasp.
Jakobson, R. 1956. ‘Two Aspects of Language and Two Types of Aphasic Disturbances’ in R.
|Conference||Interfaces in language 2 conference|