chapter  6
22 Pages

Metaphors in Context: The Communicative Structure of Figurative Language: Tamar Yacobi


In both life and fi ction, metaphors are produced and understood in context. Such contextualizing reaches beyond “the surrounding verbal text” (Forceville 1995: 697). This verbal context, or co-text, almost goes without saying, though sometimes forgotten or minimized in examples cited by theorists. Generally, it is both available and extendible in concentric circles (from the sentence that frames a metaphor through the utterance to the discourse whole). However, the non-verbal contextual parameters involved-or their very involvement-are anything but manifest, and so far less known. They still need to be mentioned, and often even to be redefi ned, uncovered, established, sorted out: adequately theorized, in short. Thus, Forceville suggests that context

may also consist of the perceptual environment in which the metaphor is used, of the (sub)cultural context, and, in the case of persuasive or didactic communication, of the intentions that the utterer of the metaphor has. In the broadest sense, these intentions always are the triggering of some sort of effect in the addressee’s cognitive environment. (ibid.)

Three frameworks arise here, whose implications are to some extent nicely illustrated by Forceville, yet not pursued to their operational end. For example, analysing a metaphor that originated in a demonstration of pit bull owners and offended its addressees-pit bulls are jews-he invokes “[t]he whole situation (that is, context)” (Forceville 1995: 703). This largely resides in the juxtaposition of two legal contexts: a new law directed against pit bulls and the infamous past legislation concerning Jews under the Nazi regime. Various other dimensions also play a role: some are duly foregrounded by Forceville, especially the problem of tenor/vehicle (in) appropriateness, others are less articulated, if not absent altogether.