Studying language reveals one aspect of culture which is organized systematically. The relationship between categories, cognition, language, culture, and truth can be analytically examined in Metaphors We Live By. George Lakoff and Mark Johnson argue that dictionary definitions do not adequately describe concepts, especially ambiguous concepts. Rather, we use concepts from a source domain (which are more basic and empirically real) to make sense of concepts within the target domain (which are less tangible and clearly defined ex: emotions, time, and morality). An experiential basis for both domains links the two together. Experiential bases include our bodies, our interaction with the physical environment, and interactions with other people and institutions.
Employing this method requires the use of metaphors. Lakoff and Johnson make the powerful claim that, “our ordinary conceptual system, in terms of which we both think and act, is fundamentally metaphorical in nature… the essence of metaphor is understanding and experiencing one thing in terms of another” (p. 3-5). Language gives us evidence of the conceptual system within a culture. Our language limits our understanding of everyday experiences for we rely on metaphors to create understanding of our messages; there are very few things we are able to explain on a daily basis without speaking about something in terms of another.
Lakoff and Johnson classify metaphors into three groups: structural, orientational and ontological. When one concept is metaphorically structured in terms of another it is classified as a structural metaphor. Structural metaphors require certain aspects of a concept to be highlighted and others to be shaded. Orientational metaphors organize an entire system of concepts with respect to one another. Moreover, most orientational metaphors are structured by spatial orientation; they have a basis in our physical and cultural experiences. Lastly, ontological metaphors enable us to view events, activities, emotions, and ideas as entities and substances.
Lakoff and Johnson’s primary claim is that we live by certain metaphors. The “metaphors we live by” are taken-for-granted metaphors that we do not identify as metaphors. These metaphors are a part of our reality; they make sense to us and seem natural because of the history of language within our culture. Lakoff and Johnson write extensively about specific metaphors we live by including ARGUMENT IS WAR and LOVE IS A JOURNEY. I considered other metaphors we live by, specifically ILLNESS/DISEASE IN AN ENEMY WHICH INVADES OUR BODY. This is a metaphor we live by because it frames how we talk about disease, how we view illness when we have it, and how doctor’s attempt to treat the disease. Since symptoms are identified and treated directly, holistic medicine is the exception to the rule within our culture. The manner in which we make sense of illness is socially constructed. This brings me to a paragraph from “Battling a...