Teaching language as metaphor : the potential of current research into metaphor and cognition for classroom practice
Recent developments in cognitive linguistics have revealed how abstract meaning in language is shaped by bodily experience. We understand and express such concepts as time, causation, direction or love through metaphors that are shaped out of our sense of ourselves as embodied creatures (Lakoff 1987, Johnson 1989, 1991, 1992, 1993). The diachronic analysis of syntax also shows how metaphor shifts lexical meaning towards grammatical meaning (Heine 1997). For example, in English and other Indo-European languages, we use what Heine (1993) identifies as a propositional schema of possession to express how in having taken hold of an action, we have completed it. Thus we grammaticalise a possessive 'have' (haber, avoir, etc.) or 'ter' (hold in Portuguese) to express an immediate past, or finally, as in modem French, the past itself Applied linguists are now asking how this cognitivist re-examination of the nature of meaning creation should impact upon language teaching (e.g. Low 1988, Lindostromberg 1991, Dudley Evans and St John 1998, and Boers 2000). One suggestion is that conceptual metaphors might prove an effective mechanism to help learners of specialist language group some forms of specialist lexis, using a conceptual metaphor such as 'cash is liquid', for example, to help students understand the language of finance, clustering and organising such terms as 'capital liquidity' and 'company floatation’. This thesis carries forward this exploration in a more comprehensive manner. It first examines the nature of metaphor in order to produce a useable construct. This construct differs from some mainstream cognitive views (e.g. Gibbs 1994 and Lakoff and Johnson 1999) in that it follows Glucksberg and Keysar (1993) in relating metaphor construction to class inclusion, and Glucksberg and McClone (1999) in affording similarity a role in metaphor interpretation. It treats metaphor as holding together three aspects of pedagogy: the nature of what is taught, the mechanisms through which it is learnt, and the learner's affective relationship to both. The picture of language and the language learner's mind that is produced rejects notions of adult acquisition and focuses upon the role of conscious learning through metaphor-based techniques. In the role of a participant observer, the author recounts how they implemented this in the classroom.