More than a rhetorical figure, the metaphor is a phenomenon that provides an almost scientific way to inquire into the human mind. In fields as diverse as psychology , philosophy and linguistics … the metaphor as an object of study has become a highly appreciated scientific construct.

In fact, the metaphor has been analyzed in a systematic way; just as it has happened with those who are dedicated to the study of pronunciation and grammar .

Already with the philosopher Giambattista Vico ( 1668-1744), in his work ” Scienza nuova”, the metaphor crowned a transcendental dimension. This important thinker goes so far as to assert the following:

The metaphor reveals the universal functioning of fantasy, the innate attitude of the human mind to produce images, conferring subjective characters and meanings on any reality, different from those that are generally given to them.

But this opinion has not only been launched on the metaphorical. There are other opinions, all of them giving the metaphor a superlative value .

Other opinions regarding the metaphor

The poets, philosophers and literary critics have always located metaphor as an essential argument for discussion.

However, in other areas, such as linguistics, communication and psychology , it has been ignored.

It had to wait until 1977, when the American psychologist Howard Pollio , among others, empirically demonstrated that metaphors constitute a dominant creative skill in people’s communicative behavior .

Since the date indicated, studies have revealed that metaphorization is a compelling phenomenon from a cognitive perspective.

In fact, it is classified as a signic ability; that allows to constitute the associative-metaphoric structures that sustain the thought, turning them into linear perceptible structures, in such a way that these can be expressed orally (or in writing).

Much more than a simple comparison

The metaphor is more than a comparative, substitute or deviant figure . In fact, she dominates the communicative and cognitive mechanisms.

The metaphor in these times is analyzed in the same terms as the more rational aspects of the mind, because its intellectual dimension is known , consubstantial with scientific discoveries, philosophical thought, literature and frequent cognitive activity.

Recent views on the metaphor

For current Linguistics the “metaphor” is any phenomenon of figuration , except for “metonymy” and “irony”.

The metaphor is then any mechanism by which one entity is linked to a second entity . Today it is said that “processes of metaphorization, instead of” various rhetorical figures “.

Indeed, in linguistics there is a theoretical link between metaphor, thought and language . The metaphor is not a semantic singularity. It allows access to a large part of the conceptual system of a culture and, furthermore, that system is screwed into the experience of reality.

An interesting conceptualization is one that understands metaphor as a mechanism for transforming lived experiences into abstract representations of thought.

Use of metaphor in everyday situations

That said, the human experience from above and below, which in principle is only a physical orientation subject to experience, can be represented in an abstract thought scheme.

For example, in the area of ​​the economy it is said “the stock market is up today.” In the field of emotions it is indicated “today I feel down”.

Thus, the metaphorical expression builds the mental schemes, constituting the mechanism of the abstract mental activity of the subject and the observation of impressions.

The metaphor is a relation of concepts

Concepts that are not directly grounded in experience involve metaphor, that is, mental figuration .

From what emerges from the notion of metaphor, thought is imaginative , giving rise to abstract thinking and the displacement of the mind beyond what can be seen or felt.

The metaphor relates the specific concepts (represented with signs, words and symbols) with the abstract ones, which are not directly representable.

Without the metaphor it is not possible to specifically understand not only the personality of historical figures like Alexander the Great (it has been said that “Alexander is a bull”), but also abstract notions of all kinds and uses.

The metaphor: characteristics, construction and examples

For didactic purposes, the metaphor is a relationship by similarity , a transgression of the language code , which is located on a paradigmatic plane, with a connotative aspect.

The construct can be created manifestly or not on three elements (compared, comparative and comparison basis).

Its purpose is to produce an illusion, to suggest something different from what is stated , through a comparison that is in the mind and that is based on a dominant attribute in comparative and compared.

The primary object of the metaphorical construction is the artificiality of the expression, the achievement of a constructed language, whose central objective is to substitute and expand the monosemic dimension (a single sense).

In this sense, the words used denotatively , in scenarios in which language is only a means of communication, not an end in itself.

To create a metaphor, the object to be intervened must be determined . The whole statement does not become a metaphor, because understanding the text would be an uphill task.

The metaphor is based on those objects within the text that carry the essential semantic load . In this sense, first a purely denotative text must be created, then a list of the semantic foci is made and then they are manipulated.

The qualities of things related by metaphor

The above then sets the standard for the relationship of the qualities of these foci and paradigmatic forecast of the semantic derivations that are to be achieved.

This supposes the previous conformation of a list of the qualities or objects , in general, with which the basic comparison will be established. For example, if the key word in the text is “hands”, it would be necessary to carry out an inventory of its relevant features, in order to act on them.

Another example: “that woman’s hands are white” can be recreated to “that woman’s hands are like white marble.” The reader will be able to interpret the metaphor according to their own conceptions and prejudices , opening the interpretive field towards polysemy.

The tentative steps for the construction of the metaphor

A final step is the formulation of the interposed construction. Specifically, it must meet the following characteristics:

1.- The phrase or phrase created will not imply a double decoding, since the form that is presented does not translate its basic meaning but rather a different meaning.

However, this meaning is as real as the first (it is the rule of transgression of meaning).

2.- The linguistic formulation has restricted possibilities: for example, “golden hair” or “the gold of your hair is …”

Negative and interrogative formulations would be left out, because they lack meaning and imply a tacit negation, respectively: “his feet are not made of white marble”; “Golden hair?”

Next; A series of metaphors are presented , as an example for readers:

  • “The ideas he proposed left me with a bitter taste.”
  • “There are too many ideas here for me to digest them all.”
  • “He is a voracious consumer of new ideas.”
  • “This idea has fermented for years.”
  • “Those medieval ideas still live.”
  • “That idea should resurface.”
  • “In that idea he breathed a new life.”
  • “This idea has been out of fashion for years.”
  • “Berkeley is a cutting-edge think tank.”
  • “The idea of ​​revolution is no longer in vogue.”
  • “His idea has gotten quite chic.”
  • “Darwin is the father of modern biology.”
  • “That idea is still in its infancy.”
  • “They have it under the magnifying glass.”

The metaphor in Psychology

In principle, Cognitive Psychology accepts the name “computer metaphor”. And it is that in specialized research the computational model of the mind has been introduced as a valid epistemological point of view.

In other words, metaphor, or the computational model of the mind, has been included as a legitimate epistemic model for accessing the human mind.

As has become clear, the metaphor is a figure of speech that presents an implicit comparison between two unequal entities, and that entails a qualitative parenthesis between specific objects …

In its pragmatic, operative aspect, the computational metaphor has represented a fruitful creative or heuristic resource that, supported by a strong methodological base, has exposed new areas of dissertation and has facilitated the obtaining of a large repertoire of important data. 

In such a way, human psychology has been reoriented to the technical model, so that the machine has become the great metaphor that capitalizes on the notion of “human being”. The homo faber conception could be seen as a figure parallel to that of this revolution, focused on the protagonism of the machine.

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Alexa Clark specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She has experience in listening and welcoming in Individual Therapy and Couples Therapy. It meets demands such as generalized anxiety, professional, love and family conflicts, stress, depression, sexual dysfunction, grief, and adolescents from 15 years of age. Over the years, She felt the need to conduct the psychotherapy sessions with subtlety since She understands that the psychologist acts as a facilitator of self-understanding and self-acceptance, valuing each person's respect, uniqueness, and acceptance.

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