The indexical affordance of metaphor: Stain as a case example

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    This paper investigates an unexplored indexical dimension inherent in the mapping structure of metaphor. The empirical focus is on the metaphor of stain but the scope of indexicality in relation to metaphor might be on a more general level. Based on analyses of a political statement as well as transcripts from a therapy session it is argued that previous accounts on the stain metaphor within CMT are insufficient and only covers parts of the cognitive structures and social aspects of the metaphor. Hitherto, the stain metaphor has been analyzed as part of a larger framework on moral reasoning related to the conceptual metaphors GOOD IS CLEAN, BAD IS DIRTY. This cognitive schema relies on a dichotomy between clean and dirty objects claiming that we understand and experience unmoral, or socially unacceptable behaviors in terms of (interaction with) dirty or filthy objects. However, the analyses in this paper clarify that this account only addresses one dimensions of stains, that is, their tendency to be perceived as dirt, and thereby misses their status as traces or signs. Thus, the accounts offered by CMT miss the fundamental indexical constraints of the stain expression. The source domain of physical stains is in itself constrained by a relation of contiguity (spatiotemporal proximity and association) between the stain and the actions leading to the stain. Thus, in a single expression, the stain metaphor indicates temporal and causal relations in an easily accessible way. Further, the figurative use of “stain” can also be captured as a CAUSE FOR EFFECT metonymy allowing for an intuitive sense of causal relations as well. The central claim of the paper is that metaphor research needs to pay closer attention the kinds of perception of reality that metaphors make possible in-and-through their indexical constraint.

    TidsskriftMetaphor and Symbol
    Udgave nummer3
    Sider (fra-til)208–228
    StatusUdgivet - 27. jun. 2022


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