How does a scholar reading an ancient text know that a word is being used metaphorically? I don’t think that we have the intuitive luxury in reading an ancient text that we have with our native language. I don’t think we can accurately make intuitive determinations when studying word forms that come to us, so to speak, out of nowhere. Instead we must rely soley on a mechanical procedure which mimics intuition.
I find Stephan George’s 1914 poem entitled Das Wort (The Word) fascinating because it powerfully illustrates the untranslatable nature of metaphors from one language to another. It is about a traveler who was in the habit of bringing back to his country a wonder or a dream from the places he had been. Upon returning to his land, he would bring what he found to Fate (Norn) who would find a word for it in her fount. One time he returned and presented his discovery to Fate, but she could not find a word for it, and consequently, as George expresses it in German, “Worauf es meiner hand entrann / Und nie mein land den schatz gewann,” “Whereupon it escaped my hand / And my country never gained the treasure” (George 1968).
This is the situation with Aristotle’s metaphor of metaphorá.
A criticism of CMT that I regularly encounter is that its universalizing tendencies efface the cultural specificity of the phenomena it purports to explain. But this is not, I think, a criticism that stands up to scrutiny.A case in point would be the ancient Greek use of various kinds of garment metaphor for a wide range of emotions, but especially shame and grief.
Scholars often characterise Polybius’ way of writing as clunky, heavy-going and unsophisticated. I fundamentally disagree with this assessment, which reflects stereotypes and prejudices about the decline of Greek literature and style after the ‘classical’ period. In this short entry, I will show that more attention to Polybius’ style, encouraged by cognitive approaches such as conceptual blending, opens up new perspectives on how this fascinating author conceived of the process of historical understanding.
As a linguist – and in particular, one working with older texts as data– a major benefit of cognitive framing for textual analysis is the awareness that I’m constrained by knowledge about human cognition. If I can’t read long-ago authors’ or redactors’ minds, I can at least propose textual meanings and readings that are plausible for a human, embodied brain.
Readers of the ancient Israelite book of Ezekiel have long been fascinated, bewildered, and provoked by its imagery. One well-known example is the description of the prophet’s visionary experience in the first chapter, in which he sees multi-headed creatures, wheels with eyes, and the deity seated on a throne. This text became important as a model for ancient readers who wished to have similar ecstatic experiences. In more recent times, it has inspired numerous songs, paintings, and drawings.