Metaphor and Cultural Coherence
According to George Lakoff, our language’s metaphors reflect our concept of the world. The ruling metaphors of our language are the ruling metaphors of our conceptual system and thus, the fundamental values of a culture will be coherent with the metaphorical structure of its fundamental concepts.
One way to test this is to examine dominant terms.
So, let’s test this! Go to: http://www.wordle.net/create/
Copy and paste the text of Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream” speech into Wordle. Your Java plug-in might need to be updated… be patient….
Make a Wordle… copy and save the image.
Which words are dominant? Which are subordinate? What cultural and conceptual expectations does this visualization of King’s speech raise?
Now, let’s see whether these dominant terms are historically inflected.
Enter the dominant terms from King’s speech, language English, period 1800-present day. What does the graphical representation tell us?
Look at the time periods underneath and click on the peak periods. What are the source texts?
Now, enter other dominant terms. What does the graph show you? Can you think of some explanations for this change?
Now follow the same procedure with the first two paragraphs of The Declaration of Independence:
“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.”
What terms are dominant? Now create an Ngram with those two terms. What does the graph show you? Can you think of some explanations for this change?
Please post your observations and also your Wordles and Ngrams (as screengrabs) to the course site under the category “ngrams”
What prosodic elements does the author of this site identify? In what way does this add to the power of King’s speech?