Conceptual metaphors and blends of “understanding” and “knowledge” in Hungarian

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  • Acta Linguistica Hungarica, Vol. 48 (13), pp. 79100 (2001)

    CONCEPTUAL METAPHORS AND BLENDS OF

    UNDERSTANDING AND KNOWLEDGE IN HUNGARIAN*

    gbor tolcsvai nagy

    Abstract

    This paper combines the theories of conceptual metaphor, blending and the prole/base re-

    lations system of Langacker in interpreting the most important verbs of understanding and

    knowledge in the Hungarian language within the conceptual metaphors understanding

    is seeing, and understanding is grasping. The analysis demonstrates that the semantic

    compositions of verbal prex + verb play an outstanding role in constructing the expressions

    of understanding and knowledge prior and/or parallel to the metaphoric correspondences.

    The verbal prexes build a complex spatial system in Hungarian and, combined with verbs

    of visual and tactile conceptual structures, represent understanding and knowledge in

    a dynamic way, where the target entity of understanding or knowledge is taken as a fully

    structured object.

    1. Introduction

    It was a well-known fact even before the rise of cognitive linguistics that, in the

    conceptual and linguistic representation of human experiences, there are fun-

    damental analogies between perception and cognition. The Hungarian lan-

    guage is no exception in this respect. Nevertheless, it seems reasonable to look

    at the folk theories of understanding and knowledge manifest in Hungar-

    ian.

    1

    The present analysis is based on the theoretical foundations of cognitive

    linguistics by Langacker (1987); Lako (1987); and LakoJohnson (1980).

    2

    I am grateful to Mria Ladnyi for her critical comments and questions on an earlier

    version of this paper. All shortcomings, of course, are mine.

    1

    Everyday experiences are structured by people according to prototypical instances,

    forming folk categories. On the other hand, expert categories are constructed by

    scientic principles and methodology (cf. Taylor 1991, 724).

    2

    Some theoreticians tend to distingish two main streams in present day linguistics as a

    cognitive science: one is the holistic or functional line (represented by the works of

    R. Langacker and G. Lako), the other one is the modular or formal line (cf. Schwarz

    1992). The present paper takes the functional line as its theoretical basis.

    12168076/01/$ 5.00

    c

    2001 Akadmiai Kiad, Budapest

  • 80 gbor tolcsvai nagy

    First a taxonomy of the most important words of understanding and knowl-

    edge is given grouped in two conceptual metaphors, thereafter the verbs are

    interpreted in Langacker's prole/base and temporal/atemporal relations sys-

    tem, and as a synthesis the results are elaborated on in the framework of

    blending theory in those cases where semantic composition is primary to the

    conceptual metaphor. As a result it can be assumed that a complete spa-

    tial system is built up conceptually concerning understanding and knowl-

    edge, partly by language specic morphological constructs of verbal prexes

    and verbs, prior to the conceptual metaphors; that the semantic compositions

    characteristic of expressions of understanding and knowledge are formed by

    a certain type of blending; and that the goal of understanding or the represen-

    tation of knowledge is an entity, something like an object independent of man.

    2. Two conceptual metaphors of understanding and knowledge

    In the rst part of the paper I give a list of the most important metaphorical

    relations between perception and cognition in the conceptual domain of under-

    standing and knowledge in the Hungarian language. As explicated below,

    these two concepts are closely related not only in psychology (as process and

    structure in the mind) or in philosophy, but also in the folk theories represented

    in the Hungarian language. Both concepts are elaborated in dierent concep-

    tual metaphors of vision and grasping, mainly in understanding is seeing,

    understanding is grasping (as possibly in many other languages, probably

    as a language universal, indicated by LakoJohnson 1980 and Sweetser 1990,

    all originating from the mind is a body conceptual metaphor). I do not deal

    with the auditive mode of perception and understanding in detail, since the

    conceptual metaphor understanding is hearing seems to be less relevant

    in Hungarian than the other ones.

    The conceptual structures of understanding and knowledge in the Hun-

    garian language are to be found in the following tables (on the basis of Lako

    Johnson 1980; Sweetser 1990; Sjstrm 1998, the tables are constructed in

    harmony with Sjstrm 1998, 84). The tables are formed according to the

    main components of conceptual metaphors: the cognitive relation, the cogni-

    tive agent, and the cognitive object.

    Acta Linguistica Hungarica 48, 2001

  • conceptual metaphors 81

    2.1. Understanding is seeing

    Table 1

    the perception relation the cognitive relation

    1. verbs

    (a) lt `see' lt `understand,`perceive',

    `think',`nd',`deem',

    `consider'

    tlt `see across/through' tlt 1.`penetrate, fathom',

    2.`comprehend, realize'

    belt 1.`see in', belt 1.`have an insight into',

    2.`survey, look over' 2.`realize', 3.`admit a

    fault'

    belelt `see into' belelt `get an insight of/into'

    keresztllt `see through' keresztllt `understand sy's

    intention, behaviour'

    meglt `catch sight of' meglt 1.`understand', 2.`realize'

    rlt `overlook, have a sight of rlt `understand sg as a

    whole'

    tllt `see beyond, over' tllt `understand sg in its

    broader context'

    (b) nz `look at' nz `consider'

    tnz `look through' tnz `go over, run through'

    belenz `look into' belenz `read supercially'

    flrenz `look aside' flrenz `pay no attention

    deliberately'

    htranz `look back' htranz `deal with the past'

    keresztlnz `look through' keresztlnz `ignore sy'

    kinz `look out' kinz 1.`nd some data from a

    text', 2.`be guessable',

    3.`think, guess of sy'

    megnz `look at' megnz `examine the state of

    aairs'

    odanz `look at' odanz `pay attention to sg'

    rnz `look at' rnz `pay attention to sg/sy'

    sztnz `look around' sztnz `gather information'

    utnanz `look after' utnanz 1. `look after', 2.`try to

    nd', 3.`examine'

    vgignz `look on, see to the end' vgignz `examine'

    (c) tekint `look at' tekint `consider, regard as'

    ttekint 1.`look across' ttekint `have a global

    2.`survey, look over' understanding'

    (d) szemll `view, gaze at' szemll `mentally act to

    understand'

    (e) megvilgt `illuminate' megvilgt `illuminate, make sg

    understandable'

    Acta Linguistica Hungarica 48, 2001

  • 82 gbor tolcsvai nagy

    the perception relation the cognitive relation

    2. nouns

    belts `the sight into sg' belts 1.`discernment of, insight

    into',

    2.`understanding,

    comprehension'

    ltsmd `way of seeing' ltsmd `point of view'

    lthatr `horizon' horizont `horizon'

    ltkr `eld of vision' ltkr `horizon, scope'

    ltszg `visual angle' ltszg `point of view'

    nzet `view' nzet `view, opinion, idea'

    nzpont `point of view' nzpont `point of view'

    tekintet `look, glance' tekintet 1.`regard, respect,

    consideration'

    2.`relation, point of view'

    szemllet

    3

    `way of looking' szemllet `aspect, contemplation'

    szempont `point of view' szempont `point of view, aspect'

    Table 2

    the perceiver the cognitive agent

    vak `blind' vak `blind'

    elvakult `blinded' elvakult `be blind to sg'

    stt `dark' stt `stupid, dismal, shady'

    [sokat lt `see much'] szles ltkr `sy with a wide intellectual

    horizon'

    [keveset lt `see little'] szk ltkr `sy with a narrow

    intellectual horizon'

    csukott

    szemmel

    `with closed eyes' csukott

    szemmel

    `without the intention of

    understanding'

    nyitott

    szemmel

    `with open eyes' nyitott

    szemmel

    `with the intention of

    understanding'

    tgra nylt

    szemmel

    `with wide open eyes' tgra nylt

    szemmel

    `with the intention of

    understanding'

    kds `foggy' kds `confused'

    [kp `picture, image'] kpes `capable, able'

    kptelen `incapable, unable'

    3

    szem `eye' + ll verbal derivational ax + et nominal derivational ax.

    Acta Linguistica Hungarica 48, 2001

  • conceptual metaphors 83

    Table 3

    the perceived object the cognitive object

    stt `dark' stt `obscure, unintelligible,

    incomprehensible'

    vilgos `clear, bright' vilgos `obvious, self-evident,

    intelligible,

    comprehensible'

    lthat `visible' lthat `comprehensible'

    tlthat `can be seen through' tlthat `penetrable,

    comprehensible as a

    whole'

    belthat `can be surveyed' belthat `comprehensible'

    homlyos `dim' homlyos `dicult to understand'

    ttekinthet `easy to survey, clearly

    arranged'

    ttekinthet `easy to understand

    globally'

    kds `foggy' kds `vague'

    The conceptual metaphor understanding is seeing in the Hungarian lan-

    guage can be characterized as follows:

    (1) source: target:

    (a) an agent (prototypically a human

    being)

    (a) an agent (prototypically a human

    being)

    (b) visually perceives (or does not or

    cannot perceive)

    (b) mentally perceives, i.e. understands

    (or does not or cannot understand)

    (c) a physical object (c) a certain state of aairs

    The mappings between the source and the target domains are very clear, in-

    dicating strict correspondences between the components of the two domains.

    Both visual and cognitive relations (i.e. the perception or the cognitive pro-

    cesses) are represented from the point of view of the agent, thus with respect

    to the way this agent approaches the object or state of aairs. The ways are

    expressed mostly by the dierent spatial relations represented in the trajector

    landmark relations of the verbal prexes (for more details see below). The

    ability of the agent, the degree of the perception are indicated by expressions

    mainly independent of the verbs with very strong spatial reference.

    Acta Linguistica Hungarica 48, 2001

  • 84 gbor tolcsvai nagy

    2.2. Understanding is grasping

    Table 4

    the perception relation the cognitive relation

    1. verbs

    (a) fog `hold'

    tfog `grasp' tfog `span, comprehend'

    egybefog `hold together' egybefog `to form a thematic unit

    mentally or textually'

    felfog `seize', `pick up', `hold

    o'

    felfog `grasp, comprehend'

    megfog `catch, hold' megfog `grasp, comprehend'

    [ssze + fog

    + lal]

    `together' + `hold' +

    frequentative verbal

    derivational ax

    sszefoglal `sum up, summarize'

    (b) ragad `stick'

    megragad `seize, grasp' megragad 1.`comprehend'

    2.`understand the

    essence'

    (c) tapint `touch, nger' tapint (az

    elevenre, a

    lnyegre)

    `touch the sore point',

    `understand the essence

    of sg'

    rtapint `lay one's nger on' rtapint (a

    lnyegre)

    `understand the essence

    of sg'

    (d) vesz `take'

    kivesz 1.`take out, remove' kivesz `infer, conclude'

    2.`distinguish, make out'

    2. nouns

    felfogs `the act of seizure' felfogs 1.`comprehension'

    2.`opinion, notion'

    Table 5

    the perceiver the cognitive agent

    [felfog!] felfogs

    gyors felfogs `nimble-witted'

    lass felfogs `slow-witted'

    felfogkpessg `ability to seize, pick up,

    hold o'

    felfogkpessg `ability to comprehend'

    Acta Linguistica Hungarica 48, 2001

  • conceptual metaphors 85

    Table 6

    the perceived object the cognitive object

    [fog!] fogalom `concept'

    felfoghat `(sg) may be seized, picked

    up, held o'

    felfoghat `intelligible,

    comprehensible'

    felfoghatatlan `(sg) may not be seized,

    picked up, held o'

    felfoghatatlan `incomprehensible'

    The conceptual metaphor understanding is grasping in the Hungarian

    language can be characterized as follows:

    (2) source: target:

    (a) an agent (prototypically a human

    being)

    (a) an agent (prototypically a human

    being)

    (b) grasps or touches (or does not or

    cannot grasp or touch)

    (b) mentally grasps or touches,

    i.e. understands (or does not or

    cannot understand)

    (c) a physical object (c) a certain state of aairs

    The mappings between the source and the target domains are very clear, in-

    dicating strict correspondences between the components of the two domains.

    Both tactile and cognitive relations (i.e. the grasping or the cognitive processes)

    are represented from the point of view of the agent, thus with respect to the

    way this agent approaches the object or state of aairs. The ways are expressed

    mostly by the dierent spatial relations represented in the trajectorlandmark

    relations of the verbal prexes (for more details see below). The ability of

    the agent, the degree of the perception are also indicated by expressions that

    mainly derive from verbs with very strong spatial reference.

    2.3. The main features of the two conceptual metaphors

    From the data presented above some assumptions can be made, in accordance

    with LakoJohnson (1980), and Sweetser (1990). The expressions of under-

    standing and knowledge are

    clearly connected conceptually to visual and tactile expressions and their

    mental representations;

    there are more visual expressions than tactile;

    Acta Linguistica Hungarica 48, 2001

  • 86 gbor tolcsvai nagy

    the conceptual relation between the perception relation and the cognitive

    relation is more explicit within the visual domain than within the tactile

    dimension.

    However, the characterization is by far not exhausted. The following additional

    and preliminary assumptions may be set:

    a complete spatial system is built up conceptually concerning under-

    standing and knowledge, partly by language specic morphological

    constructs, prior to the conceptual metaphors;

    most of the semantic compositions characteristic of expressions of un-

    derstanding and knowledge are formed by a certain compositional, not

    metaphorical type of blending;

    the spatial system and the compostional blends are characteristic of the

    verbs with verbal prexes expressing the cognitive relations (i.e. the cog-

    nitive processes);

    the goal of understanding or the representation of knowledge is considered

    to be an entity, something like an object independent of man.

    These assumptions need some explanation. Let's exemplify the rst assump-

    tion by the verbs lt `see', `understand' and tlt `see across/through', `com-

    prehend, realize'.

    3. Proling in the semantic constructions of verbal prex + verb

    3.1. Lt `see'

    Lt `see' has the following features according to Langacker (1987; 1991; 1999):

    (a) in the perception relation

    process with a temporal prole, sequential scanning,

    4

    imperfective (with-

    out change through time), without temporal bounding;

    domain: physical space;

    4

    According to Langacker (1987, 248), Sequential scanning [. . . ] involves the successive

    transformations of one conguration into another. The component states are processed

    in series [. . . ] This is the mode of processing that characterizes processual predica-

    tions [. . . ].

    Acta Linguistica Hungarica 48, 2001

  • conceptual metaphors 87

    its landmark is an unspecied physical thing (object), something salient

    and distinct in a three-dimensional physical continuum (as indicated in

    Langacker 1987, 183 with a matrix of prole-base relations in certain

    domains);

    its trajector is an intelligent being with the ability to perceive and process

    visual information; the visual processing is thus directed towards a phys-

    ical thing (object), and this kind of processing is modelled in dierent

    ways (see e.g., Marr 1982).

    t

    tr

    lm

    0

    . . .

    0

    . . .

    0

    . . .

    Oriented physical space

    Fig. 1

    (b) in the cognitive relation

    process with a temporal prole, sequential scanning, imperfective (with-

    out change through time), without temporal bounding;

    domain: a mentally processed spatial continuum;

    its landmark is a structured entity, a (complex) structure of information,

    something...

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