Publication details [#10876]

Turner, Robin. 1999. Debating pornography: Categories and metaphors. URL
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Electronic source
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One application of cognitive linguistics that is receiving increasing attention is the use of metaphor to analyse political debate, the best-known examples being George Lakoff's (1996) Moral Politics and his (1991) essay analysing Gulf War rhetoric (which also led to an analysis of the Senate's Gulf War debate by Voss et al. (1992) and Tim Rohrer's (1995) analysis, "The Metaphorical Logic of (Political) Rape"). Similar methods have been applied to political speeches, such as those of Rush Limbaugh (Rohrer, 1996). Other writers have used metaphor to analyse law (Winter, 1989; Hibbits, 1994) and economics (Charteris-Black, 1998). There has, however, been comparatively less attention paid to the other main area of cognitive linguistics, categorisation. This is perhaps surprising, given that categorisation plays such a crucial role in political debate. Political labelling is, of course, a common ad hominem tactic; for example one may brand opponents as "Communists", "reactionaries" or whatever, while whether the mother-tongue of a particular group is categorised as a "language" or a "dialect" has important implications for nationalism. Because of the complex and fuzzy nature of many folk categories in political debate (and their uneasy relationship with the expert categories of political science), equivocation is common. Attention to both categorisation and metaphor may considerably clarify the issues at stake in any political argument. One argument, or rather series of arguments, which is considerable need of such clarification, concerns pornography. Since arguing about pornography often involves arguing about sexuality, there is a fertile store of metaphors concerning sexuality waiting to be transferred - usually unconsciously - into the pornography debate. Both opponents, defenders and producers of pornography use metaphorical reasoning, and often, indeed, use the same metaphors. Moreover, the category itself is subject to much equivocation, whether deliberate or accidental. For these reasons, debates about pornography are particularly suitable for linguistic analysis. (Robin Turner)