Publication details [#2941]

Brdar-Szabó, Rita and Mario Brdar. 2003. The MANNER FOR ACTIVITY metonymy across domains and languages. Jezikoslovlje 4 (1) : 43–69. 27 pp.


Since both metonymy and metaphor are, in the framework of cognitive linguistics, taken to be basic and universally attested processes that help shape conceptual structures and linguistic expressions, the tacit assumption has been that most high-level generalizations that have been established for English (or any other language that happened to provide the empirical confirmation of theoretical claims) should largely hold for other languages as well, discounting of course such language-specific factors as the availability of certain lexical items, etc. In other words, one might expect that similar arrays of metonymically motivated constructions will be found to be fairly frequent across languages. However, as Lakoff (1987) warns, it does not follow that various languages must make use of a particular metonymy in the same way, and in the same contexts. What is more, this universalist underpinning of cognitive research into metonymy may, if unwarranted, i.e. if not supported by cross-linguistic evidence (e.g. typological and contrastive), bring with it a danger of oversimplification and of overemphasizing similarities between languages and thus perhaps even preclude us from gaining some further valuable insights into the nature of the phenomenon. In Brdar and Brdar-Szabó (2003), it is shown that Croatian and Hungarian, unlike English, are reluctant to make use of the MANNER FOR ACTIVITY metonymy in the domain of linguistic action. In order to check whether the observed cross-linguistic differences are merely incidental, due perhaps to some idiosyncratic fact of Croatian and Hungarian, the comparison is extended (i) by systematically examining the same general type of metonymy in a number of different, more or less related domains (e.g. cognitive activity, physical activity, etc.), and (ii) by adding data from some other Germanic and Slavic languages. Finding some degree of consistency in the use or non-use of this metonymy across domains and languages should contribute towards formulating the set of constraints at work in this area, as well as towards refining the existing typologies of metonymies. (Rita Brdar-Szabó and Mario Brdar)