Publication details [#5061]

Gibbs, Raymond W., Jr., Herbert L. Colston and Michael D. Johnson. 1996. Proverbs and the metaphorical mind. Bakhtiniana: Revista de Estudos do Discurso 11 (3) : 207–216. 10 pp.


A major difficulty in studying figurative thought and language from an interdisciplinary perspective is that scholars can misunderstand the goals, methods, and terminology of researchers in academic fields different from their own. Our understanding of how people think, speak, and understand figuratively has indeed greatly benefited from interdisciplinary investigations published in 'Metaphor and Symbolic Activity'. However, unfortunate misunderstandings of interdisciplinary ideas do arise, especially when scholars attempt to relate data from one field to theories proposed in neighboring disciplines. A good illustration of this problem is seen in an article recently published in this journal by Honeck and Temple (1994) on proverb understanding. Honeck and Temple tackled a complex set of ideas from cognitive linguistics by Lakoff and Turner (1989), dubbed the great chain metaphor theory (GCMT), and compared this work to their own approach on proverb understanding, called the extended conceptual base theory (ECBT). Honeck and Temple centered their comparison of GCMT and ECBT on five issues (perspective, creativity, automatic vs. controlled processing, pragmatics, and empirical adequacy) and concluded that proverb understanding is best explained by the ECBT. Our aim in this article is to take issue with some of the arguments and conclusions of Honeck and Temple (1994) on proverb comprehension. We do so with the goal of trying to clarify some of the misunderstandings that Honeck and Temple had with the work of Lakoff and Turner (1989) in the hope that proverb scholars will incorporate the insights on proverbs that Lakoff and Turner provided into their own respective studies on proverb interpretation. Perhaps more important, we also wish to expose some of the theoretical and methodological commitments made by cognitive linguists and experimental psycholinguists. (Raymond Gibbs, Herbert Colston, and Michael Johnson)