Publication details [#5933]

Hiraga, Masako K. 2006. Kanji: The visual metaphor. Style 40 (1/2) : 133–147. 15 pp. URL


American Orientalist Ernest Fenollosa (1853-1908) argues in 'The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry' (as edited by Ezra Pound): the Chinese written language has not only absorbed the poetic substance of nature and built with it a second work of metaphor, but has, through its very pictorial visibility, been able to retain its original creative poetry with far more vigor and vividness than any phonetic tongue. (24) The present study tries to reevaluate this sharp insight of Fenollosa into the nature of Chinese logographs as a medium for poetry and to place it in the new context of cognitive poetics. Because of their iconic and metaphoric nature, an examination of Kanji logographs provides a deeper understanding of the cognitive role of written language in poetic texts. The formation of the shape and the meaning of Kanji is seen to be governed by iconic and metaphoric processing. Poetic language therefore exploits these iconic and metaphoric implications of Kanji to enrich the complexity and multiplicity of meaning in the text. By using the model of blending (see, among others, Turner; Turner and Fauconnier; Fauconnier and Turner, "Principles," Way), the study first argues that the meaning generation of Kanji is manifested as a conceptual integration through creative blends of the constituents. The blending process is analyzed in terms of iconicity, metaphor, and metonymy. The study further examines orthographical revisions of haiku texts as an evidence to demonstrate the cognitive role of written language in relation to Fenollosa's thesis. (Masako Hiraga, From the Introduction)