Publication details [#6072]

Howe, James. 2008. Argument is argument: An essay on conceptual metaphor and verbal dispute. Metaphor and Symbol 23 (1) : 1–23. 23 pp.


The metaphor "ARGUMENT IS WAR" looms large in the conceptualist and experientialist approach of Lakoff and Johnson (1980). Despite extensive discussion of this metaphor by critics and supporters of Lakoff and Johnson, it has so far escaped serious scrutiny on several key points. English-speakers can identify verbal exchanges as arguments without resort to metaphorical comparisons or transfers, and speakers' use of war metaphors to characterize verbal dispute depends on conventional understandings rather than personal experience of war or of other kinds of physical struggle. Much of the evidence for Lakoff and Johnson's claims - a culture that metaphorizes argument as dance; the historical and personal priority of force over verbal dispute; the influence of metaphor on action; even the experience supposedly shaping source domains - depends on supposition and ungrounded assertion. In making sense of how people use this metaphor, the discourse-based program elaborated by Naomi Quinn (1991, 1997) carries analysis further than a purely conceptualist approach. (James Howe)