Theory of names and cognitive linguistics: The case of the metaphor

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Theory of names and cognitive linguistics: The case of the metaphor
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  31 This is a contribution from Filozofija i društvo , Vol. 21, No. 1, pp. 31-41, 2010© 2010 Institute for Philosophy and Social Theory of the University of BelgradeThis electronic file may not be altered or reproduced in any way. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________  THEORY OF NAMES AND COGNITIVE LINGUISTICS –THE CASE OF THE METAPHOR Nikola Dobri ć  Alpen-Adria Universität Klagenfurt Abstract: The philosophical and, in a lesser degree, linguistic debate about the notionof names has been raging for a long time. The processes behind naming are presented andexplained in various ways. This paper will try to give a new insight into the motivationbehind the creation of new names as seen from the linguistics viewpoint. Metaphor, asone of the major sources of motivation from the perspective of cognitive linguistics, isthe basic form of human conceptualization. The first part of the paper presents the currenttheories about names. The second part describes the basic principles of cognitivelinguistics as related to metaphors. The third part deals with providing the evidenceregarding metaphor involvement in srcinal creation of people’s names, while the lastpart of the paper presents examples from the Serbian language. Key words: name, conceptual metaphor, cognitive linguistics, onomasticon, Serbian,anthroponym, descriptive theory, causal theory 1. THE THEORY OF NAMING  The discussion of the nature of names in language has always taken place within theframeworks of philosophy rather than, as one might expect, within linguistics. Thetraditional inquiry that linguistics was concerned with was always the question whethernames have meaning or not. The fact that most linguist have agreed early on in thediscussion is that names do not have meaning but only perform the function of denotingitems once they become inactive (Anderson 2007: 276) and lose all elements of usage  32becoming institutionalized. General nouns were seen as being meaningful units whileproper names stand as mere identification marks (Ullmann 1962: 77). That conclusionshifted the focus of semantics from them and made the issue philosophical in respect of the problem of denoting. The question that philosophy was interested in answering waswhat is denoted by a name both in a speaker’s and the hearer’s mind and in the real worldand how does that process of denotation function?There are several conflicting theories trying to describe this process srcinating withthe works of Ancient Greek grammarians and philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle.Their ideas regarding names were represented by the Stoic’s distinction of names intoproper and common (  proprium vs. commune ) (Anderson 2007: 145). Their ideaspresented a beginning for the philosophical tradition of concern with names which ranshoulder to shoulder with the grammatical inquiry. The traces of these impressions can befound in the work of early linguist and philosophers such John Wilkins (Wilkins 1668),John Stuart Mill (Mill 1919 [1843]),Gottlob Frege (Frege 1892) and Bertrand Russell (Russell 1905), just to name a few. Their work was in turn fine-tuned by contemporaryphilosophers, and linguists to a point, into the state of affairs we find today. The two mostsignificant contemporary theories are the causal theory whose champion is Saul Kripke(Kripke 1972) and the descriptive theory supported by Gareth Evans (Evans 1973).Before we look at their considerations it is important to emphasize that the completedebate at hand here is far to copious to be described even in a contracted form so only athe shortest possible representation of the major issues will follow.The whole contemporary discussion regarding the nature of names comes down totwo important concerns regarding names: what the speaker denotes upon a particularoccasion of using a name and what the name itself denotes upon some particular occasion.There are no easy answers to these questions, and both of the main contemporary theoriestry to answer them in somewhat different ways.The descriptive theory sees names as denoting an item only if they satisfy all or mostof the descriptions or characteristics one associates with the item that the name issupposed to represent. The speakers also have to believe and intend to use the given namewith the necessary denotation including the necessary set of characteristics.  33 'N.N.' denotes x upon a particular occasion of its use by a speaker S just in case x isuniquely that which satisfies all or most of the descriptions 0 such that S would assent to 'N.N. is 0' (or 'That N.N. is 0'). Crudely: the cluster of information S has associated with the name determines its denotation upon a particular occasion by fit. If thespeaker has no individuating information he will denote nothing. (Evans 1973: 188)Kripke sees names as rigid designations which have a causal connection to the itemsthey name and hence foresees several different ways to name the same object regardingthe fulfillment of the truth conditions.  A person who associated with the name 'Godel' merely the description 'prover of theincompleteness of Arithmetic' would nonetheless be denoting Godel and sayingsomething false of him in uttering 'Godel proved the incompleteness of Arithmetic' even if an unknown Viennese by the name of Schmidt had in fact constructed the proof which Godel had subsequently broadcast as his own. (Kripke 1972: 94)This lengthy philosophical debate about the nature of proper names, though veryimportant in their finer understanding, does not however shed light on the linguistic andcognitive motivation of people when creating names. That job was taken up by arelatively modern approach to semantics brought about by cognitive linguistics. 2. THE CONCEPTUAL METAPHOR  Cognitive linguistics begins with a somewhat new approach to the process of encoding and decoding meaning and the mental concepts our minds form and expressabout the world through language. As such it is genuinely the first complete linguisticsystem fully describing the nature and the dynamics of constructing meaning. GeorgeLakeoff (Johnson & Lakoff 1980), Charles Fillmore (Fillmore 1978) and AnnaWierzbicka (Wierzbicka 1995) are just the ones at the top of the list of relevant worksdealing with cognitive linguistics. This paper is however not the place to lay out the fullsignificance and implications of this approach to semantics so it will focus only on theselected notions important for the given topic.  34The idea instigated by cognitive linguistics referring to metaphors is that the meaningwe recognize in language is primarily based in semantic concepts. Semantic primitives(Wierzbicka 1995: 34), metaphorical concepts (Johnson & Lakeoff 1980: 7), conceptualprimitives or basic notions (Grkovi ć –Mejdžor 2008: 53) all stand for a collection of cognitive concepts which can be found at the basis of meaning transferred by languagewhich is in turn expressed by the lexical and grammatical means that every language candisplay. Such a conceptual system is at its most primitive level universal to all humanbeings (i.e. conceptual primitives such as up is good  , down is bad  ; straight is good  , bent is bad  ; etc.) because it flows from a connection formed between the human cognition of the world and its reality and it can be seen as prelanguage. Other cognitive concepts,more numerous, display a lesser degree of universality and are more culturallyconditioned.Either primitive or culturally conditioned, metaphorical concepts representinterwoven basic structures of human thought, social communication and concretelinguistic manifestation through a rich semantic system based on the human physical,cognitive and cultural experience (Fauconnier 2005: 2). The linguistic manifestations aremetaphors which conceptualize one element of a conceptual structure using elements of adifferent conceptual structure. It is important to understand early on that the term metaphor  used within the framework of cognitive linguistics, and indeed in this paper,does not refer to the stylistic figure used in literature but to semantic concepts, or rather alinguistic representation of basic mental concepts. As such it must be considered asdifferent from the notion of the term metaphor  in traditional linguistics.The process of constructing meaning using metaphorical concepts is calledmetaphorization and it is “founded on association [and it] constructs systems based onprototypical notions and meanings which are used to classify the real world” (Grkovi ć –Mejdžor 2008: 54). Metaphorization is based on the transfer from the source conceptualdomain to the target conceptual domain. Most commonly the structure of the sourceconcrete domains is mapped (Johnson & Lakeoff 1980: 252) onto abstract target domains,where the meaning retains the semantic markings of the target domain (i.e. LION IS APERSON: LION is the concrete source domain whose conceptual structure (such as strong ,  proud  , fierce , independent  , etc.)   is transferred to the abstract target domain of a  35human being PERSON). The titles used to denote particular concepts (i.e. ROSE IS APERSON) reveal the given procedure of cross-domain pairing. Concepts based on thephysical human experience are usually chosen as source domains while certain apparentsemantic connection selects the target ones. Such basic processes of linguisticallymarking items in the real world also relate to naming in the sense of srcinal creation of names, as the paper does not deal with reasons of choosing a particular name for a child,which can range from esthetic reasons to family tradition (although metaphoricalmeaning can also be considered as a relevant reason if the meaning is transparent enoughsuch as i.e. names like Vuk  or Ognjen ). 3. THE PRACTICE OF NAMING  Although, as contemporary semantics recognizes, names do not have meaning, it wasprecisely meaning that was essential in the primary srcins of many personal names.Apart from metaphors, srcinal reasons behind the prototype creation of personal namesare certainly various and diverse. One reason can be, for instance, a case when themeaning of a general noun was simply used to denote a person (i.e.  Ana from Heb. (h)anna meaning mercy, gratitude (Skok 1971: 39)). Another common source can be theusage of the name of a geographical location as denoting a person regarding the place of his or her birth (i.e.  Adrian from Lat.  Hadrianus denoting the geographical area of Hadriaat the Adriatic coast). It can also be a case where a name of an ancient god 1 is used tomark the named person both with the perceived qualities of a given deity and put theperson under the protection of that deity (i.e.  Apolonija from the Ancient Greek god of sun and art Apollon). The main point is that the cultures stemming from the Europeantradition forgot that all names, as the naming tradition in different cultures show(Brozovi ć -Ron č evi ć & Žic-Fuchs 2003–2004), carry meaning in their srcinal form fromthe point of their creation and that that meaning lies behind the motivation for their firstusage in denoting a human being.The previously listed reasons, and others not mentioned here, found at the roots of certain names seem to be highly culturally conditioned being that they stem from localgeographical areas, local gods or specific and different languages. A more universal and 1 The motivation behind the srcins of the names of deities is a matter for a different discussion.
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