In 1980, George Lakoff and Mark Johnson published their seminal work, “Metaphors We Live By.” In 1999, they published a follow-up volume, “Philosophy in The Flesh.” In the intervening decades, research on conceptual metaphor blossomed, and today, we know that even beginning EFL learners can benefit from a basic understanding of metaphor, and in particular, primary metaphors in English.
A learner who knows, for example, that KNOWING IS SEEING or UNDERSTANDING IS HOLDING or THINKING IS MOVING will have a greater chance of appreciating idiomatic expressions such as the following:
· Let’s shine a light on this subject.
· Try to bring the topic into focus.
· We’re in the dark about his intentions.
· I couldn’t grasp her meaning.
· That is a slippery idea.
· That concept went right over my head.
· I don’t have much time, so I’ll need to jump right to the conclusion.
· Can you follow my drift?
· If not, let’s back up and go over it again.
This presentation begins, though with some thoughts on the nature of polysemy, or the fact that most words in any language are imbued with multiple senses—a feature of language that underlies the nature of metaphor. If you find yourself with time prior to the session, and wish to get in a good frame of mind to enjoy our time together, consider what you know about the “simple” English word ‘on.’ You may know more than you realize.