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19 JUNE 2011

A comparable dichotomy between metaphor and metonymy

"Roman Jakobson found a comparable dichotomy between metaphor and metonymy in his seminal paper, 'Two Aspects of Language and Two Types of Aphasic Disturbances,' published in his monograph, Fundamentals of Language (Mouton & Co––Gravenhage, 1956). Here Jakobson discussed two types of aphasia based on complementary disorders in comprehending language: (a) a similarity disorder whereby one primarily depends on syntactic context to draw words into use (pp. 63–64); and (b) a contiguity disorder whereby one's style becomes a telegraphic 'word heap' without much, if any, evidence of syntax (pp. 71–72). According to Jakobson, two faculties are thus involved in the use of language: (a) selection in the choice of words to express an idea (metaphoric); and (b) the combination of words, again to express an idea (metonymic). Elaborate sentences without a particularly impressive vocabulary (for example in the prose of Henry James) illustrates the similarity disorder, while big vocabulary in loosely constructed sentences (for example in the prose of James Joyce) illustrates the contiguity disorder. Joyce heaped together his words with apparent abandonment, while James strenuously belaboured his syntax to produce exactly the right effect––an effect he found difficult to articulate with words alone as opposed to their combination in intricate sentences. An inferior choice of words, Jakobson claimed, is at the sacrifice of metaphor, whereas an inferior combination of words is at the sacrifice of metonymy (p. 76)."

(Edward Jayne)

Jakobson, R. (1971). "Fundamentals of Language". The Hague/Paris: Mouton, Harvard University and Morris Halle, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

1). Edward Jayne. "The Metaphor–Metonymy Binarism"


aphasia • choice of wordsClaude Levi-Strauss • combination of words • comprehending language • constructed sentences • contiguitydeconstructionismFerdinand de Saussuregrammar • Henry James • ideasJacques DerridaJacques LacanJames Joyce • John Langshaw Austin • language • langue • langue and parole • Louis Hjelmslev • metaphormetaphoric • metonymic • metonymynaming • paradigmatic relations • parole • Paul de Man • rhetoricRoland Barthes • Roman Jakobson • selection • semiology • semiotics • sentences • signifiedsignifierstructuralism • syntactic context • syntagmatic relations • syntaxtelegraphictropesvocabularyword heapwords


Simon Perkins

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