THE MIND SHARPENER:
FROM LANGUAGE TO VIOLENCE: NO METAPHOR IS INNOCENT?
by Justina Urbonaitė
“The Mind Sharpener” – a series of lively, thought-provoking talks and debates rooted in academic research but of general interest and open to everyone. Topics range from political theory to poetry, from violence in discourse to the origins of language. The idea is to bring the fruits of research to a wide and diversified audience, and let the audience become an active participant by raising questions, proposing solutions, engaging in the tasks and activities provided by the speaker. Everything will take place in an informal and cosy atmosphere, enjoying a cup of tea or a glass of wine. All the discussions will be held in English.
It has long been attested that metaphor is an essential part of our daily speech and thought. Due to its cognitive role, metaphor is a rich resource of investigating people’s conceptualisation of the world. Metaphor may have numerous functions from generating new meanings of words to facilitating our understanding of abstract and/or complex phenomena. But can metaphor also shape the way we see the world and can its use have more dangerous consequences? Can metaphor play a role in spreading hate speech, for instance?
Drawing on contemporary linguistic research, I am going to discuss how language and metaphor may shape our thought, how systematic use of metaphor can become part of the expression and construction of ideological views and how metaphor may contribute to fostering negative attitudes towards certain groups of people. Alongside theoretical material, we will look into some examples of the use of metaphors and discuss their wider social implications. Finally, I will address the question of what we can do about the “violent” metaphors in discourse.
Justina Urbonaitė is an Assistant Professor at Vilnius University, Faculty of Philology. Her main research interests include cognitive linguistics and contemporary metaphor research. Justina holds a PhD in Linguistics, her dissertation focused on metaphor in criminology discourse in English and Lithuanian.
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This talk is part of “Young Ideas” project – a series of cultural and artistic events focused on development of contemporary and innovative ideas, as well as supporting young, up and coming artists, musicians and makers. The project is partially funded by Vilnius City Council.