Metaphorical concepts

So it seems that how we think, act and speak is influenced by the metaphorical choices we use to conceptualise ideas. Another eye-opener in week 6, this time from Lakoff, G. and Johnson, M. (1980). As someone who resorts to metaphors quite often in language (in my on-going battle to articulate myself with clarity), it was interesting to read that this is more than just language – indeed the very metaphors we choose can influence how we think.

Continuing the spirit of experimentation, I pulled together a video of some of themes in biteable:

In traditional form though, here are some bullets for my own reference:

  • Metaphorical concepts are more than ‘skin deep’. We are able to articulate concepts metaphorically because we conceive of things metaphorically, then act metaphorically.
  • Structural metaphors – where one concept is metaphorically structured in terms of another. E.g. Time is money.
  • Metaphorical concepts may be only relevant to certain cultures
  • Metaphorical concepts may be interrelated, to create a metaphorical system
  • Metaphorical concepts are only partially structured. Time (the target domain) is analogous with money (the source domain), but time isn’t money. Therefore this can hide and limit the understanding of the target domain.
  • Orientational metaphors – organises a whole system of concepts with respect to one another. Spatial in that refer to our being in a physical environment. E.g. I’m feeling down.
  • Metaphorical systems provide an overarching theme to capture many metaphorical concepts, e.g. Happy is ‘up’.

I see the links in this paper with Bayne (2015), in terms of how choice of language, as innocuous as it may seem, can have wider repercussions if not chosen well, or at least without a critique of why the choices have been made.

Having done some further reading around this, I’ve come across Whorf’s theory of language, which perhaps looks at this from a different angle – that the choice of language itself shape how their speakers perceive and conceptualize the world.

In a forum thread earlier in the course, Clara O’Shea talks about mycorrhiza, and the symbiotic association this represents. This seems to be a pervading theme across the course, whether it be related to technology and teacher, metaphor and language, learning and education, teacher and student, instrumentalism and essentialism. There is a rich and intertwined dynamic going on throughout these topics, and it seems clarity is lost when the factors are treated as distinct individuals, rather than acknowledging the interplay between the two.

In terms of how metaphorical concepts apply to the digital environments, this is going to be interesting to explore on the forums with the rest of the guys. With regards to the idea of learning I can already see concepts such as nature, or growth coming through e.g. “it gave me the seed of an idea that grew”, and perhaps this is lost at times with digital, where the viewpoint (in some circles) may be to revolutionise, rather than evolve?


  • Bayne, S. (2015). What’s the matter with ‘technology-enhanced learning’? Learning, Media and Technology, 40(1), 5-20, DOI: 10.1080/17439884.2014.915851
  • Lakoff, G. and Johnson, M.(1980) Metaphors We Live By. (London, University of Chicago Press). Chapters 1-4. pp3-21