Blended Spaces and Frames:
how similar is meaning-"freeloading" in everyday language and in poetry?
The kinds of complex blending processes involved in non-literary (or non-artistic) linguistic production and construal are suffiently impressive, and different enough from what we think other species can do, to make us wonder if we need any added mechanisms to enable the production and comprehension of verbal art. This paper will argue that it's not entirely "a matter of degree," that indeed there are some kinds of blending structures possible in literary blends which would not be possible in non-literary ones, and vice versa.
I'm focusing on two areas. The first is the use of displaced spatial and temporal perspective in literary texts, as opposed to the kinds of displacement which occur in non-literary contexts. The second is the relationship between form and meaning, or more precisely the relationships between form-meaning mappings, which characterise artistic or literary use of language. I will characterize both of these in terms of blended spaces. One conclusion will be that literary texts can involve special meta-level blends, which link networks of form-meaning mappings; it is in large measure these meta-level blends which are the aesthetically special part of artistic language.
"Freeloading" itself, then, is probably the same set of processes in literary and non-literary language; but it is fed by some different structures in the two kinds of texts. I examine a case of freeloading from rhyme in a literary context, to show some of the similarities and differences.
At stake here, among other things, are issues such as what makes verbal art uniquely human; and is such art more uniquely human than communication, or language? If so, how much more, and why?
Eve Sweetser is professor of Linguistics at UC Berkeley. Among her many publications relevant to the conference is Spaces, Worlds, and Grammar (edited with Gilles Fauconnier), University of Chicago Press, 1996. Abstract..