Accessible Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton May 16, 2019

A cognitive semiotic exploration of metaphors in Greek street art

Georgios Stampoulidis, Marianna Bolognesi and Jordan Zlatev
From the journal Cognitive Semiotics

Abstract

Cognitive linguistic and semiotic accounts of metaphor have addressed similar issues such as universality, conventionality, context-sensitivity, cross-cultural variation, creativity, and “multimodality.” However, cognitive linguistics and semiotics have been poor bedfellows and interactions between them have often resulted in cross-talk. This paper, which focuses on metaphors in Greek street art, aims to improve this situation by using concepts and methods from cognitive semiotics, notably the conceptual-empirical loop and methodological triangulation.

In line with the cognitive semiotics paradigm, we illustrate the significance of the terminological and conceptual distinction between semiotic systems (language, gesture, and depiction) and sensory modalities (sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste). Thus, we restrict the term multimodality to the synergy of two or more different sensory modalities and introduce the notion of polysemiotic communication in the sense of the intertwined use of two or more semiotic systems.

In our synthetic approach, we employ the Motivation and Sedimentation Model (MSM), which distinguishes between three interacting levels of meaning making: the embodied, the sedimented, and the situated. Consistent with this, we suggest a definition of metaphor, leading to the assertion that metaphor is a process of experiencing one thing in terms of another, giving rise to both tension and iconicity between the two “things” (meanings, experiences, concepts). By reviewing an empirical study on unisemiotic and polysemiotic metaphors in Greek street art, we show that the actual metaphorical interpretation is ultimately a matter of situated and socio-culturally-sensitive sign use and hence a dynamic and creative process in a real-life context.

Acknowledgements

The research presented in this paper is part of Stampoulidis’s doctoral dissertation, co-supervised by the third author. We would like to thank two anonymous reviewers for their perceptive comments, which helped improve the quality of the paper. In addition, we would like to thank Simon Devylder and Björn Torstensson for stimulating and inspiring discussions on the topics studied as well as all members of the division of cognitive semiotics at Lund University for their comments on earlier versions of the manuscript. Special thanks are due to Rachel Giora, who has provided fruitful feedback on an earlier draft.

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Correction note

[Correction added after online publication 16 May 2019: The figure caption of Figure 5 “Figure 5: A polysemiotic and (potentially) multimodal street artwork by Neozoon: Stop Homo-Trans-Phobia. Photograph by Ilaria Hoppe, September 2010, Berlin (Kreuzberg), Germany.” was corrected to “Figure 5: A polysemiotic and (potentially) multimodal street artwork by an anonymous queer group: Stop Homo-Trans-Phobia. Photograph by Ilaria Hoppe, September 2010, Berlin (Kreuzberg), Germany.”]

Published Online: 2019-05-16

© 2019 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston