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Cognitive Semiotics

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A cognitive semiotic exploration of metaphors in Greek street art

Georgios Stampoulidis / Marianna Bolognesi / Jordan Zlatev
Published Online: 2019-05-16 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/cogsem-2019-2008


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.

Keywords: metaphor; motivation and sedimentation model; multimodality; polysemiotic communication; street art


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About the article

Georgios Stampoulidis

Georgios Stampoulidis is a Ph.D. Candidate in Cognitive Semiotics at Lund University. His primary research interests are in the fields of metaphor, polysemiotic communication, and urban creativity. His Ph.D. work focuses on street art as a (typically) polysemiotic medium of cultural production and political intervention in urban space. He is currently partner in the research theme Urban Creativity at the Pufendorf Institute for Advanced Studies and co-editor of the Public Journal of Semiotics.

Marianna Bolognesi

Marianna Bolognesi is a research associate at the University of Oxford working on metaphor in thought, language, and images within the large UK AHRC-funded project Creative Multilingualism, a consortium of various UK-based universities working on language variation and human creativity. Her current research focuses on the grounded and symbolic views of semantic representation, figurative language, (metaphors, metonymies, and other dangerous things), and visual communication.

Jordan Zlatev

Jordan Zlatev is Professor of General Linguistics and Director of Research for the Division of Cognitive Semiotics at Lund University. His current research focuses on motion in experience and language, and more generally on language in relation to other semiotic systems like gesture and depiction, as well as to consciousness. He is one of the developers of the Motivation and Sedimentation Model, and editor in chief of the Public Journal of Semiotics.

Published Online: 2019-05-16

Citation Information: Cognitive Semiotics, Volume 12, Issue 1, 20192008, ISSN (Online) 2235-2066, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/cogsem-2019-2008.

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