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Open Theology

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Radial Extension, Prototypicality, and Tectonic Equivalence

Stephen R. Shaver
Published Online: 2018-01-26 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2018-0007


In his book “Without Metaphor, No Saving God: Theology After Cognitive Linguistics”, Robert Masson describes a metaphoric process by which newly accepted truths emerge: for example, in the assertion “Jesus is the Messiah,” Christians reconfigure the field of meanings associated with an existing concept from the Hebrew scriptures (messiah) by asserting its identification with Jesus. Masson dubs this process a “tectonic equivalence” or “tectonic shift.” In this paper I build on Masson‘s work by examining some of the shifts he describes as tectonic through the lens of the cognitive linguistics concepts of radial extension and polysemy. I propose that a lasting tectonic shift may be understood as a blend creating a radial extension that substantially alters the category structure of the original source frame so that the blended space comes to be understood as a central instance of that category. Such an approach allows a fruitful analysis of the similarities and differences among three example blends: god is a rock, jesus is the messiah, and jesus is god.

Keywords: tectonic shift; tectonic equivalence; conceptual metaphor; analogy; literal; proper; figurative; truth; conceptual blending; cognitive linguistics


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About the article

Received: 2017-11-02

Accepted: 2017-12-15

Published Online: 2018-01-26

Citation Information: Open Theology, Volume 4, Issue 1, Pages 84–98, ISSN (Online) 2300-6579, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2018-0007.

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© 2018. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License. BY-NC-ND 4.0

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