A complementarity between metaphors and narratives

The repertoire of metaphors, whether living or dead, used by those who express themselves is indicative of a culture. The words and expressions, which have a special place compared to what one encounters elsewhere, merit attention. The most significant thing is not their frequency, but the fact that, from a foreign viewpoint, they are used in situations where it would not appear to be normal to use them.
At the same time, one cannot understand the specific meaning of a word or expression if one disregards the cultural context considered as a whole. Different cultures are likely to give very different meanings to one same word, even when they use the “same” language. In order to know the specific meaning that should be given to a word or expression in a certain universe of meaning, attention should be paid to the stories in which they are used. It is these stories that give them substance and make it possible to know exactly what they refer to in the context in question. At the same time, associating a word (“honour”, “equal”) with a group of stories helps to understand what they have in common. But this sort of summary only has a precise meaning in relation to what it is summarising. There is a complementarity between the paradigmatic – the models, metaphors – and the syntagmatic, the stories, the intrigues.


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