MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
Second, revised edition
THE HAGUE PARIS
PHONOLOGY AND PHONETICS
TWO ASPECTS OF LANGUAGE AND TWO TYPES OF APHASIC DISTURBANCES
BY ROMAN JAKOBSON
5. THE METAPHORIC AND METONYMIC POLES
The varieties of aphasia are numerous and diverse, but all of them lie between the two polar types just described. Every form of aphasic disturbance consists in some impairment, more or less
severe, either of the faculty for selection and substitution or for combination and contexture. The former affliction involves a deterioration of metalinguistic operations, while the latter damages the capacity for maintaining the hierarchy of linguistic units. The relation of similarity is suppressed in the former, the relation of'" contiguity in the latter type of aphasia. Metaphor is alien to the similarity disorder, and metonymy to the contiguity disorder.
The development of a discourse may take place along two different semantic lines: one topic may lead to another either through their similarity or through their contiguity. The METAPHORIC way would be the most appropriate term for the first case and _he METONYMIC way for the second, since they find their most condensed expression in metaphor and metonymy respectively. In aphasia one or the other of these two processes is restricted or totally blocked - an effect which makes the study of aphasia particularly illuminating for the linguist. In normal verbal behavior both processes are continually operative, but careful observation will reveal that under the influence of a cultural pattern, personality, and verbal style, preference is given to one of the two processes over the other.
In a well-known psychological test, children are confronted with some noun and told to utter the first verbal response that comes into their heads. In this experiment two opposite linguistic predilections are invariably exhibited: the response is intended either as a substitute for, or as' a complement to, the stimulus. In the
III THE METAPHORIC AND METONYMIC POLES
latter case the stimulus and the response together form a proper syntactic construction, most usually a sentence. These two types of reaction have been labeled SUBSTITUTIVE and PREDICATIVE.
To the stimulus hut one response was burnt out; another, is a poor little house. Both reactions are predicative; but the first creates a purely narrative context, while in the second there is a double'
connection with the subject hut: on the one hand, a positional (namely, syntactic) contiguity, and on the other a semantic similarity.
The same stimulus produced the following substitutive reactions: the tautology hut; the synonyms cabin and hovel; the antonym palace, and the metaphors den and burrow. The capacity of two words to replace one another is an instance of positional similarity, and, in addition, all these responses are linked to the stimulus by semantic similarity (or contrast). Metonymical responses to the same stimulus, such as thatch litter, or poverty, combine and contrast the positional similarity with semantic contiguity.
In manipulating these two kinds of connection (similarity and contiguity) in both their aspects (positional and semantic) - selecting, combining, and ranking them - an individual exhibits his personal style, his verbal predilections and preferences. In verbal art the interaction of these two elements is especially pronounced. Rich material for the study of this relationship is to be found in verse patterns which require a compulsory PARALLELISM between adjacent lines, for example in Biblical poetry or in the Finnic and, to some extent, the Russian oral traditions. This provides an objective criterion of what in the given speech community acts as a correspondence. Since on any verbal level morphemic, lexical, syntactic, and phraseological - either of these two relations (similarity and contiguity) can appear - and each in either of two aspects, an impressive range of possible configurations is created. Either of the two gravitational poles may prevail. In Russian lyrical songs, for example, metaphoric constructions predominate, while in the heroic epics the metonymic way is preponderant. In poetry there are various motives which determine the choice between these alternants. The primacy of the metaphoric process
TWO ASPECTS OF LANGUAGE
… the literary schools of romanticism and symbolism has been repeatedly acknowledged, but it is still insufficiently realized that it is the predominance of metonymy which underlies and actually predetermines the so-called 'realistic' trend, which belongs to an intermediary stage between the decline of romanticism and the rise of symbolism and is opposed to both. Following the path of contiguous relationships, the realist author metonymically digresses from the plot to the atmosphere and from the characters to the setting in space and time. He is fond of synecdochic details. In the scene of Anna Karenina's suicide Tolstoi's artistic attention is focused on the heroine's handbag; and in War and Peace the synecdoches .'hair on the upper lip" and "bare shoulders" are used by the same writer to stand for the female characters to whom these features belong.
The alternative predominance of one or the other of these two processes is by no means confined to verbal art. The same oscillation occurs in sign systems other than language.25 A salient ex.. ample from the history of painting is the manifestly metonymical orientation of cubism, where the object is transformed into a set of synecdoches; the surrealist painters responded with a patently metaphorical attitude. Ever since the productions of D. W. Griffith, the art of the cinema, with its highly developed capacity for changing the angle, perspective, and focus of 'shots', has broken wit_ the tradition of the theater and ranged an unprecedented variety of synecdochic 'close-ups' and metonymic 'set-ups' in general. In such motion pictures as those of Charlie Chaplin and Eisenstein,26 these devices in turn were overlayed by a novel, metaphoric "montage" with hs "lap dissolves" - the filmic similes.27
25 I ventured a few sketchy remarks on the metonymical turn in verbal art ("'Pro realizm u mystectvi", Vaplite, Kharkov, 1927, No.2; "Randbemerkungen zur Prosa des Dichters Pasternak", Sla_'ische Rll1zdschau, VII, 1935), in painting ("'Futurizm," Iskllsstvo, Moscow, Aug. 2, 1919), and in motion pictures ("Upadek filmu", Listy pro 11mbzi a kritiku, I, Prague, 1933), but the crucial problem of the two polar processes awaits a detailed investigation.
26 Cf. his striking essay "'Dickens, Griffith, and We": S. Eisenstein, Izbra111zye stat'i (Moscow, 1950), p. 153 if.
27 Cf. B. Balazs, Theory of the Film (London, 1952).
THE METAPHORIC AND METONYMIC POLES
The bipolar structure of language (or other semiotic systems) and, in aphasia, the fixation on one of these poles to the exclusion of the other require systematic comparative study. The retention of either of these alternatives in the two types of aphasia must be confronted with the predominance of the same pole in certain styles, personal habits, current fashions, etc. A careful analysis and comparison of these phenomena with the whole syndrome of the corresponding type of aphasia is an imperative task for joint research by experts in psychopathology, psychology, linguistics, poetics, and SEMIOTIC, the general science of signs.' The dichotomy discussed here appears to be of primal significance and consequence for all verbal behavior and for human behavior in genera1.28
To indicate the possibilities of the projected comparative research, we choose an example from a Russian folktale which employs parallelism as a comic device: "Thomas is a bachelor; Jeremiah is unmarried" (Foma x61ost,' Erjoma nezenclt). Here the predicates in the two parallel clauses are associated by similarity: they are in fact synonymous. The subjects of both clauses are masculine proper names and hence morphologically similar, while on the other hand they denote two contiguous heroes of the same tale, created to perform identical actions and thus to justify the use of synonymous pairs of predicates.' A somewhat modified version of the same construction occurs in a familiar wedding song in which each of the wedding guests is addressed in turn by his first name and patronymic: "Gleb is a bachelor; Ivanovic is unmarried." While both predicates here are again synonyms, the relationship between the t\yo subjects is changed: both are proper names denoting the same man and are normally used contiguously as a mode of polite address.
In the quotation from the folktale, the-two parallel clauses refer. to two separate facts, the marital status of Thomas and the similar
28 For the psychological and sociological aspects of this dichotomy, see Bateson's views on “progressional" and "selective integration" and Parsons' on the "conjunction-disjunction dichotomy" in child development: J. Ruesch and G. Bateson, Communicatioll, the Social Matrix of Psychiatry (New York, 1951), pp. 183 fr.; T. Parsons and R. F. Bales, Family, Socialization and Interaction Process (Glencoe, 1955), pp. 119f.
TWO ASPECTS OF LANGUAGE
status of Jeremiah. In the verse from the wedding song, however, the two clauses are synonymous: they redundantly reiterate the celibacy of the same hero, splitting him into two verbal hypostases.
The Russian novelist Gleb Ivanovic Uspenskij (1840-1902) in the last years of his life suffered from a mental illness involving a speech disorder. His first name and patronymic, Gleb Ivanovic, traditionally combined in polite intercourse, for him split into two distinct names designating two separate beings: Gleb was endowed with all his virtues, while Ivanovic, the name relating a son to his father, became the incarnation of all Uspenskij's vices. The linguistic aspect of this split personality is the patient's inability to use two symbols for the same thing, and it is thus a similarity disorder. Since the similarity disorder is bound up with the metonymical bent, an examination of the literary manner Uspenskij had employed as a young writer takes on particular interest. And the study of Anatolij Kamegulov, who analyzed Uspenskij's style, bears out our theoretical expectations. He shows that Uspenskij had a particular penchant for metonymy, and especially for synecdoche, and that he carried it so far that "the reader is crushed by the multiplicity of detail unloaded on him in a limited verbal space, and is physically unable to grasp the whole, so that the portrait is often 10st."29
To be sure, the metonymical style in Uspenskij is obviously prompted by the prevailing literary canon of his time, late nineteenth-century 'realism'; but the personal stamp of Gleb I vanovic made his pen particularly suitable for this artistic trend in its extreme manifestations and finally left its mark upon the verbal aspect of his mental iIlness.
A competition between both devices, metonymic and metaphoric, 9 A. Kamegulov, Sri!' Gleba Uspenskogo (Leningrad, 1930), pp. 65, 145. One of such disintegrated portraits cited in the monograph: "From underneath an ancient straw cap, with a black spot on its visor, peeked two braids resembling the tusks of a wild boar; a chin, grown fat and pendulous, had spread definitively over the greasy collar of the calico dicky and lay in a thick layer on the coarse collar of the canvas coat, firmly buttoned at the neck. From underneath this coat to the eyes of. the observer protruded massive hands with a ring which had eaten into the fat finger, a cane with a copper top, a significant bulge of the stomach, and the presence of very broad pants, almost of muslin quality, in the wide bottoms of which hid the toes of the boots."
THE METAPHORIC AND METONYMIC POLES
is 'manifest in any symbolic process, be it intrapersonal or social. Thus in an inquiry into the structure of dreams, the decisive question is whether the symbols and the temporal sequences used are based on contiguity (Freud's metonymic "displacement" and synecdochic "condensation") or on similarity (Freud's "identification and symbolism").30 The principles underlying magic rites have been resolved by Frazer into two types: charms based on the law of similarity and those founded on association by contiguity. The first' of these two great branches of sympathetic magic has been called "homoeopathic" or "imitative", and the second, "contagious magic".31 This bipartition is indeed illuminating. Nonetheless" foF the most part, the question of the two poles is still neglected, despite its wide scope and importance for the study of any symbolic behavior, especially verbal, and of its impairments. What is the main reason for this neglect?
Similarity in meaning connects the symbols of a metalanguage with the symbols of the language referred to. Similarity connects a metaphorical term with the term for which it is substituted. Consequently, when constructing a metalanguage to interpret tropes, the researcher possesses more homogeneous means to handle metaphor, whereas metonymy, based on a different principle, easily defies interpretation. Therefore nothing comparable to the rich literature on metaphor32 can be cited for the theory of metonymy. For the same reason, it is generally realized that romanticism is closely linked with metaphor, whereas the equally intimate ties of realism with metonymy usually remain unnoticed. Not only the tool of the observer but also the object of observation is responsible for the preponderance of metaphor over metonymy in scholarship. Since poetry is focused upon the sign, and pragmatical prose primarily upon the referent, tropes and figures were studied mainly as poetic devices. The principle of similarity underlies poetry; the metrical parallelism of lines, or the phonic equivalence
130 S. Freud, Die Traumdeutung, 9th ed. (Vienna, 1950).
31 J. G. Frazer, The Golden Bough: A study in Magic and Religion, Part I. 3rd ed. (Vienna, 1950), chapter III.
32 C. F. P. Stutterheim, Her begrip metaphor (Amsterdam, 1941).
TWO ASPECTS OF LANGUAGE
of rhyming words prompts the question of semantic similarity and contrast; there exist# for instance,- grammatical and anti-grammatical but never agrammatical rhymes. Prose, on the contrary, is forwarded essentially by contiguity. Thus, for poetry, metaphor, and for prose, metonymy is the line of least, resistance and, consequently, the study of poetical tropes is directed chiefly toward metaphor. The actual bipolarity has been artificially replaced in these studies by an amputated, unipolar scheme which, strikingly enough, coincides with one of the two aphasic patterns, namely with the contiguity disorder.