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Investigating Metaphor Theory through an analysis of «C’est Ainsi» by Luigi Pirandello



The article argues that once a metaphor has been unpacked as a metaphor, this is only the first, and most uncomplicated and limited, stage in comprehending the meaning that that metaphorical expression conveys when employed in communication. To understand the message(s) a metaphorical expression conveys in a given text one must employ the same inferential engine one employs in comprehending any utterance.


La tesi che si vuole sostenere è che capire il significato convogliato da una metafora in quanto metafora è solo il primo passo, nonché quello più semplice e circoscritto, per comprendere il significato che quella espressione linguistica metaforica trasmette quando viene impiegata in un atto comunicativo. Onde comprendere il messaggio/ i messaggi trasmessi da una espressione metaforica in un dato testo, è necessario impiegare la medesima macchina inferenziale che viene utilizzata nel comprendere un qualsiasi enunciato.

Part 1 Theoretical Background

This paper is in three parts. First a number of the salient features of classic cognitive or conceptual metaphor theory are explicated. The second part illustrates the way these features help provide tools for text analysis by examining an extract from Pirandello’s musical C’est Ainsi, a musical originally written in French and then translated into English in an attempt to stage it on Broadway. The third part provides a conclusion.

The paper will thus tackle the issue of the nature of Cognitive Metaphor (CM) and its use and interpretation in communication from both a theoretical and a practical standpoint, and will do so in order to interrogate the ‘standard’ view of Cognitive Metaphor Theory (CMT) as theorised by Lakoff and Johnson in their classic 1980 text. In that work, they contend (p. 3) that:

[M]etaphor is pervasive in everyday life, not just in language but in thought and action. Our ordinary conceptual system, in terms of which we both think and act, is fundamentally metaphorical in nature. ... Our concepts structure what we perceive, how we get around in the world, and how we relate to other people ... if we are right in suggesting that our conceptual system is largely metaphorical, then the way we think, what we experience, and what we do every day is very much a matter of metaphor. …

To illustrate their viewpoint, I will quote the first examples Lakoff and Johnson provide in their first chapter, where they employ the CM ARGUMENT IS WAR to exemplify their theoretical points. There follow (ibid: 4) the first examples of metaphorical linguistic expressions (MLEs, namely the linguistic expressions which concretely realise the CM, shown in italics in the examples below):

  1. Your claims are indefensible.
  2. He attacked every weak point in my argument. His criticisms were right on

  3. I demolished his argument.

They explicate their examples as follows (ibid: 4):

It is important to see that we don't just talk about arguments in terms of war. We can actually win or lose arguments. We see the person we are arguing with as an opponent. We attack his positions and we defend our own. We gain and lose ground. We plan and use strategies. If we find a position indefensible, we can abandon it and take a new line of attack. Many of the things we do in arguing are partially structured by the concept of war. Though there is no physical battle, there is a verbal battle, and the structure of an argument—attack, defense, counterattack, etc.—reflects this. It is in this sense that the ARGUMENT IS WAR metaphor is one that we live by in this culture; it structures the actions we perform in arguing.

The basic function of a metaphor, it is argued, is to aid comprehension of language and the world: “most concepts are partially understood in terms of other concepts (LAKOFF and JOHNSON 1980: 56). The importance of CM as a means of explaining the nature of the world is underscored by Knowles and Moon (2006: 4). They expand this basic concept into “explaining, clarifying, describing, expressing, evaluating, entertaining”. What will be noted is that virtually all the aforementioned functions may be subsumed under the general category “comprehension”, and not ‘simply’ language comprehension. Lakoff and Turner (1989: xi) make the even more radical claim that metaphor “is irreplaceable: metaphor allows us to understand ourselves and our world in ways that no other modes of thought can”.1

A more common specification of the general principle of understanding concept “a” through concept “b” is formulated by Knowles and Moon (2006: 5) who make explicit the hypothesis implicit in Lakoff and Johnson that an abstract concept (in the case of the CM ARGUMENT IS WAR, “argument”) is made more readily comprehensible by mapping certain pertinent features of a concrete source domain (in this case “war”) onto the abstract target domain (i,e “argument”). As Kovecses (2002: 7) puts it: “understanding typically goes from concrete to abstract”.

Thus, in the first MLE furnished by Lakoff and Johnson to illustrate the CM ARGUMENT IS WAR, the abstract concept “claims” is explained (that is to say, clarified through being commented on) by the concrete term “indefensible”.

Now, part of people’s knowledge of the world is that the denotation (or literal) meaning of the lexeme “defence” refers to a concrete, real-world situation in which an enemy is physically attacking, (an action which is generally performed employing weapons and standardly involves killing and wounding others), a particular physical position or object, (a fort, a trench, a building), occupied by the other party, and that the lexical item “indefensible” literally indicates that the position cannot be defended. This implies that in case of attack, the position will almost certainly fall (note that “fall” is another MLE!)2.

The objective of my ulterior explicature of Lakoff and Johnson’s own explanation is to ‘prepare the terrain’, (another MLE), for a wider analysis than that offered by the two authors and to offer a critique of their ‘position’, (yet another MLE, since the lexeme ‘position’ does not refer to a “physical” position).

The first point I wish to make is one I have already implicitly drawn attention to, namely that much of the language we use in communicating is indeed metaphorical (“fall”, “terrain”, “position”), thus confirming one of Lakoff and Johnson’s major insights.

However, it must be specified that much metaphorical language now consists of conventional metaphors (GOATLY, 1997; KNOWLES and MOON 2006: 5). Furthermore, the non-specialist is totally unaware that the specific linguistic expression he is using at a given point in a communicative event is or was originally an MLE (ibid). In Lakoff and Turner’s (1989: xi) words:

Metaphor is a tool so ordinary that we use it unconsciously and automatically, with so little effort that we hardly notice it. It is omnipresent: metaphor suffuses our thoughts, no matter what we are thinking about. It is accessible to everyone: as children, we automatically, as a matter of course, acquire a mastery of everyday metaphor. It is conventional: metaphor is an integral part of our ordinary everyday thought and language.…

The second point concerns the basic tenet that a concrete concept is employed to explain an abstract concept. This cognitive mechanism is founded on the hypothesised greater difficulty of comprehending (conceptualising) abstract terms compared to the relative ease of conceptualising concrete terms. Stated simply, it is easier to understand the concept ‘soft’ because it can be experienced directly (in this case, perceived through the sense of touch. See also Lakoff and Johnson’s account of the concept “up” as constituting “what we call ‘direct physical experience’”, 1980: 56-57, which gives rise to their hypothesis that metaphors are grounded in bodily experience). Comprehension can be further facilitated by employing the cognitive process of comparison – by putting side by side an entity which is soft and one which is ‘hard’ (again perceived though touch, but ‘calculated’ through a mental process – comparison – which is deemed easier than many other mental processes, such as evaluation).

Leaving aside for the moment the question of whether all abstract concepts are more difficult to understand than concrete concepts, the third issue that arises as to whether the theoretical distinction between ‘abstract’ and ‘concrete’ categories is actually tenable.

Thanks to theories such as Eleanor Rosch’s prototype theory (1973), we have by now recognised the fact that categories are not watertight entities, that they are summaries of a variety of features and functions, features which may be variable not only in number but also in degree, (thus, features are said to be ‘graded’). For instance, if we compare ‘tall’ and ‘short’ there is no objective, incontestable criterion (in this particular case, measurement should constitute a [very concrete] operational criterion), to decide when a given person may be classified as either tall or short. Hence defining concreteness is not without its problems. An extension to this argument is the question of how tenable the abstract/concrete distinction is – an ongoing debate in philosophy.

If we now turn to the application of the concepts ‘abstract’ and ‘concrete’, (that is to say, assigning a given entity to a given class), we encounter a second difficulty. While “argument” might appear to be undeniably assignable to the category ‘abstract’, (technically, it is non-mental, non-sensible and non spatial), class assignment might prove more arduous in other cases. For example, can the lexeme/concept “war” be unquestionably allocated to the category ‘concrete’? Unquestionably, war consists of many concrete, perceptible physical objects (guns, bombs, planes, soldiers, airmen) and actions (firing a gun, attacking a fort, bombing enemy tanks). However, it also consists of entities such as conquest, victory/defeat, control of territory, all of which would be difficult to clearly decide as belonging to one or the other category. Furthermore, the supposedly concrete concept of war may also include concepts such as freedom, justice, legality, which would appear to belong to the class “abstract”.

The third issue I would like to raise concerns, instead, the effects (hence the justification) of the use of metaphor. Two main effects are generally identified, economicity (in pragmatic terms, the Gricean concept of quantity – see Grice 1989) and aiding comprehension. I will deal with the two topics in that order, though the second effect is of far greater importance in communication.

With regard to economicity, my extended explanation of Lakoff and Johnson’s example “indefensible” shows that the use of the MLE ‘saves time’ because it subsumes many concepts which it would take much more time to convey if the concepts had to be expressed explicitly.

The economicity function does not always apply, however. I will illustrate two aspects in this regard. The first is that in some cases the language might make available to users short linguistic expressions which are synonymous. One might thus express the ‘same’ concept conveyed by example i) above by saying “Your claims are incorrect”. However, as with any variant in language, synonymity does not equal perfect identity of ‘meaning’. As my placing the final word in commas anticipates, the word ‘meaning’ has many ‘meanings’. Lexis may be examined for denotation, connotation, collocation, semantic fields and register or style. Different communicative effects will be produced by playing on the ‘constituents of meaning’. In addition to the various types of lexical meaning, linguistic expressions may, and generally do, provide social meaning, psychological meaning, attitudinal meaning. Messages, utterances, texts are thus multifaceted. They concurrently perform more than one function.

To give just one elementary example, the two English expressions, “Can I open that last bottle of wine” and “Would you object terribly if I opened your last bottle of wine”, may, in the correct circumstances, perform an identical illocutionary force (Austin 1962), namely asking for permission. However, there follow a series of important differences in the messages conveyed by the above two utterances.

The expression “can I open …” is informal. It thus conveys that the two interactants are of a similar social standing, and/or have a relationship which is to some degree intimate (e.g. friendship), that the speaker expects either a positive answer to his request, (the contextually preferred response, Schegloff 2006), or, if he receives a negative reply (the dispreferred response, Schegloff 2006) to his face threatening act (Brown and Levinson 1987), no important negative consequences will ensue which will negatively affect the relationship between the two interactants.

The linguistic formulation “Would you mind terribly…” depicts virtually the opposite socio-psychological relationship. The speaker conveys an attitude of deference, or weakness, or inferiority towards the hearer. He knows that his face threatening act (FTA) could have serious consequences. Hence he predicts that a dispreferred response is probable. Consequently he employs a redressive strategy (BROWN and LEVINSON, 1987) to diminish the negative force of his potentially dangerous social act.

In conclusion, while the two speech acts (AUSTIN, 1962) realise the same illocutionary force, the other meaning components are radically different, delineating two completely different social situations and possible social outcomes.

An analogous type of analysis applies to the two options “Your claims are indefensible/incorrect”.

In the former, the illocutionary force is conveyed indirectly through the deployment of an MLE, while in the latter the illocutionary force is conveyed directly, i.e. by the literal meaning (or locutionary force) of the utterance. As with our two requests for permission to open the bottle of wine, the two expressions “indefensible/incorrect” also perform the same illocutionary force. But as is standard, messages are multifunctional and once the similarity in illocutionary force has been noted, the differences in other areas of meaning emerge. The literal expression (“Your claims are incorrect”) constitutes a bald on record FTA without redressive strategies (BROWN and LEVINSON, 1987). As a rebuttal. It is therefore impolite and might also imply a closure of the topic in favour of the speaker’s own interpretation, if not a closure of the conversation, or, less aggressively, a strong invitation to adhere to the speaker’s view. Note that the alternative “your claim is wrong” would be even more impolite and aggressive.

Instead, the MLE, (“Your claims are indefensible”), is more polite, and could perform the function rejection tout court, or it might concurrently constitute an invitation to the hearer to think about the fallacies in his arguments and to consequently come up with a better proposition or else to concede that the speaker’s position is valid (or less fallacious), hence to accept the speaker’s position and take the necessary course of action which such acceptance implies.

Obviously, I have far from exhausted the real world possible interpretations of the three expressions under consideration. That is not necessary for present purposes, because the point behind this long illustration is that it is not possible to identify all possible interpretations, and, more importantly, to decide which of the possible interpretations identified is correct. The fundamental reason why we are in no position to perform these operations is because we lack sufficient information, that information which in communication is provided by co-text and context (DOUTHWAITE, 2000, 2011a, 20011b).

Consequently, we are forcibly limited to considering the literal value of the linguistic expression. In other words, we are dealing with meaning at the level of code. This parallels the situation which existed in language interpretation prior to the theorising by Austin and later Grice, that is to say prior to the advent of the Oxford school of ordinary language philosophy.

Let me illustrate. Take the expression “The door’s open”. At the level of code, i.e without any other information, i.e. taking the expression as a decontextualised sentence, then the locutionary force, or literal meaning, is that a specific instantiation of an object classified as a door is in such a position in relation to the wall as not to obstruct human or other passage. Now in a real communicative situation the probability that a person utter the expression “The door’s open” intending to convey the illocutionary force “describing the state of the door” is extremely low, for the simple reason that the hearer to whom such an utterance is directed will most probably be in a position to see that the door is open, thereby rendering the information conveyed by the utterance redundant, non-communicative.

If instead we add co-textual and contextual information, then the situation changes radically. Let us suppose a speaker is expecting a hearer to come to his office and hears a knock on the door. He consequently interprets the knock on the door as a request for permission to enter and his utterance “The door’s open” conveys a series of pertinent illocutionary forces: i) acknowledging he has heard the knock and ii) understood its illocutionary force; iii) informing the hearer that the door is not locked, iv) and that, consequently he can open it in order to come in; v) an invitation to enter.

All five illocutionary forces have no direct semantic relationship to the literal meaning of “The door’s open”. This argument demonstrates that the illocutionary forces conveyed by that utterance in that specific speech event have nothing to do with the literal meaning of the utterance. What this means is that the meanings we HAVE recovered, we have not recovered from the literal meaning, or locutionary force, of the utterance. To put it differently, the meaning induced has not been recovered from linguistic (or logical) form. That is to say, the illocutionary forces identified as being conveyed by the utterance were not derived from semantics, syntax and morphology, phonology and graphology, which are the meaning-making devices provided by code. At the highest level of generalisation, understanding literal meaning is no guarantee that one has understood communicative meaning. Stated differently, linguistic competence (knowledge of the code) is not enough to understand communicative meaning (the meaning of an expression when used in a real situation of communication, (this ability being termed communicative competence). Stated differently, understanding form does mean one will understand meaning in speech events.

Exactly the same stricture, (and the analysis preceding it), applies to MLEs, and to any form of rhetorical or non-literal expressions. Let me illustrate with the utterance “you argument is indefensible”. CMT classifies this MLE as belonging to the class of CMs ARGUMENT IS WAR. Once this has been said, we have as yet said very little. We have merely established that the locutionary force of the utterance is a denial of the validity of an argument (or claim). Indeed, Lakoff and Johnson talk about the “literal meaning” of a metaphor.

To move from language as code to language as communication, let us provide co-textual and contextual knowledge. Let us take a situation in which A and B work in the same company. They do not like each other and always try to better each other. B wants the company to carry out action X and provides what appears to be a convincing argument to defend taking that course of action. B also knows that A always takes an opposite position to his own. We now turn to A’s standpoint. With regard to action X, A has far more information and consequently knows that taking action X would be disastrous for the company. But he also knows that if he says the opposite of what B believes, B will inevitably continue believing he is right and not listen to A. Hence, when A says “Your claim is indefensible”, his deep illocutionary force is to make B fall into the trap of remaining convinced that his claim is correct when A knows it is incorrect so that B will make a mistake in presenting action B to their boss as the best course of action possible and cause damage to the company. A’s intention is the opposite of what he says literally and constitutes deceit.

In this example, too, we see that explaining the codified or ‘literal’ meaning of a metaphor (in this case “indefensible” means “incorrect”) in no way explains what the speaker intends to achieve when he uses the metaphorical expression “your argument is indefensible” in that specific speech event. Stated technically, understanding the literal meaning of the MLE does not in itself and by itself allow the hearer to recover the speaker’s illocutionary force and perlocutionary force, the intention behind the utterance and the goal he wishes to achieve through uttering that expression..

Now Lakoff and Johnson (1980: 12) themselves acknowledge the fact that more information is required to account for the communicative use of an MLE than that obtained from simply identifying its locutionary force: “sentences … have no meaning without context [and] there are cases where a sentence will mean different things to different people”. They exemplify by stating that the sentence “We need new alternative sources of energy” will mean different things to the president of Mobil Oil and to the president of Friends of the Earth. Unfortunately, they take this argument no further. In addition, in chapter 15, Lakoff and Johnson refer to conversation analysis (turn taking, shifting topic), politeness, and Grice’s Cooperative Principle (“cooperation”), but do so only tangentially, without applying these models to calculate the full meaning of the MLEs under discussion.

In conclusion, Lakoff and Johnson totally discount the working of the inferential engine employed to calculate meaning, as illustrated above with the examples “The door’s open” and “Your argument is indefensible/incorrect”. (For a Relevance Theoretic account of the workings of the inferential engine, see SPERBER and WILSON, 1995; for a Gricean account, see DOUTHWAITE, 2000).

This admission also fails to consider all the implications of calculating the CM a given MLE belongs to. This aspect brings me to my final set of theoretical considerations. In comprehending the use of an MLE, Lakoff and Johnson (1980: 7ff) posit the existence of a systematic mapping process which Kovecses (2002: 6) succinctly describes as “a set of systematic correspondences between the source and the target in the sense that constituent conceptual elements of the [target domain] correspond to constituent elements of the [source domain]”. Kovecses (2002: 7) illustrates with JOURNEY as the source domain employed to explain the target domain LOVE in the CM LOVE IS A JOURNEY. For instance, the source concept “travellers” correspond to the target concept “the lovers”, “the journey” corresponds to “the events in the relationship”, “the distance covered” to “the progress made”, the “decisions about which way to go” to the “choices about what to do”. Kovecses underlines the fact which is not fully explicitated by Lakoff and Johnson that “constituent elements of the [target] conceptual domain are in a systematic correspondence of the [source] conceptual domain”.

Systematicity has its problems. The major issue is that employing the CM LOVE IS A JOURNEY, will characterise love in one way but “will necessarily hide other aspects of the concept” (LAKOFF and JOHNSON 1980: 10). Please note that the lexeme “hide” expresses a (negative) value judgment, as is implied by the fact that the logical consequence Lakoff and Johnson (1980: 108) draw from this premise is that “different metaphors can structure different aspects of a single concept; for example, LOVE IS A JOURNEY, LOVE IS WAR, LOVE IS A PHYSICAL FORCE, LOVE IS MADNESS. This point is made even more forcefully by Lakoff and Turner (1989: 26), who show that there exist many CMs which deal with life and death. These include, limiting the examples to life: LIFE IS A JOURNEY, LIFE IS FLUID IN THE BODY, LIFE IS A PLAY, LIFE IS BONDAGE, LIFE IS A BURDEN. Their argument is that, given the complexity of life, we need a variety of CMs to “be able to conceive of life in different ways and for different purposes”.

However, the ability “to conceive of life in different ways for different purposes” reveals that what Lakoff and Turner (and Lakoff and Johnson) are talking about is the linguistic means made available by a language to its speaker. In other words, they are talking about code, about linguistic competence. Instead, if we turn this argument on its head, then “purposes” is where communication begins, as well as where it ends. I speak because I want to get something done. I speak to get it done and the speech event comes to a close when my goal is achieved or when I realise I cannot achieve it. In sum, communication is goal directed. The centre of communication is purpose, or perlocutionary force, to put it in Austinian terms. Hence I select the CM and MLE which are best suited to trying to achieve my purpose, namely I employ my communicative competence. If I have quarrelled with my wife, then I adopt the CM LOVE IS WAR to talk about the situation. If, however, my wife and I have just solved a problem with mother-in-law, then I adopt the CM LOVE IS A JOURNEY (together, we have overcome an obstacle). In the former case, I am underscoring a negative aspect, in the latter case I am underlining a positive aspect. By hiding certain elements and highlighting other elements in a speech event the speaker is revealing his point of view, a central component in understanding meaning in a communicative event. Since CMs reveal point of view, they are said to be ideological in nature.

Lakoff and Johnson themselves (1980 10) state that the CM ARGUMENT IS WAR picks out the negative, conflictual aspects of argumentation in opposition to aspects such as constructive debate leading to problem solving. As they cogently state the case:

When we are intent on attacking our opponent’s position and defending our own, we may lose sight of the cooperative aspects of arguing. Someone who is arguing with you can be viewed as giving you his time, a valuable commodity, in an effort at mutual understanding. But when we are preoccupied with battle aspects, we often lose sight of the cooperative aspects.

However, they fail to deal with this crucial aspect in real communicative situations. Thus in Douthwaite (2011a, b) I demonstrate the fundamental importance of the ideological factor in speech events. In analysing the play Whose Life Is It Now? I demonstrate that metaphor (i.e. the way language is used, stylistically, in contrast to semantics), is a fundamental tool in both establishing point of view and as a rhetorical weapon of suasion. The play argues the case for euthanasia and does so by pitting a doctor who wants to keep a patient alive and the patient who wishes, instead, to die. Thus the author selects specific CMs which embody the patient’s argument. One basic example is the CM PEOPLE ARE PLANTS. As a result of a car accident, Ken a sculptor and a teacher, is suffering from quadriplegia. He is completely immobile and will never recover. He thus wants to die because life for him is useless, it is no longer life. In arguing with others he uses many MLEs embodying the CM PEOPLE ARE PLANTS, saying, for instance, that he wants to be put on the compost heap (i.e. be allowed to die). Dead plants are put on the compost heap because they act as fertiliser, as regenerator. In other words, despite being dead, they have a function, a use. If we map some of the features of the source domain (plants) onto the target domain (Ken’s death wish), then we find numerous correspondences. Ken considers his life is meaningless because he has no functions in life – he can neither sculp nor teach. Furthermore, since he cannot move, he is totally dependent on others for everything. The CM deliberately selected is thus a vehicle of Ken’s goals and values. It implicitly expresses Ken’s point of view. In Lakoff and Johnson’s terms, the CM has an ideological function. However, this function emerges only when we analyse the role played by the MLE realising the CM in the co-text and context in which it occurs, i.e. when we analyse the MLE as communication and not simply as a metaphor.

Now the entire section might appear to be a wholesale critique of classic CMT. This is far from my intention. Metaphors We Live By is a highly successful ground-breaking book, whose intent was to lay bare the foundations of CM qua CM, i.e. as a linguistic device, as a component of code. How CM is employed to convey meaning in texts was not part of its authors’ remit. Instead, articles such as this wish to explicitate the implicit and to uncover how CM is used in real communicative events. This first section has therefore presented the theory of CM and shown that what the original works on CMT presented was tantamount to the linguistic nature of metaphor as an element of code. My intention now is to relate metaphor use in a text, to communicative goal.

Part 2 Practical Application: «C’est Ainsi»

What this article will now attempt to do is to show how the inferential engine is employed to comprehend the multifaceted meanings conveyed by MLEs in speech events and that the linguistic mechanisms and cognitive processes employed go far beyond the ‘surface’ or ‘literal’ meaning of any utterance, including an MLE analysed simply as a CM. As Sperber and Wilson (1995) argue, this inferential engine is exactly the same as that employed in interpreting any utterance in communication, the basic difference being that when a rhetorical device such as metaphor, simile, chiasmus, anadiplosis is used, then ‘extra meaning’ has to be recovered due to the fact that a given rhetorical device is being employed. Put simply, if a person utters “Your argument is indefensible” meaning “your argument is wrong”, then the former utterance requires extra or different processing since “indefensible” is employed non-literally, as a metaphor. Furthermore, full meaning only emerges when the interaction of metaphor with other meaning-making devices is unpacked.

I will do so by examining how metaphor ‘works’ in concrete communication. This therefore requires a text, a speech event that is ‘real’. Given space limitations, I have selected the first part of Act II, Scene, III from C’est Ainsi by Luigi Pirandello. The main reason behind the choice of this work as the object of analysis is that the work is a musical, ostensively dealing with the mundane topic of marriage, with interactions between lovers, between parents and children, between people offering services and people making use of those services. Consequently, the language tends towards natural, every day, conversational language, i.e. supposedly “normal” language, and not supposedly “high” literary language where the exploitation of literary devices is believed to be the norm.

C’est Ainsi is a musical written by Pirandello in French between 1929-1930 during his Paris sojourn, with music by Jack Berls and Gad Gherson (the nom de plume of Guido Torre Gherson). It was translated into American English by Irma Bachrach for production on the American stage (see SARTI, 2013).

In Douthwaite (2013) I argue that one of the major themes of C’est Ainsi is Alterity. (For background information about the musical and a series of readings, see ORIOLES, [ed.] 2013).

The scene is set in Palm Beach, Florida for an apparently classic comedy of manners. A birthday party is being given for Lorna’s eighteenth birthday. Many guests from a wide variety of backgrounds have been invited and a band of black musicians is providing music. Lorna’s rich father has, however, another goal – to find a suitable spouse for his daughter. Three well-to-do gentlemen who are all in love with Lorna will be at the party. While they are talking together (in Act 1), they decide they will all propose marriage to Lorna together and she will choose which one to marry. (Please note that in the previous sentence I have selected my expression carefully). They are: Winston Fairchild, a young English yachtsman, Pablo Rodriguez, an Argentine ranch owner who spends his time as a female heart-breaker, and René, Comte de Maurois, a young French aspirant to diplomatic fame. There also exists a fourth male protagonist, a young American, Charlie, a pilot whom Lorna’s father admires, who is two years older than Lorna and who has taught Lorna many things, including how to fly. As a result of her upbringing, Lorna is independent, self-reliant and believes in equality, embodying the values and behaviour of a modern world, as represented by the USA.

Pirandello has thus selected characters with widely-differing origins and behavior to enable him to encompass differences in gender, status, role, age, ethnicity, class, nationality, hence cultural differences, i.e. to deal with Alterity.

In Act 2, Lorna falls asleep and dreams of future life as wife of each of these three men. The three dreams constitute the theatrical mechanism which allows Pirandello to illustrate what may happen when two different Others meet without either of the two sides understanding each other and/or making concessions. That is to say, no adaptation takes place. In this particular case, it is the males who impose their traditional, patriarchal views on the female.

The sophisticated French count of ancient noble lineage and would-be diplomat is the most refined of the three, and domination is apparently mediated by good breeding. He is aided and abetted by his mother, who is the epitome of French tradition. Hence class, role, age, nationality help account for gender differences (DOUTHWAITE, 2015). Winston, the English gentleman imposes his will, through his superiority and, in his case, his stupidity, stemming from his English, male, upper-class origin. The Argentinian ranch owner typifies the macho male for whom the wife looks after the children while the husband goes out and ‘enjoys’ himself. In all three ‘sub-categories’ of ‘wife’, the female is totally subordinated to the cultural system which privileges male dominance. The gender factor is thus of tantamount importance and is clearly linked to culture and society, and underscored by the fact that Lorna will marry the fourth male protagonist in the comedy, an American coming from her own culture where an ethos of ‘equality’ exists.

We now turn to an analysis of the Lorna-Winston relationship. The full text of the scene may be found in appendix 1.

The first important observation is that the language appears to be simplicity itself. Sentences are short and not particularly complex syntactically - basically a main clause, or a main clause and a subordinate clause, no deep embedding. The lexis is not difficult. The concepts require no deep processing, concerned, as they are, with fishing and other concrete, everyday matters connected to that topic and to the interpersonal relationship between husband and wife.

Despite this surface simplicity, the writing is highly complex, and the entire scene is teeming with ideological constructs.


Endroit: quelque part en Ecosse.Quand la scène commence, Winston vient le long du sentier à droite. Il est habillé de vieux vêtements bons pour la pêche et il est chargé d’un attirail de pêche.

On peut voir son enthousiasme à sa démarche et à ses manières.

Lorna, habillée d’un charmant costume de sport, est quelques pas en arrière, marchant avec moins d’enthousiasme.

[1] LORNA (s’arrête, regarde ses pieds, en soulève un et touche sa chaussure) Trempés, déjà.

[2] WINSTON (sans tourner la tête) Que dis-tu, Lorna?

[3] LORNA (grelottant) Rien de spécial, Winston. La rosée…

[4] WINSTON (regardant sa gaule) La rosée. Oui, il y a de la rosée.

[5] LORNA (baillant) Naturellement. A six heures du matin.

[6] WINSTON (alarmé. Regarde sa montre) Ne me dis pas qu’il est six heures du
matin. Si c’est une heure pour la truite! Nous sommes plus en retard qu’hier! Nous
devrions être ici depuis une heure.

[7] LORNA (avec résignation) O-ui! Je suppose que la truite à cinq heures du matin
est encore endormie et plus facile à tromper.

[8] WINSTON (choisissant avec soin un endroit, se traine le long de la berge) Eh
bien, s’il y a une bonne prise à faire… je vais la faire.

[9] LORNA (parlant du sentier) Dis-moi, Winston! Nous sommes mariés depuis six
mois seulement, et tu te conduis à mon égard comme s’il y avait six ans! Faut-il que je
descende le long de la berge à quatre pattes? Pour notre dixième anniversaire, je
suppose que tu me laisseras m’asseoir et glisser?

[10] WINSTON (s’excusant et lui tendant la main) Pardon! Mais quand j’ai la pêche
en tête – (Elle descend après un saut ou deux) C’est l’endroit! Ici leur coin favori et
là-bas (il montre le centre du ruisseau) un superbe petit tourbillon. Les grosses pièces
sont endiablées pour l’eau courante.

[11] LORNA (debout avec ses pieds arc-boutés et faisant tous ses efforts pour garder
l’équilibre) Depuis quelque temps, je pense que lapêche n’est peut-être pas le grand
sport épatant que l’on dit!

[12] WINSTON (étonné) Il est… non vrai! Ma parole!

[13] LORNA (perdant son équilibre – elle se rattrape) Bien vois-tu… (elle glisse) Ce
que je veux dire c’est… voici des malheureux poissons qui ignorent totalement les
inventions conçues par les hommes ingénieux. Et te voici, toi – un homme – qui
connais ton métier à fond, décidé à les avoir n’importe comment!

[14] WINSTON (enlevant ses chaussures et ses chaussettes) Tu as des idées bizarres!

[15] LORNAVoyons, n’as-tu pas tous les avantages? Les paris sont à deux contre un.

[16] WINSTON (vexé) Ridicule! (Il regarde le soleil) Tst! Quelle déveine! Nous
aurons une journée ensoleillée!

[17] LORNA Dommage en effet. La pluie battante écossaise aurait été si agréable.

[18] WINSTON (vient de remarquer qu’elle est encore debout) Assieds-toi, ma chère.
Mets-toi à ton aise. (il ouvre sa boite à pêche) Je donnerai à ces petits diables ma
meilleure mouche.

(Lorna faute de mieux commence à chanter«From day to day».)

[19] WINSTON Comment veux-tu que je pêche si tu chantes?

[20] LORNA Oh! permets que je sois bruyante – pour une fois seulement – avant que
le silence mortel ne me détruise!

The stage instructions are as powerful as the actual dialogue. Winston is “chargé”. The verb “charger” in French has several denotations, including the military denotation, ‘to attack’. This suggests that Winston is dressed for battle. This play on words immediately introduces the CM of life is war. Winston is wearing “vieux vêtements” which are “bons pour la pêche”. The negative value judgement “vieux”, (a conventional metaphor or dead metaphor, henceforth DM, since aging is a physical process pertaining to animate objects), is immediately followed in the same sentence by another DM “bons”, (in origin a term referring to the semantic field of morality), which expresses a positive value judgement regarding fishing. This positive value judgement, however, is offset by another instantiation of word play, since in addition to meaning ‘fishing gear’, “attirail” can also mean ‘junk’. Hence, what at a literal level would be a positive judgment expressed by an MLE, at the textual level turns out to be negative, because it is associated with a lexeme that can convey a negative denotation (‘junk’). Stated differently, the Bakhtinian dual voice emerges. On the one hand, the description of Winston is tantamount to Winston’s voice, since a person presents his view of himself not only through his words but also through his clothes and actions. On the other hand, certain linguistic traits represent the author’s voice, manipulating linguistic form to provide a concurrent critical counter-voice to the positive view Winston conveys of himself.

There follows the description of Lorna – namely of the female, the wife. Order is symbolic (the Gricean manner maxim, sub-maxim: be orderly) First is more important than second. The description thus parallels (in the Jakobsonian sense of the term – Douthwaite 2000) that of Winston, but is the opposite content-wise, since it expresses a positive value judgement, since Lorna is “habillée d’un charmant costume de sport”, for the MLE “charmant” expresses a positive value judgement. “Charmant” is a DM since it personifies clothes. Furthermore, “costume de sport” conveys the idea of exhibiting, of parading in public, as at Ascot races. But here no parading is possible since i) the scene is set in the lonely Scottish countryside, ii) no other person bar husband and wife is present, so no one can appreciate Loran’s “charmant” costume, iii) the husband pays no attention to the wife, (“[2] WINSTON (sans tourner la tête) Que dis-tu, Lorna?"), and iv) as Lorna says, in turn [28], this situation has been going on for “Soixante-et-un jours sans arrêt!” We thus induce that what Lorna is wearing is dictated by dress code – a (male-dictated) social norm – and not by her personal choice to be attractive. Nor should it be forgotten that she is getting wet, so her clothes are dysfunctional even. Hence, Lorna is depicted as an ornament rather than a human being. That she is getting wet is of no interest to Winston whatsoever. Comodification of the female is immediately brought to the fore.

The deployment of another CM, seeing is understanding, confirms this interpretation: a) “On peut voir son enthousiasme à sa démarche et à ses manières”; b) “marchant avec moins d’enthousiasme”. In the second example, “on peut voir” is implicit. Here the CM conveys understanding (inferring) emotion and attitude from observing physical deportment of both characters (the CM movement is emotion). Even more interesting is the fact that b) contains an MLE within an MLE, for “marchant” is itself a metaphor, mapping target feature Lorna onto the source feature ‘soldier. In addition, this ‘soldier’ is symbolically, marching ‘behind’ her leader, “avec moins d’enthousiasme” (an understatement, I suspect). Spatial symbolism has its counterpart in CM: ahead is good, behind is bad. Thus, the divergent standpoints are trenchantly made in two juxtaposed paragraphs, where, again, the male is described first and the female second.

The stage instructions, like the conversation, while apparently simple, are in actual fact complex. Their complexity is conveyed by a wide range of interacting linguistic devices, in which CM plays a major role. Indeed, ten MLEs are realised in only 62 words. To be even more precise, of the 62 words, 46 are employed to realise the MLEs. To put it yet another way, three of the five sentences constitute (multiple) MLEs. (On metaphor density, see DOUTHWAITE, 2015).

It should be noted that although the metaphors employed so far in the text are almost all conventional or dead metaphors rather than creative metaphors (on this distinction and its importance for interpretation see Douthwaite 2015), nevertheless their function within this text may, in most cases, be classified as creative, in the sense that they perform an ideological function. They emit value judgements that constitute comments on the respective positions of the two ‘players’ in a battle, (the CM life is war), where the two have diametrically-opposed viewpoints. The meaning they convey is not simply that transmitted by the literal meaning of the CMs employed.

This argument is bolstered by the fact that other linguistic devices also work to produce the same ‘meaning’. For instance, that word play (e.g. “chargé”), while not ostensibly embodying a metaphor, insinuates metaphorical meaning, and that the meaning called up pertains to the domain of war.

Finally, the MLEs add extra, non-literal meaning which is not predictable from the linguistic form of the metaphor. Their function can only be determined within the text in context. CMT of itself offers a highly circumscribed account of what is happening in the text.

We now move to the conversation, where each turn (T) is numbered: [1], [2].

Significantly, the first turn is Lorna’s, and not her husband’s. This seeming inversion of roles is justified by the fact that Lorna’s turn opens with negative hyperbole, “Trempés, déjà”, where “déjà” acts as an intensifier of an adjective which conveys an extreme meaning (trempés = drenched), hence the hyperbole. The illocutionary forces conveyed are, transparently, complaint, displeasure and disagreement with what is happening. No one likes walking around the countryside the entire day in wet shoes. As stated above, Winston’s first turn, [2], shows he is neither listening nor interested. After all, as we discover in the co-text, the wife’s duty is to accompany the husband and experience pleasure through the husband.The stage instructions of T3 contain another multifunctional word, “grellotant”, which here again functions as an MLE where physical movement stands for physical state at a literal level, but which in turn stands for emotion (displeasure) (parallelism) at a non-literal level.

It is thus no surprise when, to Winston’s question “Que dis-tu, Lorna?”, his wife’s answer is “Rien de spécial, Winston. La rosée…”. “Rien de spécial” is a double play. First it emphasises that this happens every day, hence it is not special, but standard. Concurrently, it conveys the illocutionary force of emitting the negative value judgement “nothing important”, precisely because it is routine, standard. This is, of course, ironic. But what is crucial is that the irony conveys the social fact that Lorna cannot do anything about what is happening. She must simply submit ‘charmingly’, (her mode of dress symbolising respect of norms in general). Winston’s reply, [T4], “(regardant sa gaule) La rosée. Oui, il y a de la rosée” again has both a verbal and a non-verbal component. The non verbal act of not looking at his wife again signals his lack of interest in what she has to say. His verbal reply flouts the Gricean maxim of quantity. Firstly, redundancy occurs through repetition (“la rosée”). Secondly, the illocutionary force of confirmation (“Oui”) is unnecessary because Winston is stating the obvious. Clearly, the function of his reply is one of politeness – his wife has said something to him and he must reply – ever the gentleman! Secondly, he also flouts the maxim of relevance because he fails to answer the illocutionary forces behind his wife’s words: complaint, cause of complaint and request for repair (i.e. ‘Let’s go home’).

In T5, Lorna’s non-verbal gesture, “baillant” conveys not merely tiredness, it being six o’clock in the morning, but also her lack of interest in fishing. Her verbal reply “Naturellement” is sarcastic, since in parallel to her husband’s previous utterance, she too flouts the quantity maxim through mere repetition of given information. The implicature is that her husband is saying something stupid, an effect which is reinforced by her next utterance, “A six heures du matin”. While the illocutionary force of the utterance is that of explanation (why there is dew), the implicature is again that her husband is a bit of a fool, since he is stating the obvious (another way of flouting the quantity maxim).

In his next turn, [6], Winston hastens to confirm his wife’s hypothesis. His wife has just complained that it’s early and she is tired, and he replies: “(alarmé. Regarde sa montre) Ne me dis pas qu’il est six heures du matin. Si c’est une heure pour la truite! Nous sommes plus en retard qu’hier! Nous devrions être ici depuis une heure”, totally disregarding his wife’s objections or perhaps not even understanding what is wife is complaining about and believing she is complaining about the same thing he is (it is late for trout fishing).

Winston has just employed a DM: “c’est une heure pour la truite!”. In T7 Lorna re-employs the trout metaphor creatively to attack her husband: “(avec résignation) O-ui! Je suppose que la truite à cinq heures du matin est encore endormie et plus facile à tromper”. The trout is personified and attributed the ability to think, since deception is a mental process. Deceit expresses a negative value judgment, accusing her husband of taking unfair advantage of the ‘enemy’, for implicit in this personification is the CM fishing (life) is war. The metaphor is also heavily sarcastic, for it implies that if the male has to resort to low tactics to catch a trout (accusation), then he is not a very good fisherman (statement and negative value judgement). One is tempted to say that the Lorna is further implying, through sarcastic use of the metaphors, that the fish has more brain than the man.

This hypothesis is bolstered by the following stage instruction: “WINSTON (choisissant avec soin un endroit, se traine le long de la berge)”. If by the multivalent lexeme “se trainer” is meant “advancer en rampant”, (which is how Bachrach translates it into American), then we have an instantiation of the great chain of being CM (KOVECSES 2002: 124-134) by which linguistic means the human being is reduced to the inferior state of an animal, another clear ideological message.

Winston’s words, “Eh bien, s’il y a une bonne prise à faire… je vais la faire” continue the hunting/war metaphor with the MLE “prise”. He concurrently and unwittingly redoubles his wife’s sarcasm by making himself out as a ‘great fisherman/hunter/warrior’, implicitly boasting his prowess as a fisherman/hunter “… je vais la faire”, thereby totally ignoring his wife’s accusation that fishing is not sport, but unfair massacre, a point she makes even more explicitly in T13: “Ce que je veux dire c’est… voici des malheureux poissons qui ignorent totalement les inventions conçues par les hommes ingénieux. Et te voici, toi – un homme – qui connais ton métier à fond, décidé à les avoir n’importe comment”.

First of all, she continues personifying the fish.

Secondly, she emphasises cognition, both in the fish (“ignorant les inventions”) and in men (“conçues par les hommes ingénieux”, “connais”), thus equating the two categories, thereby continuing to exploit the great chain of being CM.

That this comparison is to the detriment of ‘males’, where the latter lexeme is used intentionally as a gender term and not as a generic term is clarified by Lorna’s emphatic use of “un homme”, foregrounded (DOUTHWAITE, 2000) graphologically by hyphens to make the information salient: “toi – un homme – qui connais ton métier à fond”. The effect is heightened by the use of the DM “à fond”, where the traditional CM down is bad is in the MLE inverted to down is good to again produce sarcasm. Lorna’s use of the CM is thus creative.

Thirdly, Lorna emits a negative value judgement using a moral MLE “malheureux” (cf “bons”) against men.

Fourthly, she reinforces her condemnation of males by making sarcastic use of positive value judgements: “inventions”, “concues”, “ingénieux”.

Fifth, she makes a further moral attack through the expression: “décidé à les avoir n’importe comment” which exploits the DM “les avoir”, a value which the metaphor taken literally does not possess.

Thus, reiteration of concepts is underscored by reiteration of linguistic techniques. The consequent global implicature of these observations is that Lorna is again accusing her husband of stupidity. Since Winston failed to understand her previous attempts at clarification of her position, she is trying again.

Naturally, behind these verbal attacks (the war metaphor) there lies a global perlocutionary force: that is, trying to make her husband understand that fishing is a pointless, if not harmful, pastime, thereby inviting him to desist and to do something different, preferably something that will interest her too, where she is not simply a passive observer, present only to flatter her husband’s vanity.

It should also not be ignored that Winston’s utterance [8] totally fails to answer the illocutionary force of his wife’s previous turn, [7]. While the illocutionary force of Lorna’s utterance was that of accusation, Winston answers not the illocutionary force of her utterance, but the locutionary force. He thus violates the maxim of relevance. Whether he does this because he is stupid or because he deliberately wishes to ignore his wife’s criticisms of his culturally-determined behaviour is a moot point. I would argue both, but space does not allow further discussion of this aspect.

Indeed, in his next turn, [14], “Tu as des idées bizarres!”, Winston again violates the maxim of relevance (parallelism) by failing to answer his wife’s objection, which she presented as a logical argument. First of all, Winston employs the same metaphorical lexical verb “as” (“have”). He uses it to construct a negative value judgment expressed by the adjective “bizarres”. This constitutes illogical argumentation for it is an ad hominem attack. The implication is that Winston can find no logical counter-arguments to his wife’s argument, so he dismisses her ideas as “bizarres”, a DM indicating not that Lorna’s ideas are illogical, but that they do not conform to the social code Winston lives by, and which Lorna should also live by, since she is his lawfully-wedded wife. Stated differently, as a female, as a wife, - and even as a human being, (see the analysis of T9 below), - Lorna is allowed no independence, no personal identity of her own.

Here the Bakhtinian dual voice is again at work, for what the audience will find “bizarres” will not be Lorna’s ideas, but Winston’s. Thus the use of the DM, (CM ideas are objects), also helps creates irony conveyed by the utterance.

What this irony shows is that Lorna’s sarcasm in her previous utterance has fallen flat. She therefore returns to the attack: “[15] Voyons, n’as-tu pas tous les avantages? Les paris sont à deux contre un.” Her attack - “n’as-tu pas tous les avantages?” - is a bald, on-record FTA (BROWN and LEVINSON, 1987), since, despite the fact that the grammatical form is that of a question, the utterance is intended as a rhetorical question. One might note that turns 13-15 all employ the DM “avoir” plus complement. Such parallelism indicates the dialectical nature of the speech event.

Winston’s next turn, [16], is perfectly parallel to his previous turn: “(vexé) Ridicule!” Again he flouts the relevance maxim, since he fails to answer Lorna’s question about unfairness. Secondly, he does so by employing yet another ad hominem attack through the use of a negative value judgment, in this case “ridicule”. However, this time his emotional reaction, “vexé”, reveals his argumentative, hence cognitive, incapacity. This is further underlined by the fact that he instantly changes topic of conversation – to the weather – which has the added advantage, for him, that it is a point which is favourable to himself, in order to negate his wife’s ‘superiority’ on another plane: “(Il regarde le soleil) Tst! Quelle déveine! Nous aurons une journée ensoleillée!” Winston is thus implicitly claiming it is a bad day for him, totally ignoring his wife’s pleas. Here again the dual voice appears, since for ‘normal’ human beings “une journée ensoleillée” is generally not considered “déveine”, but the opposite! The text positions the audience to side with the wife.

Lorna demonstrates her great intelligence by taking exactly the same linguistic device Winston has just employed, turning it on its head and thereby making a joke of it, in order to bring out the ridiculousness of Winton’s previous utterance: “[17] Dommage en effet. La pluie battante écossaise aurait été si agréable”. It should also be noted that the MLE “pluie battante” also evokes the concept of violence, returning us to the domain of war metaphors.

Winston’s next turn, [18], is disarming: “(vient de remarquer qu’elle est encore debout) Assieds-toi, ma chère. Mets-toi à ton aise. (il ouvre sa boite à pêche) Je donnerai à ces petits diables ma meilleure mouche”. He suddenly realises his wife is still standing. The ironic relationship to preceding uses of linguistic devices (parallelism) such as the CM seeing is understanding is obvious, as is the function of such parallelisms: reiterating Winston’s stupidity and self-centredness. The gentlemanly intimacy of the diction of “Assieds-toi, ma chère. Mets-toi à ton aise” simply underscores that effect. Then, as if his wife had said absolutely nothing in the preceding few seconds, he returns to his fishing, using the same war domain MLE’s (“donnerai”, “diables”, “meilleure”) and war-related lexis (“mouche” equals ‘trap set for the enemy’, as confirmed by the evaluative adjective “meilleure”, signifying ‘efficacious’).

The disarming manner with which Winston totally disregards Lorna’s identity as a wife and a woman, indicates to Lorna that there is absolutely nothing to be done with Winston. He will make no compromises. This leaves her few options. In retaliation, she starts to sing, knowing that this will upset him, as his reply, T19, indicates: “Comment veux-tu que je pêche si tu chantes?”.

Lorna’s retort is devasting, both in content and in form: “Oh! permets que je sois bruyante – pour une fois seulement – avant que le silence mortel ne me détruise!” silence is death is a powerful CM which is closely related to the war CMs that have been employed in the text. It constitutes a creative MLE, ironically so, since “Silence” symbolises Lorna’s condition during fishing: non-existence, hence the metaphor of death.

Note also how Pirandello constantly employs parallelism as a linguistic device, one of the many he employs to achieve a cumulative effect, to drive the point home. Here again, he employs graphological foregrounding to highlight an important expression, and does so employing a short phrase between two hyphens: “– pour une fois seulement –” (c.f. “– un homme”). “Une fois seulement” is yet another intensifier, emphasising Lorna’s plight.

Before closing this section, I would like to go back to T9 for two reasons. Here Lorna says, “Dis-moi, Winston! Nous sommes mariés depuis six mois seulement, et tu te conduis à mon égard comme s’il y avait six ans! Faut-il que je descende le long de la berge à quatre pattes? Pour notre dixième anniversaire, je suppose que tu me laisseras m’asseoir et glisser?”. First, we see Lorna too adopting the great chain of being metaphor, clearly for ideological reasons. She employs it to ‘explain’ to Winston that he is treating her like an animal and not a human being. Second, and more importantly, the use of the lexical verb “laisseras” clearly indicates imposition: the male is the all-powerful dictator in their social relationship.

Part 3 Conclusions

I hope I have demonstrated the extreme linguistic and pragmatic complexity of even apparently simple linguistic expressions and speech events. The initial CMT position as exemplified by Lakoff and Johnson (1980) appears to commit the cardinal sin of equating form with meaning, an equation which Austin had clearly scotched with his theory of speech acts. I have attempted to perform a similar operation for metaphor interpretation. To do so the contextual theory of meaning has been applied also to metaphor (DOUTHWAITE, 2011 a; b; 2015; KOVECSES, 2015). Unpacking an MLE only as an MLE fails to explain what meaning that MLE conveys in a text and what function that meaning of the MLE plays in the overall transmission of meaning in the speech event it occurs in. The pragmatic inferential engine must be employed to explicate the hidden meanings lying behind metaphor use in exactly the same way any linguistic device is decoded.

One clear example that has been offered is “marchant avec moins d’enthousiasme”. Identifying “marchant” as an MLE and its CM is in itself no straightforward matter that can be performed in a decontextualized manner, as one does in pedagogic grammar (e.g. “must = obligation”, “will = future”). Second, the MLE/CM “marchant” is embedded through ellipsis in a higher-level CM, seeing is understanding. Third, it works together (i.e. is blended: FAUCONNIER & TURNER, 2002) with spatial symbolism and its CM counterpart ahead is good, behind is bad to produce meaning. Fourth, the use of MLEs together with other devices produces multi-layered, multi-faceted meanings. Fifth, such meanings are often ideological in nature and related to the central theme(s) of the work in question, as is the case here. That is to say, metaphors may produce high-level messages and not simply local, utterance-level messages, conveying important messages regarding point of view, attitude and global interpretations of the text. In the present case, all the CMs help bring out the domination/subordination relationship between male and female and thus ‘debate’ the central theme of Alterity. Finally, metaphor density is so high that it is essential the meaning-making devices be identified with precision.

There is no text or online list of CMs or MLE which from which the meaning of an MLE as used in a speech event can be read off, as can be done with grammar books or dictionaries (“bon” in French means “good” in English”). Thus the utterance “Et te voici, toi – un homme – qui connais ton métier à fond” cannot be comprehended simply by looking at a text which explains which CM the MLE “à fond” instantiates, for this does not explain how that specific MLE is constructed through the inversion of a ‘conventional’ (i.e. codified) CM and why the author should wish to construct such an inversion, namely what communicative effect the author wishes to achieve through using this expression created by that linguistic device. That is to say, identifying from a handbook that the MLE “à fond” is an instantiation of the original CM up is good/down is bad, which in cases such as the present MLE is inverted to mean down is good, and, finally that the positive value judgement expressed by that MLE is actually employed to produce irony in the text will be found in no list of MLEs performing the given CM. This interpretation comes only through using the inferential engine and relating the utterance to co-text and context.

At the level of construction of the plot of C’est Ainsi, Lorna’s three dreams represent a projection of knowledge, the construction of predictions based on one’s knowledge. The dreams/predictions help Lorna decide, when she wakes up, that none of the three male pretenders to her hand are suitable for her. So in the end she marries Charlie, who comes from her own culture. Now, as is well known, Alterity is very frequently a phenomenon which leads to conflict and exclusion. So one marries one’s own kind. My preceding words would seem to imply that this is the case with Pirandello’s musical.

However, if one takes the view that Alterity is potentially enriching, and that being exposed to a multitude of different experiences can help one develop one’s potential to the full and obtain greater joy from life – a tenet which was dear to Pirandello – then a different reading emerges. The three aspirants to Lorna’s hand represented Otherness which is closed, rejecting. All three males wished to obtain conformity to the code of the social group they belonged to, and nothing else. No exchange, no mediation, no enriching integration was contemplated. Hence individuality and personality are stifled in order to achieve conformity. On the contrary, Charlie’s actions were designed to help Lorna develop her potential as a person. There was no imposition, only exchange and cooperation. Hence Charlie represents Alterity in its positive aspects.

The use made of the CMs we have examined, and indeed of all the linguistic mechanisms scrutinised, and the intense linguistic patterning that their interaction produces, demonstrates that they have all been selected with the ideological aim in view of highlighting the theme of Alterity and what Alterity involves. To uncover this goal has thus taken some complex mental processing.

In conclusion, the advertisement “No Martini, no party” may be mapped onto the domain of communication as “No pragmatics, no interpretation”, metaphors not excepted.


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Appendix 1

Act 2, Scene 3

La scène se passe sur les bords d’un petit ruisseau qui court de gauche à droite. Le ruisseau se trouve au bord de la scène et de cette manière la rive fait face au public. Il y a des arbustes et des petits arbres. Le sol de la rive a l’air humide et boueux.

Il est de bonne heure le matin.

Endroit: quelque part en Ecosse.

Quand la scène commence, Winston vient le long du sentier à droite. Il est habillé de vieux vêtements bons pour la pêche et il est chargé d’un attirail de pêche.

On peut voir son enthousiasme à sa démarche et à ses manières.

Lorna, habillée d’un charmant costume de sport, est quelques pas en arrière, marchant avec moins d’enthousiasme.

[1] LORNA (s’arrête, regarde ses pieds, en soulève un et touche sa chaussure) Trempés, déjà.

[2] WINSTON (sans tourner la tête) Que dis-tu, Lorna?

[3] LORNA (grelottant) Rien de spécial, Winston. La rosée…

[4] WINSTON (regardant sa gaule) La rosée. Oui, il y a de la rosée.

[5] LORNA (baillant) Naturellement. A six heures du matin.

[6] WINSTON (alarmé. Regarde sa montre) Ne me dis pas qu’il est six heures du
matin. Si c’est une heure pour la truite! Nous sommes plus en retard qu’hier! Nous
devrions être ici depuis une heure.

[7] LORNA (avec résignation) O-ui! Je suppose que la truite à cinq heures du matin
est encore endormie et plus facile à tromper.

[8] WINSTON (choisissant avec soin un endroit, se traine le long de la berge) Eh
bien, s’il y a une bonne prise à faire… je vais la faire.

[9] LORNA (parlant du sentier) Dis-moi, Winston! Nous sommes mariés depuis six
mois seulement, et tu te conduis à mon égard comme s’il y avait six ans! Faut-il que je
descende le long de la berge à quatre pattes? Pour notre dixième anniversaire, je
suppose que tu me laisseras m’asseoir et glisser?

[10] WINSTON (s’excusant et lui tendant la main) Pardon! Mais quand j’ai la pêche
en tête – (Elle descend après un saut ou deux) C’est l’endroit! Ici leur coin favori et
là-bas (il montre le centre du ruisseau) un superbe petit tourbillon. Les grosses pièces
sont endiablées pour l’eau courante.

[11] LORNA (debout avec ses pieds arc-boutés et faisant tous ses efforts pour garder
l’équilibre) Depuis quelque temps, je pense que lapêche n’est peut-être pas le grand
sport épatant que l’on dit!

[12] WINSTON (étonné) Il est… non vrai! Ma parole!

[13] LORNA (perdant son équilibre – elle se rattrape) Bien vois-tu… (elle glisse) Ce
que je veux dire c’est… voici des malheureux poissons qui ignorent totalement les
inventions conçues par les hommes ingénieux. Et te voici, toi – un homme – qui
connais ton métier à fond, décidé à les avoir n’importe comment!

[14] WINSTON (enlevant ses chaussures et ses chaussettes) Tu as des idées bizarres!

[15] LORNA Voyons, n’as-tu pas tous les avantages? Les paris sont à deux contre un.

[16] WINSTON (vexé) Ridicule! (Il regarde le soleil) Tst! Quelle déveine! Nous
aurons une journée ensoleillée!

[17] LORNA Dommage en effet. La pluie battante écossaise aurait été si agréable.

[18] WINSTON (vient de remarquer qu’elle est encore debout) Assieds-toi, ma chère.
Mets-toi à ton aise. (il ouvre sa boite à pêche) Je donnerai à ces petits diables ma
meilleure mouche.

(Lorna faute de mieux commence à chanter«From day to day».)

[19] WINSTON Comment veux-tu que je pêche si tu chantes?

[20] LORNA Oh! permets que je sois bruyante – pour une fois seulement – avant que
le silence mortel ne me détruise!

(Elle chante «D'un jour à l'autre». Il l’accompagne. Quand la chanson est terminée,
elle se penche vers lui, risquant de perdre son équilibre. Il se hausse vers elle en
chancelant. Leurs lèvres se touchent à peine dans un baiser.)

[21] WINSTON (prépare une ligne) Maintenant je vais leur préparer une de ces

[22] LORNA (avec un peu d’enthousiasme) Oui. Prèpare-moi une ligne qui ne casse
pas. Hier…

[23] WINSTON (la regardant) Bonté du ciel! Tu ne vas pas encore insister,
aujourd’hui, j’espère?

[24] LORNA Insister?

[25] WINSTON Bien oui! Hier tu as gâché toutes mes chances.

[26] LORNA (froissée) Pas possible! Eh bien, si je ne sais pas pêcher
convenablement, apprends-moi! Comment veux-tu que je sache?

[27] WINSTON Regarde-moi. Faut-il que tu papotes? N’est-ce pas assez amusant.

[28] LORNA Cela le serait peut-être – oui – si nous ne l’avions pas fait chaque sacré
jour pendant deux mois de suite. Soixante-et-un jour sans arrêt!

[29] WINSTON Quelle femme curieuse! Ne sommes-nous pas allés en Yorkshire et
au Pays de Galles? Et nous voici en Écosse maintenant. Tu disais que tu voulais voir
les Îles Britanniques?

[30] LORNA Je le veux toujours. Mais jusqu’ici je n’ai vu que des poissons dans les
Îles Britanniques!

[31] WINSTON (subitement excité) Voilà une baleine! Sacristi! Le chameau… il a
failli enlever ma belle mouche! Que disais-tu? Le mois prochain?

[32] LORNA (sans intérêt) Où allons-nous pêcher le mois prochain?

[33] WINSTON (d’une voix douce) La saison du yachting commence le mois
prochain. Nous allons à Cowes pour cela.

[34] LORNA (plus gaiement) Cowes! Ah! ça, c’est gentil! Là-bas c’est gai et

[35] WINSTON (petite voix douce) Ssh! Baisse la voix! Elles commencent à
remarquer ma mouche.

[36] LORNA (à voix basse) Sans doute on ne vole pas à Cowes?

[37] WINSTON (à voix basse) On fait du canot à voiles.

[38] LORNA (plus gaiement) Eh bien, ça va! Et en plus on danse et on joue au bridge
n’est-ce pas, chéri?

[39] WINSTON Il y en a qui le font. Moi je serai occupé avec le yachting. Il faut
s’entrainer contre les Américains! Il faut bien se préparer pour la «Davis Cup Race».

[40] LORNA Comme cela va être amusant! Serons-nous toute la journée sur la mer?

[41] WINSTON (lui jette un regard) Nous? Moi, j’y serai. Pas possible d’avoir des
femmes à bord quand il s’agit de s’entrainer sérieusement.

[42] LORNA (désolée) Oh! Winston! Comment vais-je passer mon temps? (essayant
quand même d’arranger les choses) Ah! qu’est-ce que tu veux, je trouverai
probablement une partie de bridge. Mais je serai forcée de danser avec les autres
hommes, bien que je préfère mon mari!

[43] WINSTON (avec décision) Vraiment je ne peux pas te permettre de faire cela. Tu
vas te trouver dans un milieu très mélangé. Les femmes à Cowes lèvent trop
facilement le coude.

[44] LORNA (ne comprenant pas son français) Lèvent le coude?

[45] WINSTON Ce que vous appelez pomper en Amérique. Ma foi, les gens me
prendraient pour un mari complaisant. Ce n’est pas comme si nous étions mariés
depuis des années et des années et qu’ils puissent trouver naturel que nous soyons
fatigués l’un de l’autre.

[46] LORNA Alors que dois-je faire là-bas toute seule?

[47] WINSTON Débrouille-toi.

(Il s’occupe de la pêche. Lorna devient silencieuse et finalement elle s’endort.)

[48] WINSTON (Il parle si brusquement qu’elle sursaute et manque de perdre son
équilibre) Voilà une merveille! (Il sort une truite) Tu roupilles! On pourrait croire que
tu t’ennuies. N’aimes-tu pas la pêche?

[49] LORNA (oubliant de parler à voix basse) Je pensais que oui, avant d’épouser un
pêcheur. J’aimais le yachting aussi – quand j’étais sur le yacht.

[50] WINSTON (il rate une truite) Zut! Je viens d’en rater une belle! On ne peut pas
parler et pêcher!

[51] LORNA (se lève) Alors, pêche… toi. Et moi… je parlerai.

[52] WINSTON (sans la regarder) Comment?

[53] LORNA (grimpe la berge à quatre pattes) Je m’en vais.

[54] WINSTON (la regardant) Tu t’en vas? Où?

[55] LORNA (sur le sentier) N’importe… où je peux – (se décidant) Cooks! Ce n’est
pas pire que les autres bureaux de voyages.

[56] WINSTON Bureaux de voyages? J’ai déjà réservé nos places pour Cowes.

[57] LORNA Je ne pense pas aller à Cowes. L’idée de New York me tente. Je pourrai
voler – danser – et même causer là-bas! Je t’enverrai des cartes postales! Au revoir!

(Elle lui fait une petite salutation et s’en va. Il reste bouche-bée, stupéfait.)


↑ 1 As Ricouer (1975) points out, this idea goes back to Aristotle. Readers wishing to get a picture of metaphor theory just before the dawn of CMT will do well to consult his work.

↑ 2 The explicature of the CM qua CM ends there, but in a real speech event, the utterance would also express some illocutionary force such as ‘it might be advisable for the occupying party to defend another building, or to retreat altogether’.

Pour citer cet article :

John DOUTHWAITE, Investigating Metaphor Theory through an analysis of «C’est Ainsi» by Luigi Pirandello, Du labyrinthe à la toile / Dal labirinto alla rete , Publifarum, n. 26, pubblicato il 31/05/2016, consultato il 23/03/2017, url:


Dipartimento di Lingue e Culture Moderne - Università di Genova
Open Access Journal - ISSN électronique 1824-7482

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