The semantics of a parallel reality. Or: What does religion do to metaphor in an Ancient Egyptian context?

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Abstract

This paper considers the kinds of semantic and conceptual processes that might be taking place when phenomena belonging to the realm of the intangible or the supernatural are described in language. The case studies are derived from texts written in Ancient Egyptian, an Afroasiatic language with the longest continuous life span in history (ca. 3200 BC–1300 AD). Despite the unique problems faced by analysts of ancient texts, even when they have recourse to lemmatised digital datasets, the methodological insights reached from this analysis may be more generally useful for cases of potential metaphor in which the conceptual frames of the speaker reflect belief-systems not shared by the hearer/analyst. Specifically, it is argued that, a lexical, or MIPVU-based analysis struggles somewhat when attempting to account for the layers of meaning encountered in texts in which a deity is being described, such as in reports of oracular proceedings, or in hymns. A more nuanced approach, which reconsiders the conceptual modelling of the metaphorical language in a culturally-sensitive way, is proposed.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMetaphor and the Social World
Publication statusSubmitted - 2021

Keywords

  • Metaphor
  • Metonymy
  • ancient egyptian texts

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