Rethinking the Connection of Metaphor and Topos

[leicht revidierte Fassung, zuerst publiziert in Interlingüística 13 (I), 275-292]




1. Introduction
Having survived the «death of rhetoric» (R. BARTHES 1985: 115), metaphor has become the centre of intensive research by philosophers of language and linguists in the twentieth cen-tury. Nowadays it is widely accepted that metaphor is not reducible to «a sort of happy extra trick with words» (I. A. RICHARDS [1936] 1964: 90), but is rather said to be a funda-mental principle of linguistic creativity with an invaluable cognitive function and heuristic potential. Topos or rather commonplace has, in contrast, a predominantly negative connota-tion in everyday and scientific language. Topos, which originally designated the place where to find the arguments for a speech, has become the cliché, the worn out phrase, or the stereotype. Nevertheless, there are numerous critical studies focusing on topoi in their heu-ristic and argumentative function.
Aristotle’s Art of Rhetoric is one of the first and most important ‘textbooks’ for speech production. Following Aristotle, the purpose of rhetorical speech consists in persuading by argumentation. In this respect he defines rhetoric as «the faculty of discovering the possible means of persuasion in reference to any subject whatever.» (Rhetoric I, 1355b/14,2). Now, persuasion presupposes – as any perlocutionary act – that the utterances have been under-stood by the audience, in short: it presupposes (text) comprehension. When analysing the first three phases of rhetoric – heuresis, taxis and lexis – two features in particular stand out on account of the role they in argumentation: topos and metaphor, which are treated in the heuresis and the lexis.


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Rethinking the Connection of Metaphor and Topos


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