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Metaphors We Live By Paperback – April 15, 2003

94 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0226468013 ISBN-10: 0226468011 Edition: 2nd

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

The now-classic Metaphors We Live By changed our understanding of metaphor and its role in language and the mind. Metaphor, the authors explain, is a fundamental mechanism of mind, one that allows us to use what we know about our physical and social experience to provide understanding of countless other subjects. Because such metaphors structure our most basic understandings of our experience, they are "metaphors we live by"-metaphors that can shape our perceptions and actions without our ever noticing them.

In this updated edition of Lakoff and Johnson's influential book, the authors supply an afterword surveying how their theory of metaphor has developed within the cognitive sciences to become central to the contemporary understanding of how we think and how we express our thoughts in language.

About the Author

George Lakoff is a professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of, among other books, Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things and Moral Politics, both published by the University of Chicago Press. Mark Johnson is the Knight Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Oregon. He is the author of The Body in the Mind and Moral Imagination, both published by the University of Chicago Press. Johnson and Lakoff have also coauthored Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and its Challenge to Western Thought.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 2nd edition (April 15, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226468011
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226468013
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (94 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,006 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

221 of 225 people found the following review helpful By Alexander Schulman on January 18, 2005
Format: Paperback
After hearing nearly every anthropology professor I've ever had reference the work of Lakoff and Johnson in some way, I decided to try reading this book for myself. I'm very glad I did, because it completely changed my view of language, thought, and truth.

Starting with the (deceptively) simple premise that the way we talk about certain things shapes the way we think about them, Lakoff and Johnson launch into a stimulating deconstruction of what they term "conceptual metaphors", and the complex way in which they interact to structure our experience of reality. These aren't just metaphors in the rhetorical sense though; the authors examine how common ways of speaking and thinking actually reflect a relatively coherent metaphorical system.

For example, you might not think that the statement "He strayed from the line of argument" is metaphorical is any significant way, but it is grounded in the metaphor that AN ARGUMENT IS A JOURNEY, and the assumption that A JOURNEY DEFINES A PATH. Put them together, and you get AN ARGUMENT DEFINES A PATH; a path which can be strayed from. Lakoff and Johnson explore these interactions in great detail, and suggest some fascinating philosophical and political implications.

This book is very readable (nice short chapters) and I highly recommend it if you are at all interested in anthropology, linguistics, or philosophy.
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170 of 178 people found the following review helpful By Anthony Argyriou ( on December 6, 1998
Format: Paperback
Metaphor is usually seen as an aspect of words, a linguistic trick we use to increase the effect of our words. Lakoff sets out to show that metaphors are a fundamental part of our thought processes whenever we try to think abstractly. His book does not provide a rigorous scientific proof, but it does present a lot of evidence in favor of the thesis. However, a full treatment of the issue would take a much thicker and less readable book than this one.
Lakoff gives examples from life for various metaphors, for example, TIME IS MONEY (or TIME IS A VALUABLE COMMODITY), and shows how we use these metaphors in our everyday thoughts and actions ("Spending time", "wasting time", "saving time", etc). He shows how many different ideas can be expressed with simlar metaphors, ie HAPPINESS IS UP / SADNESS IS DOWN, HEALTH IS UP / SICKNESS IS DOWN, and so on.
Lakoff sets forth his case clearly and coherently, and with some of his examples, quite entertainingly. If you want some insight into how we think, buy this book.
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125 of 132 people found the following review helpful By David M on September 17, 2006
Format: Paperback
So, I picked up this book awhile ago thinking that it would be a good survey of one part of linguistics. Yes, it is that. BUT, after reading several chapters, I discovered an unintended consequence, or perhaps an unexpected consequence. Since of the several reviews I read, no one addressed this isse, I thought I would.

Simply put: This book has improved my writing and the impact of my writing. Now, I might normally hit upon the perfectly crafted sentence eventually, but this book highlights so many issues in language that I believe it will help sooner and more effectively. Not like a style manual or how-to-write book, but in the context of the metaphor, the subtle implications of the sentence and the inferences readers might make from its construction. This is pretty exciting.

Many reviewers evaluate the book from a far more intellectual perspective than I, but for the more pragmatic of you that think it can have this unintended consequence, it might be just right for you. At the same time, your grasp of this concept will have a much stronger framework and structure bringng happiness to the linguistic engineers in the crowd. And your language will improve with cool words or phrases like "homonymy", "metonymies", or "experiential gestalt". So I am not that literate.

So enjoy, it is a very nice, informative read!
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190 of 208 people found the following review helpful By Jake Sapiens on January 4, 2000
Format: Paperback
Many of the examples oversimplify. The authors provide no formal empirical basis for their claims. However, upon reading this book, a sense of recognition sets in. They have succeeded in illuminating as much as one can through discourse alone, the cognitive underpinnings of our language and the way we think. Very little if anything in the way of ideological bias clouds the mirror through which the reader can recognize the authors' thesis. Although not explicitly written for purposes of self-development or consciousness raising, the very act of consciously recognizing these metaphorical cognitive mechanisms may give the reader a greater sensitivity to and command of the language. It certainly has for me.
The authors later went on to write ''Philosophy in the Flesh.'' If you are a stickler for more formal empirical verification, in that tome you will find good discussions about, and references to some empirical confirmation which followed on the thesis developed in this book. In ''Philosophy in the Flesh'', however, the authors inevitably allow more play with their ideological leanings (liberal) which may prove a distraction to some readers who would find ''Metaphors We Live By'' much freer from these ideological musings. Clearly the revelations we find in ''Metaphors We Live By'', transcend ideology, including the authors' ideologies.
The implications of widespread cognitive metaphor throughout our language, culture, and even our sciences, presents us with the landmark tip of an iceberg, whose deeper implications spread far beyond and below the more obviously poetical uses that we typically recognize when we think of the metaphorical.
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