LING 102 - First Year Seminar (Humanities)
Section: 002 Metaphors We Live By
Term: FA 2007
Subject: Linguistics (LING)
Department: LSA Linguistics
Requirements & Distribution:
Advisory Prerequisites:
Only first-year students, including those with sophomore standing, may pre-register for First-Year Seminars. All others need permission of instructor.
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:

“Metaphor is for most people a device of the poetic imagination and the rhetorical flourish — a matter of extraordinary rather than ordinary language. Moreover, metaphor is typically viewed as characteristic of language alone, a matter of words rather than thought or action. For this reason, most people think they can get along perfectly well without metaphor. We have found, on the contrary, that metaphor 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.
“ The concepts that govern our thought are not just matters of the intellect. They also govern our everyday functioning, down to the most mundane details. Our concepts structure what we perceive, how we get around in the world, and how we relate to other people. Our conceptual system thus plays a central role in defining our everyday realities. 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.”

— from: Lakoff & Johnson, Metaphors We Live By.

In this course we will explore Lakoff and Johnson’s thesis, first by learning in some detail how metaphors work, which will involve a bit of practice in semantics and in linguistic observation, and then by observing and analyzing the use of metaphor in our own and others’ language, thought, and action. For students interested in meaning, and in integration of their entire educational experience, this procedure can often lead to startling intellectual insights.

To aid us in this enterprise, there will be readings of some works that shed light on the nature of metaphors and/or manipulate them masterfully, including a fair amount of fantasy and science fiction. Regular participation in class and computer discussions is required; in addition, assignments include biweekly writing and a term research project.

Texts for this seminar include a coursepack of linguistic and other readings at Excel, and the following novels:

  • David Brin The Uplift War
  • Barry Hughart Bridge of Birds
  • Terry Pratchett Small Gods & Hogfather
  • Neil Stephenson Snow Crash
  • Vernor Vinge A Fire Upon The Deep
  • Alexei Panshin New Celebrations (ebook at

all except the last of which are at Shaman Drum.

LING 102 - First Year Seminar (Humanities)
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
6Enrollment Management
TuTh 8:30AM - 10:00AM
002 (SEM)
6Enrollment Management
MW 10:00AM - 11:30AM
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