Friends of Semantic Compositions

January 2009

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
        1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Site Statistics

Blog powered by Typepad

« It depends on the meaning of "lot" | Main | Wild thing redux »

November 15, 2004



Excellent job of dealing with all the comments, especially the negative ones. I don't mean to sound snooty, but what Lakoff does for a living is also what I do for a living, and I think that makes me a pretty qualified assessor of commentaries on Lakoff's work, political and apolitical, and I can honestly say that your critiques of Lakoff are far and a way the best, in their thoroughness, their evenhandedness, and their insightfulness. You and I disagree about why he's wrong (you think it's because he's out-of-touch with liberals, conservatives, and most importantly, swing voters, and I think it's because he's out of touch with the way the mind works), but I anytime I mention Lakoff from here on out, I will refer to your posts approvingly as the best place to go for Lakoff analysis.

liberal japonicus

Arrgh! I was checking the elephant's pajamas post for a reply. Thanks for your summary. I would point out that in this hyper partisan zeitgeist we have (especially on the 'higher temperature blogs'), citing of the truely reprehensible (on both sides of the aisle) encourages a lowering of the tone. Had Lakoff more extensively cited Rush and company, there would be even less of a possibility of considering his work as a fair statement of the current state of play. One point that a corpus linguist has an advantage over is that any example that Lakoff had chosen as an exemplar would then make the context from which it arose fair game for discussion. When a corpus linguist chooses an example (backed by statistical evidence, one hopes) it is not as if the example will be scrutinized. For a non-political example of the problem, check out the back and forth between Robert De Beaugrande and Widdowson in ELT Journal (IIRC) De Beaugrande analyzes a text by Widdowson, pointing out certain tendencies, and Widdowson replies dismissively about the points that de Beaugrande raises. Take that exchange and heat to boiling point and that might be a reason why Lakoff eschewed more quotations.

Ironically, I believe that the NYTimes has listed Lakoff's book as 'self-help' rather than political.

Again, thanks for addressing my comments.

Semantic Compositions

It certainly is a credit to Lakoff not to simply catalog comments by the "demons" (his term) of both sides; picking at Michael Moore or Ann Coulter would miss his point. But I still think his analysis was too facile for lack of acquaintance with a wider spectrum of the language used out there. A lot of his examples simply ring false to me; when he blindly asserts that conservatives oppose Pell grants because of their metaphorical organization, it may be true of some of those conservatives who oppose Pell grants, but it hardly is the central position that he made it out to be. More importantly, the rhetoric employed in arguing over these points doesn't really reflect the greed and contempt that he thinks motivates the position in question. I think this sort of failure to accurately grasp actual positions occurs far too often in his work to believe the metaphorical systems he constructs, but I'll agree that it's fair for Lakoff to be concerned that arguments about his quotes might distract from discussion of his actual point.

John W. Bush

Reading first "Moral Politics" and now "Don't Think of an Elephant," I arrived at the following:

Lakoff (1) makes valuable points about the application of framing and metaphor to political persuasion, but (2) then goes way off the deep end with armchair-driven theorizing about parental morality as the basis of current political conflicts. Unfortunately, there is not much new in the former and not much empirical evidence that I know of for the latter.

The comments to this entry are closed.