Generic-Level Structure
Most c The Source Domain is opened by

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Generic-Level Structure

Generic-Level Structure

Most conceptual metaphors have what can be called a generic-level metaphoric composition - a kind of "meta-metaphor". One example of generic-level structure is termed the "event structure" (Lakoff and Johnson, 1999, p. 177; Kovecses, 2002, p. 134) where the target domain includes any event, change, relationship or action, and the source domain is the human body in motion (Lakoff, 1993). This source domain includes facets of bodily experience highly familiar to almost everyone and which are identified generically as "agents," "force" or "movement," "affected entities or parties," "locations" in space and "obstacles." The prototypical form consists of the agent applying force that moves affected entities from one location to another, including chains of affected entities moving each other in succession, and encountering "obstacles" to this movement. We learn about this basic configuration from our lifelong sensorimotor experience of moving our bodies within everyday spatial environments, applying force to objects that moves them from location to location, and dealing with obstacles. Our metaphoric understanding of events, how they occur, changes from one state to another, and what causes produce what effects are found to be built up out of these elements of force dynamics and spatial orientation. This generic-level structure is at the core of a multitude of common metaphors including those of journey, war, sports, games, machines, commercial transactions, health/illness and cooking.

In the simple statement repeated below we find this entire structural configuration to be implied. Some parts of the configuration are evident and some are not. Because we expect the entire configuration, we may wonder about what is not clearly stated.

"…He sees what they’re doing but doesn’t put it together."

Father is stated to be the actor or Agent in the event in question, who could or should apply energy (force) to "put together" the affected entities referred to collectively as "it." We become aware of an event ("putting it together") that causes a change of a certain type ("construction of a picture"). We know who is the agent ("Father") and something about the affected entity ("what they’re doing"). We have little sense of the space within which the action takes place, where it starts or ends, except that it would go on inside Father’s mind. Metaphorically some kind of force is applied to the affected entities to move them from separate locations to a common location where they are together. Yet some of the generic aspects are not made clear in what is said, so the expected generic structure is incomplete. Generic-level structure seems to affect our thinking even when only partly represented, and to form key questions based on its own logic: Are other forces operating? Are obstacles blocking the way so that "he doesn’t put it together?" Would the movements be gross or fine, and would they mix things, attach or somehow combine them?

Awareness of Generic-Level Structure - Meta-Metaphoric Patterns

A mediator’s sensitivity to this kind of implicit structure can enable more effective intervention. The extensive meaning imparted by this very compact generic-level structure - although we are consciously analyzing it here - requires no conscious reflection to do its work of setting up specific thought processes. Bringing this structure into conscious awareness can help us make more purposeful and flexible use of it. Recognition of these elements helps us to discern disputant concepts of action, change, causation and how people and things interrelate. In turn we can better understand implicit meanings in what disputants are saying, identify what we need to find out, and the different entry points for intervention.

Here are some examples that focus on the inclusion and function of the elements of the generic-level structure (meta-metaphoric patterns) as just described above:

q "If he understands what he sees, who or what has put the pieces together?"

q "Can another person put together what you see so you understand it?"

q "What stands in the way of putting it together?"

q "Where are the pieces put together (out there or inside)?"

q "Is this delicate work or can any klutz do it?"

Source Domain

The Source Domain is opened by introducing a Metaphor. The Metaphor is "apt" to the degree that it has corresponding elements and relationships. Once this better-known, physically experienced, vivid or practiced Source Domain is opened, transfer occurs back to the Target Domain.