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TCS in Igbo Metaphor2

TCS in Igbo Metaphor2

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Published by: Ogechukwu Nneji Miracle on Sep 12, 2011
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The Igbo Metaphor: A Study in Truth Conditional SemanticsNneji, Ogechukwu Miracleogechukwumiracle@yahoo.com, +2348063622121Department of Linguistics Igbo and Other Nigerian Languages,Unigersity of Nigeria, NsukkaAbstract
The complexity of the word ‘meaning’ has led to the devotion of a whole subfield of linguistics (semantics) to its study and analysis. The meaning of an utterance is said to be itstruth conditions, which are assumed to be established by two components: syntacticalstructure and the referents of structureless terms. On this backdrop, this paper studies anaspect of semantics originally discussed by Tarski as Truth Conditional Semantics and how itapplies to the Igbo language metaphorical expressions. The use theory of meaning whichclaims that the meaning of an entity is what the society gives it forms the framework for thestudy. The paper argues that Truth Conditional Semantics is not descriptively adequate andtherefore not a good criterion for determining the truth in a sentence or proposition. Thisargument is evident in the failure of this semantic theory to provide the truth conditions of metaphors. The paper supports the opinion of Searle that sentence meaning is different fromutterance meaning citing several examples from the Igbo language which leads to ourconclusion that truth conditional semantics can only offer the sentence or literal meaning of utterances and not their utterance meanings. It therefore recommends that truth conditionalsemantics should not be seen as the sole determinant of the truth or otherwise of anylinguistic statement since it does not apply to natural languages.
The semantic conception of truth which is related in different ways to both thecorrespondence and deflationary conceptions is due to the work published by Tarski in 1933.The correspondence theory of truth has it that the truth or otherwise of a statement is onlydetermined by how it relates to the world, and whether it accurately describes that world.Davidson’s (1978) deflationary theory, supported by Searle (1993) on the other hand, is oneof such theories which claim that assertions predicating the truth of a statement do notattribute a property called truth to such a statement. This means that there is no specialcategory of metaphorical meaning distinct from literal meaning.
Truth Conditional Semantics (TCS) is an approach to semantic theory principallyassociated with Tarski but later developed by, and applied to language by the Britishphilosopher Donald Davidson in
 Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation
published in 1984.
Truth Conditional theories attempt to provide the meaning of a given proposition byexplaining the conditions that make the proposition true or otherwise. In the study of meaning, Truth Condition (TC) is what obtains when a proposition is true. In whatever theorythat discusses meaning, the central idea is truth, of which sentences or utterances of thesentences are the bearers. The guiding principle is that the meaning of a sentence is given byits truth conditions. Taken in the most general terms, semantics relates the extra linguisticworld to the linguistic expressions that describe it.It has often been said (Steinhart, 1994) that metaphors are based on analogies but itsnature is yet to be made precise. Wikipedia quotes Aristotle as defining metaphor as “
is theapplication of a strange term either transferred from the genus and applied to the species or from thespecies and applied to the genus, or from one species to another or else by analogy.”
However, ametaphor is more active than an analogy. An analogy is a comparison between two thingsthat are similar in some way, often used to help explain something or make it easier tounderstand. Metaphor has been defined in terms of conceptual similarity since classicalantiquity. Sequel to the above, this paper studies the TC of Igbo metaphors in order to findout if this theory really applies to them.The use theory which views the meaning of a word as dependent in the way it is usedhas been advanced in different forms by behaviourist psychologists such as Skinner (1957),linguists such as Bloomfield (1933), and Wittgenstein (1953). Proponents of this theorybelieve that the explanatory task of semantics is to provide a concrete not abstractcharacterization of meaning whether interpreted as concepts or denotations. To Skinner(1957:5), “what happens when a man speaks or responds to speech is clearly a question abouthuman behaviour.” The best way to respond is to offer a clear account of what linguisticbehaviour is likely to be produced in different situations.For Bloomfield (1933:139), the meaning of a word is contained in “the situation inwhich the speaker utters it and the response which it calls forth in the hearer.” Use theory,
therefore, describes the actual situation in which language is spoken or written. It is thistheory that shall form the backdrop for this study since metaphorical expressions cannot bedefined in isolation of the contexts in which they are used. The paper is divided into threesections covering the introduction which sets the stage for the study, an overview of TCSwhich houses the theoretical and empirical studies, analysis of Igbo metaphor using TCS,findings and conclusion, and possibly recommendations. We shall use the acronyms LM andMM for literal meaning and metaphorical meaning respectively in this work.
2.1 Truth Conditional Semantics: An Overview
Ogden and Richards (1923) provide the definition of the word ‘mean’ in twenty-threedifferent ways. This to say that meaning of a word is very problematic to define. Theproblems encountered in the attempt to define meaning led to the assertion that meaning iscontext dependent. In other words, it varies from one syntactic slot to another. The meaningor sense of an expression, as observed by Lyons (1977), is a sole property of language and isnot to be equated with the object or concept the expression may be used to refer to.There are two generally accepted theories of metaphor – Aristotelian comparisontheory which basically reduces a metaphor to unstated simile and semantic interaction theorywhich posits an interaction between the expression used metaphorically and the surroundingliteral context. We shall find out if any of these two theories can help us define and determinethe truth conditions of metaphor in the Igbo language.Truth conditional or verificationist theory claims that to determine the meaning of aword, one has to verify whether the attributes associated with the word are true. If they are,then the meaning holds otherwise it crash-lands. Tarski (1933) formulates an exemplum of the propositional content of the theory thus: “snow is white if and only if snow is white”. If on verification, snow is not white, then the sentence has no meaning.

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