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ERIC Number: ED312687
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1989-Nov-20
Pages: 17
Abstractor: N/A
Reference Count: N/A
The Constraints of Metaphor: An Analysis of Three Centuries of American Indian Discourse.
German, Kathleen M.
The use of figurative language permeates American Indian discourse, across differences in time, geography, and tribal culture. Traditionally, the presence of figurative language has been attributed to a compulsion for decoration and to a need for mnemonic devices. However, neither of these explanations accounts for changes in the rich tapestry of figurative language as the threat to Indian culture increased. An examination of 259 Indian speeches delivered between 1609 and 1912 suggests that there are three primary functions of figurative language. The first function is to mirror conditions of the microcosm in the macrocosm, using discourse as a means to secure order, harmony, and balance. A steady shift from images of harmony and balance to those of confusion and incongruity characterize Indian rhetoric from 1609 to 1912. Second, figurative language in Indian oratory intensifies Indian experience of the world through two recurrent types of depiction: (1) establishing quantitative information such as numbers of men and size of objects not easily expressed in finite counting systems; and (2) conveying conditions of existence such as thoughts and feelings. Thirdly, Indian figurative language measures time without artificial marks of time, but rather provides the essence of chronology by blending past, present, and future in the qualitative terms of figurative language. Figurative language functions not just as a cuing device or ornamentation, but as a powerful mode of thought. Figurative expression becomes a form of self-revelation for the Indian orator and a documentary on Indian-White relationships for the historian, preserving the Indian's bitter awareness of his situation in a changing world. (Sixty notes are included.) (SR)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers; Reports - Research; Historical Materials
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A