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Nation, Folk and People: How to transport ideologies in language use

A review by Natascha Koch


Underhill, James: Creating Worldviews. Metaphor, Ideology and Language. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2011.


In this book-length discussion, James Underhill aims at exploring the connection between metaphors, ideologies, and language. He provides both a profound discussion of a number of major contributions to the field of metaphor theory and cognitive linguistics from Aristotle to George Lakoff and Paul Ricœur and, in the second part, an analysis of the significant impact metaphor has on the creation of worldviews. For exemplification, Underhill surveys the manner of speaking of the Czech communist regime during the Cold War, German rhetoric in Nazi Germany and, finally, the relationship of English as a global language to other languages, especially French.   


  >Table of Contents     > German Abstract             


James Underhill’s monograph Creating Worldviews – Metaphor, Ideology and Language, published by Edinburgh University Press in 2011, is divided into three major parts. In the first part, Underhill lays out the theoretical and philosophical framework for his work, while part two is concerned with three substantial case studies in which the author covers three main aspects: first, the influence of propaganda (exemplified by the language used by the Czech communist party during the Cold War); second, the set-up and transportation of ideology through language (demonstrated by the rhetoric of Nazi-Germany elites); and third, the perception of language  and the attitudes linked with this language (argued with the examples of French and English). Part three consists of an extensive glossary of all relevant terms used by the author. Apparently, Underhill’s main intention for this publication is to offer perspectives from non-English-speaking scholars to add to the cognitive linguistic community. 

In chapter one, Underhill provides his basic understandings of the concepts ′language′ and ′worldview,′ which he considers central when trying to understand and analyse politics, ideologies, and societies. According to the author, these concepts can only be adequately accessed when embracing holistic approaches in the tradition of language philosophers like Humboldt, Sapir, and Whorf. He argues that neither ′language′ nor ′worldview′ can be one-dimensional concepts and continues to subdivide ′worldview′ into five categories: 1. world-perceiving, 2. world-conceiving, 3. cultural mindset, 4. personal world, and 5. perspective (7). This subdivision will be continually used throughout his argumentations.

Underhill enters the realm of cognitive linguistics in chapter two. Lakoff and Johnson′s once-groundbreaking monograph, Metaphors We Live By (1980; Chicago University Press) included, amongst other things, the argument that the concepts and categories with which people think reveal something about the human mind. By investigating these mental concepts, they proposed, we should be able to learn more about the way the human mind functions. Underhill argues that this idea paved the way to a misleading dualistic paradigm in which language is inferior to the much more objective and purer thought. In line with modern language theory, Underhill rejects this evaluation and proposes that mental concepts rather resemble links to reality than clear images of distinct objects or ideas in the outside world. Although Underhill demystifies some of their notions, proving them to be less revolutionary than commonly understood, e.g. that the embodiment concept is already found in the works of Ernst Cassirer, Lakoff and Johnson′s work must not be underestimated: the introduction of the grounding of metaphor in experience or the discovery of systematic networks of metaphors in thought have certainly been far-reaching ideas in cognitive linguistics. 

Chapters five and six are a rather eclectic selection of contributions that have been made to the cognitive enterprise in the wake of Lakoff and Johnson′s abovementioned publication. While in chapter five, Underhill follows up on what George Lakoff, Mark Johnson, Mark Turner and other influential researchers have been working on after 1980, in chapter six he, apparently randomly, picks a few articles published in the quite well-known online journal The reasons behind his choices remain unclear to the reader as he also neglects a number of other, potentially more important, contributions, e.g. Zoltán Kövecses’s work on emotion metaphors or metaphor and culture or Jonathan Charteris-Black′s study on critical metaphor analysis, which would probably have enhanced Underhill′s later conclusions in part two of the book.

Chapters seven to nine comprise three case studies, undertaken by the author to exemplify the book's original theme of researching the connection of language, metaphor, and ideology. However, while empirically sound case studies are promised early in chapter one (13), readers might find those presented in this second part of the book lacking in several respects: it remains obscure which methodology Underhill is following in general or why he is choosing one concept (e.g. nation, folk, or people) over the other for analysis – a circumstance that makes it at points hard for the reader to follow the author’s line of argumentation. Furthermore, frequent repetitions of points already made combined with piecemeal additions of new information make for rather tiresome reading. The author continues to base his discussions and assessments on single authors and their approaches, which does not make for a well-rounded evaluation. All in all, the case studies presented appear more like exploratory essays than methodologically and empirically sound studies. This becomes most obvious during his discussion of the evolution of English into a global language. Besides, he not only provides very subjective and frequently sarcastic evaluations of other authors′ theories and arguments (passim 226, 229), but even confronts them on a personal level (217) – a fact that is irritating and unnecessary at best.

An important aspect of James Underhill′s work is the call for more studies of languages other than English, a call he immediately answers by including languages like Czech in his case studies. Nevertheless, the case studies and thus his results would have benefitted from including a more balanced selection of methodological approaches such as the consideration of corpus linguistic tools as a means to analyse language patterns like collocations or semantic prosody. He seems to mostly focus on the writings of the grand names in the field, and thereby misses the opportunity to consider other important and possibly more relevant contributions. In spite of these shortcomings, the range of topics covered in Underhill′s publication, the extensive glossary as well as the thorough discussion of the worldview concept can still make this book a useful read.



Underhill, James: Creating Worldviews. Metaphor, Ideology and Language. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2011. 301 S., paperback, 32.00 Euro. ISBN: 978-0-7486-7909-6


Table of Contents


Part I Metaphor

1. Metaphor and World-Conceiving … 3

Worldviews … 3

Patterning … 7

This Book … 12


2. A Concern for Metaphor … 17


3. Metaphors We Live By … 25


4. Other Developments in Metaphor Theory … 30

Philosophical Investigations … 30

Linguistic Approaches … 34

The Poetic Tradition … 39

The Rhetoric Tradition … 40


5. Further Cognitive Contributions to Metaphor Theory … 44

Critical Discourse Analysis … 45

Turner’s Contribution … 55

Blending … 58

Universalism … 60


6. Diversity on the Periphery … 63

An Early Contribution … 63

The Online Journal, … 67

Embodiment … 71

The Slavic Contribution … 77

Sweetser’s Contribution … 79

Reaching Beyond a Languageless Linguistics … 81


Part II Case Studies in Metaphor


Introduction to Part II … 89


7. The Language of Czechoslovak Communist Power … 92

Does It Make Any Sense? ... 92

Conceptual Clusters … 96

An ABC of Czechoslovak Communist Terminology … 115

Conclusions … 124


8. Hitlerdeutsch: Klemperer and the Language of the Third Reich ... 128

Mindset and Personal World … 128

Hitlerdeutsch … 132

Seven Perversions … 136

Conceptual Clusters … 136

Binary Definitions … 144

Essentialism and Exclusion … 145

Adoption and Inversion … 148

Instability … 150

Contradiction … 152

Absurdity … 153

Two Goebbels … 156

Conclusions … 164


9. Language in Metaphors … 172

The French Language Is So Beautiful, We Hardly Dare Touch Her … 172

The Aesthetics of Order … 183

New Defenses … 189

Hagège′s Garden … 199

Global English … 207

Ecolinguistics … 219

Sprachsinn … 230


A Final Word … 236


Glossary … 241

Bibliography … 285

Index … 301


German Abstract

James Underhill diskutiert in seiner Monographie die Verbindung zwischen Metapher, Ideologie und Sprache. Er präsentiert sowohl eine gründliche Diskussion ausgewählter einflussreicher Publikationen im Fachgebiet der Metapherntheorie und der Kognitiven Linguistik, ausgehend von Aristoteles über George Lakoff bis hin zu Paul Ricœur; daneben liefert er im zweiten Teil des Bandes eine Analyse zum Einfluss von Metaphern auf die Entstehung von Weltanschauungen (worldviews). Dies versucht er, indem er die Sprachverwendung des tschechischen kommunistischen Regimes während des Kalten Kriegs, die Rhetorik während der NS-Zeit in Deutschland sowie die Beziehung von Englisch als Weltsprache zu anderen Sprachen, insbesondere dem Französischen, untersucht.

© bei der Autorin und bei KULT_online