Parasites, Herbivores and Dried Fish: Dehumanising Metaphorical Blends in Japanese

Ewelina Maria Prażmo, Rafał Augustyn
2020 GEMA Online® Journal of Language Studies  
In the context of a vast body of research on the role and function of conceptual metaphor in linguistic representation of non-dominant or non-normative social groups, the present paper deals with metaphorical blending found in a number of expressions used to describe deliberately single people forming part of the Japanese society. Expressions such as parasaito shinguru ("parasite singles"), sōshoku-kei danshi ("herbivorous men"), and himono onna ("dried-fish women") are used as labels
more » ... as labels designating particular groups of people who do not conform to conventional societal roles because of, for example, failing to marry and establish a family in, what is considered, due time. The Japanese language often reflects very conservative, conformist, and ritual-abiding attitudes and mindsets of its speakers and hence, is rife with derogatory expressions which serve to denigrate non-conforming elements of a society. The expressions analysed here are culturally-determined and mirror, at least partially, the mindsets and opinions of some of the Japanese speakers. The present paper is maintained within the methodological framework of cognitive semantics. We conduct a conceptual blending analysis of selected metaphorical expressions found in the Japanese discourse. We find a strong trend towards employing conceptual blends based on dehumanising, often animalising, metaphors in order to linguistically denigrate groups non-conforming to expected societal norms. 149 expressions as reflections of the society's evaluation and perception of certain social groups in Japan. We present a selection of dehumanising metaphorical blends used to denigrate and ridicule undesirable and non-normative social behaviours, paying special attention to parasaito shinguru ("parasite singles"), sōshoku-kei danshi ("herbivorous men"), and himono onna ("dried-fish women"). These labels are used to describe social groups in a heavily unfavourable and derisory way which reflects their overall perception by the community at large. The aim of the present study is to place such labels (parasaito shinguru, sōshoku-kei danshi, himono onna) under scrutiny, to explain the dynamic nature of meaning construal of expressions based on metaphorical blending, as well as to demonstrate the possible implications of using them to refer to certain social groups. The present study draws upon a body of well-established metaphor research investigating the role and function of metaphor in the social world (Steen, Reijnierse, & Burgers, 2014; Thibodeau, 2017; Thibodeau & Boroditsky, 2011) , as well as newly-emerging studies dealing with the spread of hate speech, verbal violence, and stigmatisation through dehumanisation in contemporary societies (cf. for example Bastian & Haslam, 2011; Costello, 2013; Haslam, 2006; Musolff, 2015; O'Brien, 2009 ). This study refers to research concerning linguistic representation of groups and individuals in Japanese, with particular emphasis on the representation of marginalised, minority or otherwise, underprivileged groups (Neill, 2009; Nicolae, 2014; Takemaru, 2005; Tran, 2006) . The present study contributes to the understanding of the role of metaphorical framing in shaping perceptions and attitudes towards groups of people and individuals. It is then not only a linguistic investigation into the semantics of newly-formed expressions, but a contextualised research on the communicative function of metaphor as used in everyday discourse. It stresses the significance of context (social and cultural) in meaning construal and interpretation (Kövecses, 2015) and provides insight into language users' motivations which drive the creation of certain expressions, especially those based on metaphorisation and conceptual integration. Expressions presented and analysed in this way can be dealt with either as matters of language or thought, as each linguistic metaphor is potentially conceptual in nature. Most importantly, metaphor is a matter of discourse and should be studied within the framework of a given socio-cultural context. The present study provides novel perspectives into dehumanisation through language, as it draws from new strains of metaphor research embedded in empirical studies on language and social cognition. It sheds new light on the problem by applying a methodological framework which combines conceptual metaphor theory with conceptual integration theory in order to account for the emergent meanings of complex metaphorical blends found in the Japanese social discourse. We claim that only such an integrated approach can give justice to the complex nature of meaning formation in novel expressions, such as for example, metaphorical blends, providing, at the same time, an insight into the effect such language may have on its users and the society at large. We claim that metaphorical framing leads not only to certain interpretations and receptions of a given message, but also plays a part in attitude formation, potentially leading to the perpetuation of stereotypes, prejudice, and otherwise negative evaluation of certain groups or individuals. CONCEPTUAL METAPHOR Conceptual metaphor is undoubtedly one of the most influential and widely applied theories in the cognitive linguistics paradigm. It gained scholars' interest mostly after the publication of George Lakoff and Mark Johnson's seminal book Metaphors We Live By (1980). The approach presented there was ground-breaking and revolutionary mainly because it liberated the metaphor from the constraints of literary studies and introduced it to the realm of cognitive GEMA 151 ability to see things from different perspectives, with different degrees of specificity, taking into consideration varying scope of reference as well as being able to conceptually engage or disengage from a particular event. "Metaphor has the power to create reality for us; it is the major way in which the human cognitive system produces nonphysical reality, that is, the social, political, psychological, emotional, and so on worlds" (Kövecses, 2015, p. 83). Thus, the power of metaphor to create social reality including all potential stereotypes, prejudices, associations, and opinions cannot be overestimated, in particular if a given metaphor is used deliberately, i.e., ostensively in communication between users (cf. deliberate metaphors in Silvestre-López, 2020, p. 37) Thus choosing certain metaphorical frames in order to label different demographic groups often leads to conceptualising these groups in very specific ways and may have implications on the way others perceive and treat them. Metaphorical framing extends way beyond the language into cognition and reasoning (cf.
doi:10.17576/gema-2020-2002-09 fatcat:7k4ti6r4xrglhh4i4ugwrj3fsy