Strategic Use of Blends within Discourse

Like metaphorical language and framing, blending can also be useful in analyzing rhetorical strategies where one person is attempting to convince others of the validity of their own beliefs or concerns. Blending can be seen in interreligious dialogue because it gives speakers the ability to draw comparisons between different contexts or similar situations. An example of this can be seen in a discussion between a Christian and Muslim believer collected for a previous study (Richardson et al., 2020). The data elicitation procedure for the study included having two Indonesian students at a Japanese university, a Sunni Muslim female (Aishya) and a Roman Catholic male (Endang) watch an Al Jazeera interview of Ahok, a Christian Indonesian politician.The interview was a discussion ofAhok’s arrest and trial for blasphemy after he was recorded saying that Muslim activists were using a verse from the Qu’ran to lie to the people. The verse in question, Al Maidah 51, was being interpreted by the Muslim activists as saying that Muslims are prohibited from voting for a non-Muslim leader.

One of the extracts from the conversation contains a blend exemplifying how conceptual integration can occur as a creative, online process to buttress an argument within a debate. In the beginning of the conversation, Endang defends Ahok, claiming that the true purpose of the governor’s words was twisted in the media frenzy that led up to the blasphemy charge. Aishya is not convinced, so later in the discussion Endang draws an analogy between Ahok’s criticism of Indonesian politicians, who he feels are putting forth false blasphemy charges for ulterior motives, and Endang’s negative evaluation of the Roman Catholic prosecutors who imprisoned Galileo. Endang then adopts the perspective of Ahok:

Endang: If there are some people out there who said that you cannot join my program you cannot vote for me because you’re being lied to using Al-Maida.

So it’s like he was criticizing people who used the verses to encou... to discourage people to follow his programs cannot join my program Aishya: Ohhh [yeah yeah yeah]

Endang: [and then] to to vote for him.

It’s just like me saying that I’m condemning [the Catholic people Aishya: [Yeah yeah yeah]

Endang: for putting Galileo into jail because he believed Aishya: Yeah [okay okay okay]

Endang: [the earth was round.]

Endang’s argument is based on a blend of mental spaces (Figure 7.5). In the generic space, the situation is presented as an institution (which Endang belongs to) wrongly condemning a progressive thinker, who is later redeemed after the institution adopts a more enlightened attitude and realizes its mistake.

Endang’s blend for the trials of Galileo and Ahok

FIGURE 7.5 Endang’s blend for the trials of Galileo and Ahok

In the Galileo input space, there is the example of the Catholic Church’s condemnation of Galileo for his scientific doctrines that challenged current Church doctrines grounded in scripture. Listening to Endang’s discussion, educated listeners would use their background knowledge to fill in unstated elements; for example, that after the condemnation of Galileo, the Catholic Church has had to admit that its position at the time was wrong.

This pattern would be highly familiar to listeners since it resembles similar patterns often utilized when giving advice or putting forth criticism.To reduce the face-threatening nature of critical remarks, speakers often concede that they themselves (or the institution they belong to) have made similar mistakes in the past. The analog)' is thus designed to make Endang’s critique less of an affront.

In the Ahok input space, there are elements of the Indonesian trial that correspond to the trial of Galileo. The critical feature of the blend is the disanalogy between the Catholic Church’s current acknowledgment that it was wrong to criticize a progressive thinker and Indonesian Muslims’ failure to acknowledge their own current errors. This disanalogy provides the guiding idea in the blend with Endang’s call for Indonesian Muslims to disown outmoded ideas and be more open to new ideas.

Blends can be understood and modeled in different ways depending on the perspective of the analyst. Figure 7.5 attempts to depict Endang’s perspective, according to which the blend is a mirror network due to the fact that the elements of both inputs as well as their structure are similar.This type of network is easy to establish since the structures of all the inputs do not need to be reconfigured within the blended space. Even so, there are some minor clashes between the input spaces. For example, Galileo was a scientist, whereas Ahok was a politician. The blend can resolve such a minor clash simply by downplaying the focus on science and focusing on political progressives (taken from the second input) instead. The blend is not a straightforward amalgam of content from the input spaces, but rather an emergent phenomenon that appears from the online, creative production of the speaker.

Later in the conversation, Aishya rejects some of the emergent structures of the blend and continues to question why Ahok mentioned the Qu’ran (see Richardson et al.,2020). Modeling of Aishya’s understanding of the blend as it unfolds in their conversation requires a double-scope network, not a mirror network. From her perspective, the incompatibility between the content of the two input spaces is presumably far greater, and a reduced number of elements can make it into the blended space. For example, the issue of Ahok referring to certain Muslims as liars in conjunction with mentioning the Qu’ran would, for Aishya, mark out Ahok’s input space as very different from Galileo’s scientific theory input space. These varied ways to “run the blend” in this case demonstrates how blends are fluid and may be processed differently depending on the speaker and the particular stage in the discourse stream.

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