LANGUAGE MYTHS AND CONCEPTUAL METAPHORS

We have seen in the previous section that myths are based on conceptual metaphors, but we have digressed somewhat beyond the field of language. We now need to return to the major theme of this book and to focus on the notion of “language myths” and the kinds of conceptual metaphors on which they are based.

Language myths are communally shared narratives told in the construction of an ideological set of beliefs

about the structure of language and/or the functional uses to which language is

put____The beliefs have formed part of [a] community’s overall set of beliefs and

the life-styles that have evolved on the basis of those beliefs for so long that their origins seem to have been obscured or forgotten. They are thus socioculturally reproduced as constituting a set of “true” precepts in what appears to the community to be a logically coherent system. (Watts 1999a: 68)

some of the language myths that we will look at in this book are also told about other languages, in the past as well as in the present. others seem to be restricted to English. Many of the language myths that i attempt to deconstruct go back over a period of centuries, whereas others can be traced back only as far as the nineteenth century, specifically to the beginnings of linguistics as an academic discipline and its intimate connections with the emergence of history as an academic discipline at around the same time and to the rise of the concept of the nation-state.

 
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