Metonymy and Metaphor in Georgian Face-Denoting Lexical Items

Nino Daraselia


The paper examines some instances of metonymy and metaphor in Georgian lexical items denoting human face. Cognitive linguistics (viz.: conceptual metaphor theory, embodiment hypothesis), face theory and cultural studies form the theoretical basis of the research. The empirical data have been obtained from samples of spoken and written discourse genres, six authoritative dictionaries, and corpora for the Georgian language.
In current Georgian there are 5 lexicalizations for face: polysemous saxeand piri, the monosemous compound pirisaxe comprising the previous two and two samples of jargon: sipati (a borrowing from Arabic) and polysemous rozha (a borrowing from Russian). It should be noted that piri as a face term is the result of metonymic extension (its prototypical meaning being mouth, hence the metonymy Mouth for Face). The paper mainly discusses metonymic and metaphoric expressions involving saxe and piri.
The observations have shown that, similar to many other languages, metonymic and metaphoric extensions of saxe and piri are based on the nature of our bodily experience and activity, more precisely, on the significance and functions of human face; the figurative expressions associated with saxe, piriare largely determined by our interaction with our physical, social and cultural environment. In the paper these expressions have been classified on the basis of the functions ascribed to human face in Georgian language/culture, namely, face (a) is the indicator of appearance and look; (b) it reflects our emotions and character, (c) plays an essential role in interaction and (d) shows our social status (Cf.Yu 2001). In this respect, according to the relevant literature, Georgian reveals similarity with English, Chinese and Greek.
The analysis of the data has revealed the following metonymic and metaphoric extensions of the lexical items in question:
1. Face-for-Person metonymy (linked with the role of face as the indicator of appearance and look) which is further extended to objects and abstract notions via metaphor; the mentioned metonymy is evidenced in rozha collocations as well.
2. Conceptual metaphor Face is the Container of Emotions, metonymies Facial Expressions Stand for Emotions or States of Mind, Face Shows Character. These extensions are encountered in compounds and collocations.
3. Numerous figurative expressions with saxe and piri reflect the norms of verbal and non-verbal behavior during interaction that are typical of Georgian culture. Closely linked with the interactional function of face is social face which conforms to Goffman’s dramaturgical model of society and his concept of face. The study of the empirical data has shown that for Georgian culture (which can be characterized as extrovert, horizontally collectivistic) (a) the concept of face is associated with dignity, honesty, sincerity and considerateness/friendliness; (b) the Face is viewed as Object, Possession/Property, hence it can be lost, saved or maintained.

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