[b-hebrew] Hot and angry?
phil_king at sil.org
Wed Jan 21 21:11:43 EST 2009
Karl, Isaac, Oun Kwon, Stephen and George,
I'm part way through writing a dissertation on the metaphors used to conceptualise emotional distress in Hebrew so find this question interesting, particularly Karl's comment: 'is XMH as an emotion limited to anger? Or can it refer to other emotions as well, like troubled, or excited?'
But first a comment about metaphors and emotion concepts. My reading has been focused on cognitive linguistic approaches, so please forgive that bias, concentrating on Zoltan Kovecses (e.g. The cognitive model of anger inherent in American English (with George Lakoff), 1987; Metaphor and Emotion, 2000; Metaphor, 2002; Metaphor in Culture, 2005) and Anaa Wierzbicka (e.g. Emotions across languages and cultures: diversity and universals, 1999). The presupposition in Kovecses' research, following Lakoff and others, is that, in the language we use, more experientially basic, embodied concepts help us understand less experientially basic, more 'abstract' ones. In particular, we can draw inferences from the one (source) domain to make sense of the other (target) domain. Thus we may draw inferences from our experiences of heated fluids in English to make sense of the emotional experiences of anger - someone may 'simmer' or 'fume' for a while, but if he or she doesn't 'keep a lid on !
it' they may 'explode'. As Stephen said, these heat / anger metaphors are well demonstrated cross-linguistically - Kovecses (2005, 40) cites English, Japanese, Hungarian, Zulu, Polish and Wolof and to some extent Chinese, all from different families, as using heat metaphors to conceptualise anger. So it's not very surprising to find possible evidence of it in Hebrew. Such cross-linguistic commonality is argued to come from the physiological basis of increased body tmeperature in emotional arousal. There is a PhD thesis by Zacharias Kotze precisely on 'The Conceptualisation of Anger in the Hebrew Bible' from the Cognitive Linguistic perspective, which I believe is now published but haven't been able to get hold of yet. He has published some material from it in JNSL - for particular discussion fo ch-m-h in relation to cocneptualsiation of anger see the discussion in 'A Cognitive Linguistic MEthodology for the Study of Metaphor in the Hebrew Bible', JNSL 31 - as far as I remem!
ber he (unusually) links it more to poison than heat.
A question raised by George, Isaac and Stephen is how we decide whether some experientially basic source domain (here 'heat') is cognitively relevant for the conceptualisation of another domain (e.g. anger, more general emotional distress, or perhaps city walls(!)). The Cognitive Linguistic approach offers some 9 types of evidence that could be searched for in order to argue that the source domain may be relevant for drawing inferences in the target domain (see eg. the afterword to the 2003 edition of Metaphors we Live By). The ones most relevant for studying an ancient text are: generalisations over polysemy (a number of words that have meanings in both domains), generalisations over inference patterns (inferences drawn in the source domain carry over to the target domain across various settings), use of the conceptualisation in both conventionalised expressions and more novel metaphors, and the coherence of the conceptualisation with larger scale metaphorical systems. FOr !
the heat / anger conceptualisation in Hebrew there is a generalisation over polysemy with other roots like ch-r-h; my instinct is that there are also generalisations over polysemy (eg. that the hotter you are, the more intense your anger is) but I haven't checked in detail; and the conceptualisation comes in conventional forms such as ch-m-h l- and ch-r-h l- but also more poetic passages (eg. look at Lam 2.3). This all provides evidence for the accessibility of the source domain of heat for generating inferences about anger in a Hebrew worldview, generating novel expressions, and possibly for online processing of utterances. (Needless to say, I'm not sure I can immediately think of any of these evidences that would show a cognitive relevance of heat to city walls...)
But then to the question that I think is most interesting - is heat really a metaphor for 'anger' or for something else? Kovecses' approach to emotions tends towards the presupposition that there are certain universal basic level emotions (eg. happiness, anger, sadness...), so we can readily compare cross-linguistic metaphors (although his more recent writings are more nuanced). The argument for universal emotions has a fair amount of support in the literature, using things like cross-linguistic studies of facial expression. However, there are also a number of strident voices arguing that the words used to talk about emotions in different languages are important and we shouldn't privilege English ethno-categories over other emotional paradigms (as, for example, Lutz 'unnatural emotions' or White and Kirkpatrick 'Person, self and experience').
The problem of the emotional target domain for the heat source domain is evident in some recent articles on depression in Hebrew (JNES, 2005 and others), based on some earlier work by Gruber, who argues that ch-r-h l- in Genesis 4 means that Cain was 'depressed' rather than 'angry' (BAR, 1980 'Was Cain Angry or Depressed?'). It seems to me that asking this question forces our English distinction between these two emotions onto a culture where this might not be relevant. I work in Papua New Guinea, and I've seen languages here where 'hot insides' refer to a more general aroused emotional state than specifically 'anger'.
So, returning to Ez. 3.14, it is interesting that the other two descriptions of Ezekiel's state, bitterness and experiencing the strong hand of Yahweh, are used elsewhere as ways of talking about general negative emotional experience, or 'distress'. There are also other places where the general concept of experiencing heat is used to conceptualise a situation of emotional distress more general than English 'anger' - eg, psalm 39.3, or the many references to internal melting in fear/distress, or heat in the bones (Job 30.30). There are also several examples in the Hodayot.
So the best I would argue at the moment is that heat does seem to be a relevant source domain for conceptualising emotional experience in biblical Hebrew, but that while the emotional target domain has considerable overlap with the emotion we label anger in English, it also seems to include emotional states we would not label that way, so that it may be slightly misleading to label Ezekiel as 'angry' in 3.14.
My thoughts anyway,
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