Reddy, The conduit metaphor -- a case of frame conflict in our language about language

Reddy, M.J. (1979). The conduit metaphor -- a case of frame conflict
     in our language about language. In A. Ortony (Ed.), _Metaphor and
     thought_ (p. 284-297 only). Cambridge: Cambridge University

Describes a metaphor for considering English language communication
that may help to understand why frame conflicts are "immune to
resolution by appeal to facts" and how the English language itself
makes it very difficult to talk about itself because of a built in
frame conflict. This metaphor is the conduit metaphor in which it is
imagined that words are containers for ideas that are taking from the
brain, put in the words and then out into the world to be retrieved,
or unpacked, by some other person. Contrasting this metaphor with
another, the toolmakers paradigm, demonstrates how the metaphors
predispose people to different attitudes to communication.


Supposing that Reddy's writing is within the context of the conduit
metaphor and his words have ideas inserted within, I am an inadequate
receiver. I don't feel I have the context to adequately unpack the
ideas from the words. What we have here is a failure to communicate.

In that context I feel I must go learn some things and then come back
to this piece. Or perhaps read the rest of the chapter.

Viewing from the toolmakers paradigm I feel a need to talk with Reddy
some more. Engage him for some supplementary chat to fill in the
blanks. Write to him and say, "this is what I got so far, but I'm
pretty sure I'm off, can you fill me in?"

That's a friendly picture isn't it? Much more friendly than the
conduit metaphor. I find this interesting because my interpretation of
Reddy insists that he views the conduit metaphor as a more human
approach to communication, separated from mechanistic models of
information versus entropy.

As is frequently the case, both models have value: they provide a
perspective on the same process allowing the learning to change views,
turns things in a different direction, shedding light into the
shadows. The conduit metaphor, for instance, maps nicely to a
discussion of literary interpretation: the author of a text puts
something into word containers and releases them into the world. When
a reader retrieves the text the words are unpacked for meaning. That
unpacking is a process influenced by many variables both internal and
external to the words.

So while we may never come to agreement about the nature of
communication, what metaphor best describes it, or how the English
language can best be manipulated to discuss itself any discussion
about such things will lead to more information and more discovery.

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