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Activation and Preservation: The Interdependence of Text and Performance in an Oral Tradition

Egbert J. Bakker

Oral Tradition Volume 8, Number 1

In recent discussions of the metaphorical aspects of human experience, attention is drawn to the way in which we in Western culture conceive of language and linguistic meaning. As Reddy (1979) has shown, language in our culture is conceived of in terms of a conduit or a container, a vehicle for the transmission of messages (the “content” of the linguistic “container”). This “conduit metaphor” is, in Lakoff’s and Johnson’s (1980) sense, a genuine “metaphor we live by”: the conception of ideas as objects, of linguistic expressions as containers of these objects, and of “communication” as the transmission of these packaged ideas, is pervasive in all folk or pretheoretical conceptions of language. To an even greater extent it governs the largely unquestioned assumptions about language and meaning in the linguistic theories of the twentieth century, with their sharp dichotomy between form (structure) and content (meaning, function), and their tendency to reduce speech to an abstraction of what it really is; a characteristic example is Roman Jakobson’s famous “Closing Statement” (1960), where speaking is equated with “sending,” the transmission of signals from a sender to a receiver.

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