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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
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BOSMAN, Nerina. Motion verbs in Van Wyk Louw's poetry . Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2020, vol.60, n.2, pp.395-412. ISSN 2224-7912.

Motion verbs form a semantic class of their own. In this article, the meaning extensions and metaphorical foundation of motion verbs in NP van Wyk Louw's poetry are investigated. Cognitive semantics, in which conceptual metaphor theory plays a fundamental part, is used as a theoretical point of departure. Johnson, in The body in the mind (1987), and Lakoff, in Women, Fire and Dangerous Things (1987), examine the nature of image-schematic meaning structures by looking at "the way in which our perceptual interactions and bodily movements within our environment generate these schematic structures that make it possible for us to experience, understand, and reason about our world" (Johnson 1987:19). The image schemas identified by Johnson and Lakoff are abstract and embodied, and they play an important role in the new view of a metaphor: "a pervasive principle of human understanding that underlies our vast network of interrelated literal meanings" (Johnson 1987:65). The concept of change forms part of our understanding of what movement is, and the conceptual metaphor CHANGE IS MOVEMENT underlies linguistic metaphorical expressions derived from this movement metaphor. An important image schema with motion words is the PATH schema. Lakoff (1987:275) describes the parts of the schema as SOURCE - PATH - GOAL: "Every time we move anywhere there is a place we start from, a place we wind up at, a sequence of contiguous locations connecting the starting and ending points, and a direction." Miller and Johnson-Laird write as follows about motion verbs: "If one wished to describe the most characteristically verbal of all the verbs, one would turn to the verbs of motion, the verbs that describe how people and things change their places and their orientation in space" (1976:527). In the context of Louw's poems, which form their own constructed reality, the opposite of movement - namely stillness, rest and death - is often also present. For the purposes of this analysis, an electronic corpus of Louw's poems was compiled, and word lists and Keywords-in-Context (KWIC) lines were retrieved. Statistically speaking, the word list is quite interesting. It is noteworthy that the corpus is rather small: 49 798 running words (tokens) with 7 131 types. Compared to other available Afrikaans corpora, such as the Taalkommissiekorpus, this is a really small corpus. To start the analysis, the semantics of the most frequent motion verb in Afrikaans, gaan ("to go"), was examined. The next step was to identify conceptual metaphors based on the motion verbs found in particular poems. A good example of how movement sometimes infuses a whole poem together with other concepts such as motionlessness and silence, is found in "FRAGMENTE VAN DIE TWEEDE LEWE - 1934" (Die halwe kring 1937). Motion verbs, as well as nouns and adjectives that carry suggestions of movement as their core meanings, are used copiously in this poem: gekom (came), rusteloos (restless), om en om beweeg (move round and round), roering (stirring), vaar (sail), klim (climb), (aan)spoel (wash up/ashore), beur (strain), stuwing (surging), vloed (flood), weggaan (go away), ingegaan (go in). "Groot ode" (the final poem in Louw's last volume, Tristia, 1962), is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most challenging poems in Afrikaans. The poem starts with the speaker entering a cave (probably the Cave of Almira in Spain, cf. Van Vuuren 2006:283), and moving steadily deeper into the cave - "in die dood se skeur in" (into the crevice of death).The speaker is embarking on a metaphysical quest for enlightenment, which is conceptualised as a continuous, never-ending movement by means of verbs such as sluip (moving stealthily), vaar (sail), rondwaar (wander around), val (fall), loop (walk), instort (plunge in), uitbars (burst out), uitbreek (break out), inloop (walk in). The PATH image schema (SOURCE - PATH - GOAL) underlies the metaphors identified in "Groot ode", but in the poem the destination, the end of the journey or the quest, is never the focus of the movement; there is, rather, an uncertain destination, a destination still to be reached, and this destination is not yet death. The suggestion at the end of the poem is that the speaker leaves the cave and continues his journey out to sea as a passenger on a white ship: This movement of the ship is linked to the PATH image schema, but with a destination or goal that has not yet been reached: CAVE ------->SEA PATH (WATER) In my reading of the poem the motion verbs point the way to a set of powerful conceptual metaphors that lay the cognitive basis for interpreting and comprehending some of the complex ideas in the poem. These metaphors are: The analysis illustrated that conceptual metaphor theory provides a key to unlock these underlying conceptual metaphors, thereby adding one more reading to the growing body of critical reflection on this great but elusive poem.

Keywords : Van Wyk Louw; motion verbs; going; cognitive semantics; image schemas; PATH; conceptual metaphors; CHANGE IS MOVEMENT.

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