ArgLab • Colloquium

Vito Evola

More than words: Worldmaking and stancetaking in metaphors and gestures

When humans reason about the world around them, they can only do so through the lens of their own perceptual, interactional, and cultural experiences. These “worldmaking” experiences are based on concepts and categories, bridging the mind and the world: They are constructed by our interaction with, and encyclopedic knowledge of, the world. Languaging allows for an action-oriented restructuring of these worlds and how we position ourselves with regards to them. This talk will focus on the epistemic role of conceptual metaphors, frames, and gesture, in representations of worldmaking and stancetaking.


After offering some key theoretical underpinnings, I will present linguistic-anthropological data of informants engaged in religious discourse (on personhood, morality, paradise, God and Satan) in which their belief systems are expressed through their use of conceptual metaphors and frames, both in speech and gesture. Without tackling issues of religion per se, my focus will be on their expressions of abstract thought. One aspect that will be evidenced is that, despite certain metaphors being pervasive and entrenched in the informants’ cultures, ultimately the (interpretational and productive) meaning construed will be founded on each individuals’ experiential and encyclopedic knowledge of their own personal worlds.


Practical research applications of metaphoric reframing and gesture studies will be discussed, using data from the other domains, in particular of psychotherapy, forensics, and politics.


Vito Evola, ArgLab – IFILNOVA, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal