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Metaphorical language

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Title: Metaphorical language  
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Subject: Koalang, Glossary of literary terms
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Metaphorical language

Metaphorical language is the use of a complex system of metaphors to create a sub-language within a common language which provides the basic terms (verbs, prepositions, conjunctions) to express metaphors.

People who over-expose themselves to environments atypical from their usual habits tend to develop understanding of new words and apply new meanings to existing words. Such sources could include: absorbing a native language spoken in a different dialects or countries, a language other than their own and fictional language from books, music, films and videogames.

People who are classified with Autistic Spectrum Disorder tend to communicate metaphorically rather than with common phrases. It is currently not known why they can do this, although they also express other abnormalities from level 1 and 2 psychedelic experiences.


Metaphorical language is a common feature of religious discussion, (for example midrash or medieval RomanCatholic "common places" or modern biblespeak) wherein fluency in a religious text is often a prerequisite to participating fully in a conversation. Not just conceptual metaphors (part of every language) that express belief in analogy between generic concepts, but extremely specific metaphors involving proper names or use of concrete nouns to express generics or processes.

The Tao te ching is considered by many to be almost entirely metaphorical. For example, change is usually expressed with the “water” character, not the “change” character.

To the outsider, such terms in such combinations will likely seem esoteric or otherwise unintelligible. Only by learning the underlying patterns of events that are considered important in the religion or ethical or political system, would one be able to comprehend what was said. The religious text thus acts as a code book. Since many religious authorities believe in the self-evident truth of their doctrines, a mere exposure to the truth in the book would tend to convert outsiders trying to learn the language. However, use of such language is not confined to religious groups.

Use of metaphorical language was historically common among secret society devotees, for instance the Chinese Tongs that resisted Imperial rulers, and even some modern troll organizations.

Popular culture


External links

  • Tao Te Ching Translation in three parts: Chinese, direct to metaphorical language in English, then from English (metaphorical) to English (common meaning)
  • Chan Metaphors Metaphorical sutras in Buddhism
  • 99 Names of God - An example of Metaphorical language
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