Perception of musical sound: Metaphorical representation in language and discourse

Natalya A. Mishankina, Anna N. Zheleznyakova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the article, discursive variation of metaphorical models that operate in the category of sound is considered. Natural processes of semiosis in the design of perceptual events can be revealed by comparing the data obtained in the analysis of the semantics of language units that denote perceptual phenomena within the language system or a particular discursive field. This paper describes ways of language conceptualizing of music. Linguistic reflection of musical sound is a more complex phenomenon than reflection of auditory perception, since the art of music represents a fragment of the semiosphere. In this case, this system is less discrete and, hence, there is a problem of intersemiotic translation. Studying the mechanisms of transmission of verbal musical sense becomes possible within the framework of the cognitive approach. Natural language, being a primary modeling system, possesses an instrument of overcoming discretization at the level of the semantic continuum; it is metaphorical conceptualization. Research of metaphorical representation of musical sound shows that it is metaphor that allows expressing a musical sense. Analysis of metaphoric conceptualization, identification of metaphorical models, evaluation, emotive and symbolic meanings allow defining the attitude of native speakers to musical sound. The study of the linguistic metaphorical meaning of language units allows revealing common linguistic ways to transfer musical sound, and the analysis of discursive representations makes it possible to determine the dynamics of discursive meanings. Results of the analysis show that in the discourse of musical criticism there are the same metaphorical models as in the sphere of language metaphor ("Music-the world of the person", "Music-the world of the nature"); however, one more model functions here in which musical sound is comprehended as a physical object: "Music-the world of artifacts". We believe that it is related to the communicative purpose of this discourse, i.e. orientation to intersemiotic translation. And if in the sphere of linguistic metaphors the main task is an indirect characteristic of the subject of musical sound, their musical abilities and performance skills, discourse focuses on meanings of a piece of music. The object of evaluation is all the music, as a complete text, and certain types of musical sound are comprehended as signs of the text. In addition, musical meanings of the work are closely related to its story. In the discourse of music criticism, the sound of a musical work is not assessed as suggestive, assessment of performance techniques is not actualized; yet, on the other hand, the creative component, reinterpreted with reliance on other forms of art, comes to the forefront. Unlike the field of language, where the musical sound is estimated ambivalently, in this discursive field, it is only evaluated positively.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-55
Number of pages13
JournalVestnik Tomskogo Gosudarstvennogo Universiteta, Filologiya
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Auditory perception
  • Conceptual metaphor
  • Discursive metaphor
  • Language metaphor
  • Musical sound
  • Perception
  • Semiotic systems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory

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