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Tracing Language Movement in Africa$
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Ericka A. Albaugh and Kathryn M. de Luna

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190657543

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190657543.001.0001

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Metaphors to Live By in the Diaspora

Metaphors to Live By in the Diaspora

Conceptual Tropes and Ontological Wordplay among Central Africans in the Middle Passage and Beyond

(p.343) Chapter 16 Metaphors to Live By in the Diaspora
Tracing Language Movement in Africa

Robert W. Slenes

Oxford University Press

Inspired by research in anthropology and cognitive science that places analogical thinking at the center of human culture and cognition, this chapter focuses on the metaphors by which western Central Africans, particularly speakers of Kikongo, understood—and withstood—the horrors of the Middle Passage and New World enslavement. Canoe metaphors figured prominently in West Central Africa. So too did tropes making ontological connections between things designated by phonetic (near-) homonyms. Both types of analogies helped people explain their lineage origins (locating them in past migrations under duress), find cures for social ills, seal marriages and other alliances, and open liminal paths from suffering to plenitude in this world and in the afterlife. Based primarily on the author’s research in dictionaries of African languages, particularly Kikongo, and on Central African cults of affliction-fruition in Brazil’s 19th-century Southeast, the essay argues that strong shipmate bonding during the Atlantic crossing embodied these homeland metaphors.

Keywords:   Western Central Africa, Atlantic slave trade, Kikongo, Kimbundu, conceptual metaphor, ontological wordplay, Ma-lúngu, slavery, cults of affliction-fruition, candomblé

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