''Tighinn o'n Cridhe'' - 'coming from the centre': an ethnography of sensory metaphor on Scottish Gaelic communal aesthetics
Falzett, Tiber Francis-Mark
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This dissertation draws upon local aesthetic attitudes held by members of the elder generation of first-language Scottish Gaelic speakers in Cape Breton Island, Canada towards various forms of communally-based cultural expression as conceived through metaphor. Through such engagement one begins to sense the central role of emplaced identity alongside embodied experience in describing these forms. In many ways, to the ethnographic fieldworker, this is uncharted territory. Here fieldwork functions within emic models of the cèilidh (visit) through collective social engagement in seanchas, an intracultural form of metalinguistic and metacultural discourse. Such a methodological approach facilitates in unveiling an intersubjective understanding of past, present and future acts, the forging of collective identity in the social world and finding meaning in cultural expression. In the context of this dissertation, what began as a seanchas-based exploration into local ethnoaesthetic attitudes revealed a wealth of metaphor in various abstractions arising out of our shared discourse. Such organically yet creatively conceived metaphors function between that which is symbolic and habitual, capable of crossing the boundaries of genre and breaking-down the partitions of that which is at once deemed abstract and concrete. Through the conceptual metaphor theories of George Lakoff and Mark Johnson among others, this works employs a dynamic system of interpretation that, when working in this ethnolinguistic context, makes full use of the available body of cultural and linguistic knowledge both synchronically and diachronically. This ethnography of metaphor, therefore, follows a pathway arising out of a sequential understanding of sensory experience in interpreting both identity and aesthetic thought as expressed by these Scottish Gaels. Beginning with individual orientation in time and space through cultural, social and emotional engagement with both the physical and cognitive landscape, the ethnography goes on to explore both a synaesthetic and kinaesthetic awareness of the various ways in which we conceive expressive sound in its flow. Within this conceptual metaphor framework a system is unveiled in which the expression of communal tradition is seen as emanating from a shared cridhe (heart/centre). Subsequently, the transmission of this knowledge is conceptualised among encultured individuals as capable of being metaphorically eaten and, therefore, (re)internalised in the body. Such an understanding is intrinsically linked to the mutual aesthetic appreciation of language and music through their blas (taste). Ultimately, these metaphors are rooted in an integrated system oriented towards the collective attainment of social wellbeing and a principal desire to sustain that which they serve to describe.