After Mosteller and Wallace: Authorship of the Federalist Papers

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Authorship and intertextuality

Questions of authorship and intertextuality cannot be considered apart from each other. Authors do not write in isolation but as a result of accumulated experience, experience which is both personal in the “real world” and personal in the world of text. Experience is not the abstraction of concepts, as was traditionally supposed in cognitive linguistics. Lakoff, for example, believes that “abstract concepts are understood in terms of concrete physical and interpersonal experience” (Lakoff 1994: 42). These experiences collectively create a frame which the author uses as a basis for writing a text. The author engages with this text frame and sifts and processes the words, messages, texts, symbols and any other semiotic content from within that frame. The frame will have formed as part of the writer’s life (non‑textual) experience and textual experience, and these are, in part at least, subliminal. Some elements of the frame will only appear at the moment the writer begins to write, yet they will have been ‘there’ all the time.

Lakoff suggests that conceptual metaphor, which he defines as the mapping of one mental domain in terms of another (Lakoff 1994: 42), is the unifying cognitive‑linguistic experience which underlies many of our everyday experiences. He explicitly rejects the notion that metaphor belongs to literary language exclusively, and gives an example of how, in everyday language, we constantly use metaphor to describe common situations. The example he gives relates to love relationships which are conceptualised as journeys through which couples who are ‘in love’ must go. He gives the following expressions as indications of an underlying metaphoric conceptualisation of love relationships as journeys: “look how far we’ve come”, “we can’t turn back now”, “our relationship has hit a dead‑end street”, “it’s been a long, bumpy road”, “we may have to go our separate ways”, etc (Lakoff 1994: 45). For Lakoff there is a principle at work in such examples as these which has nothing to do with grammar or lexis, rather it is “part of the conceptual system underlying English” which causes the occurrence of this kind of metaphor‑rich domain:

The lovers are travelers on a journey together, with their common life goals seen as destinations to be reached. The relationship is their vehicle, and it allows them to pursue those common goals together. The relationship is seen as fulfilling its purpose as long as it allows them to make progress toward their common goals. The journey is not easy. There are impediments, and there are places (crossroads) where a decision has to be made about which direction to go in and whether to keep traveling together.

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