Metaphors and Meanings Hidden in Cultures: Dance of the Spirits in an African (Esan) Tradition
Elvis Imafidon

Within the rubric of the thought systems of the Esan People of Nigeria, is found the conceptual combination “Dance of the Spirits” associated with the doings – basically the style of dancing and entertainment during festivals and the role played in maintaining peace and order in the community – of the group called Ikpabỏnẻlimin. Ikpabỏnẻlimin literally translate as “Clapping for the Spirits” as it is derived from the Esan words Ikpe, Obỏ and Ẻlimin which mean “Drumming” (or Clapping), “Hand(s)” and “Spirit(s)” respectively. The individual members of this group are seen as “spirits” and are accorded an esteemed respect and obedience by members of the society as though they were not the biologically composed human beings that they are but in fact, essentially spirits. This sort of conceptualization puts one on a logical ground to ponder if conceptualizing Ikpabỏnẻlimin as the dance of the spirits or its members as essentially spirits is literal or depicts experience or if the concept is a factual or genuine interpretation of observation. Does this sort of conceptualization present any essential relationship between language, meanings and concepts when viewed or examined from the standpoint of the basic assumptions accorded meanings and concepts by cognitive linguists, scientists and psychologists alike? This paper examines some of these basic assumptions about meanings and concepts to ascertain if there are any grounds for accepting them. The examination of these assumptions is essential for this discourse because it will facilitate the elucidation of concepts like Ikpabỏnẻlimin. For the outcome of the scrutinization of these basic assumptions will determine whether concepts and meanings are universal or contextual. It will also aid us in determining whether metaphoric expressions being part of our use of language, can be understood outside the frame of reference or context of use. The resolution here will influence how concepts like Ikpabỏnẻlimin can be viewed, either as rational, purposeful and meaningful, or irrational, useless and meaningless.

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