Questioning ventriloquism

John A Barnden


Cooren (2014) argues that a ventriloquism metaphor for communication can provide a unified perspective on seven traditions in the study of communication. This Discussion Note does not argue for or against the idea that a suitably deployed and motivated ventriloquism metaphor can do this. Instead, the Note expresses some concerns about whether Cooren does suitably deploy, motivate, and support ventriloquism as a metaphor for communication. The concerns are about whether ventriloquism as opposed to a simpler personification-based view should be used, and whether two different notions of ventriloquism are being adequately considered. I also point to a complication that should be embraced in how one should analyse back-ventriloquism, i.e., people being ventriloquized by their own dummies, as suggested by Cooren. None of the concerns are fatal to Cooren’s enterprise, but rather point to the need for a more refined untangling of issues.


fiction-based models; language pragmatics; metaphor; ventriloquism

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