Alexandre Kimenyi

Cow Metaphors *

Alexandre Kimenyi
California State University at Sacramento

Cow vocabulary is used metaphorically in everyday language, especially in greeting expressions, exclamations, swear words and terms of endearment. Cow metaphors are also found in all components of the Rwandan culture namely concepts, values, customs, symbols, rituals, art, dance, music, sports and social organization. This is the case not only because it is the high ranked cultural icon but also because a symbiotic relationship exists between the cow and the Rwandan society. The study of cow metaphors contributes to the understanding of culture, cognition and the study of the genesis and dynamism of signs.

I. Introduction

Kinyarwanda cow vocabulary is used very extensively in everyday language to refer to objects, states and events which don't have anything to do with cows. The study of this use of cow vocabulary is important because it shows how metaphors are created, provides insights into the genesis and dynamism of signs and structures, gives credence to the cultural relativity and linguistic determinism and lends support to current theories in linguistics about the important role of metaphors in cognitive processes. New concepts are easily understood when old linguistic expressions which denote referents that exhibit either physical or functional similarity or are associated with them are used. It is thus not surprising to find an abundance of bovine linguistic expressions used metaphorically in Kinyarwanda because, in this 'cow-centric society, the cow is a cultural icon by excellence.

II. Metaphors

All words which have anything to do with cows such as body parts (horns, eyes, head, paws, legs, etc), physical characteristics (shape and size of horns, color, age), cow's activities (grazing, drinking, mooing, milking), products (milk, butter), places (kraal, sleeping area, resting area, watering places), how the cow was acquired, etc. act as metaphors. The term metaphor is thus used in this paper more liberally. The correct label should have been trope, any sign used in the secondary plane of expression. Tropes also include metonymies. A generous set of examples are provided below for illustrative purposes.

1. sée-bihogó 'brown'>very beautiful person or thing
imbyéeyi 'nursing cow'>gentle and generous person
isibo 'tumultude of cows running to the watering place'>energy
guháka 'to have a client'> to be very useful to somebody
gucúunda 'to churn milk'>to start an intore dance'
igisaabo 'milk gourd'>a healthy child
kubáangurira 'to take a cow in heat to a bull'>sow a new plant in a field where it
was inexistent/to crossbreed plants
gushiitura 'to remove parasites from cows's skin'>to trim a tree/plant'
ishyó 'group of cows'> a big group of people or objects
kwuuhira ' to give water to cows'> to give a lot of drinks to somebody especially
alcohol/to water plants/
kwuuhira amacúmu 'to water spears'>to kill a lot of enemy troops
kwuuhira urugina 'to water the read earth'> to kill a lot of people'
gushooka 'to go to drink (cows)'>to fall down/to attack/to start right away
gushoora 'to take cows to the watering place'>to invest
kwíiyahura 'to send oneself to graze'>to commit suicide
imitóozo 'milk stick' >long fingers
kubyáagira 'to rest (cows)'>to stay in a place for a long time
ibihogó 'brown cow'>type of intore dance
umutavu 'young calf'>early
igitóondo kíkiri umutavu 'when the morning was still a young calf'>early
in the morning'
ijigíja 'old cow'>late
ijoro ríbaaye ijigíja 'when the night became an old cow'>late in the
guháka 'to be pregnant (cow)'>
Ijuru riraháka imvúra 'the sky is cow-pregnant rain'> the sky is cloudy'
kubúgaaniza 'change milk from one container into another'> to be ripe for beans
and peas> poetry 'to put milk in the gourd'
ingwaáte 'a cow loaned to somebody in exchange for something else and which is
given back to the owner after it has given a calf umukaangara to the
kugabira 'to give cows to somebody'>to give/to nominate somebody to an
important position
kuvumeera 'to moo for the calf>to resonate/to sound harmoniously
umuvúgo uvúmeera 'a poem which moos for the calf> a harmonious and
rhythmic poem
igikúumba 'temporary residency for cows
gucá igikuúmba 'to cut a temporary residency for cows'> to multiply
kubúumbira 'to dig a well for cows'>to meet someplace
inkoongooro 'milk drinking wooden cup'>chalice/alveole,cavity dug in the aisles
of bee-hive
uruhiimbi 'milk cups table'>altar
amavúta 'butter'>oil
kuvura 'to foam (milk)'>to recuperate
amasé 'dung'>something which is very tender'
ishaáshi 'a mature young cow'>a young plant ready to reproduce or to bring
urusháashi ' a group of young cows'>a group of young ladies
impfiíizi 'bull'>father/crown prince/a very important item in a large group
uruhoóngore 'calf stable'>calves of the same age
gukámiisha 'to assist in milking'>to put drums away (euphemism)
inkuyo 'cow coat brush'>good physical state
kugisha 'to move to summer pastures'>to go into seclusion in order to get
inspiration (dynastic poets)'/'to go into seclusion to meditate on the oracle
ináama 'place where cows are milked or presented to the cow lord'>advice/meeting
kwíivuga 'to bellow (bull)'>to recite one's praise-poem

III. Idioms

I have shown elsewhere (Kimenyi, 1994) that idioms don't differ from other tropes. The only difference is the structure because idioms consist of two or more linguistic items. Idioms are thus either metaphors, metonymies or de-iconized lexical items. In English for instance, the expression a lame duck (the incumbent being handicapped by the fact the s/he will be leaving office) is a metaphor whereas a smoking gun (incriminating sign) is a metonymy.

2. amatá 'milk'>amatá y'ímpuúndu 'milk of noise of happiness'>congratulations;
amatá y'íisúka 'milk of hoe'>harvest; gufáta nk'ámatá y'ábashyitsi 'to
treat like guests' milk'> to do things very carefully/to treat somebody like a
prince'; gukúura amatá mu kanwa 'to remove milk from somebody's
mouth'>to deprise somebody of his or her fortune; gushaaka amatá 'to look
for milk'>to look for husband
umuhoora 'large cow's trail>inda yo mu mihoora 'pregnancy of an unmarried
young girl'
amagaanga 'cow's urine'>kunywéera amagaanga rimwé 'to drink cow's urine at
once'>to use the last thing one had/kunywéesha amagaanga 'make
somebody drink cow's urine>to abuse somebody
isháashi 'young cow'>gukúbita umuuntu isháashi y'úrurími 'to hit somebody with
a young cow of a tongue'>to tell a great lie
ikiráaro 'cow's lodging'>ikiráaro cyaavuuye 'the cow's lodging is
leaking/falling'>to run out food/kuména ikiráaro 'to break the cow's
lodging'>to leave without telling your host host
icyaárire 'grass for cows to sleep on '>gukúba icyaárire 'to fold the cow's sleeping
grass'>to be given young cows by a cow's owner to create another troop'
igicáaniro 'kraal'>kugwáatiziza igicáaniro 'to loan a kraal'>something to
somebody without any guaranty or hope of getting a calf umukangara or
something of the same value kuzimya/kubura igicaniro 'to have the kraal
extinguished/to lose the kraal>'to lose one's cows'
ibúga 'watering place'>gushyíra umuuntu kw'iibúga 'to put somebody at the
watering place'>to give a cow to somebody'
isháashi 'young cow'>gukúbita umuuntu isháashi y'úrurími 'to hit somebody with
a young cow of a tongue' > to tell a strong lie to somebody'
gushíimuta 'to steal cows in the evening'>to disceetly steal somebody's secrets
umushuumba 'herder'>inzoga y'umushuumba 'herder's beer'>'beer offered to
somebody who took care of the bride'
icyaánsi 'milk wooden cup'> gukámira umuntu mu kitóoze/gukúbita
icyaánsi/gukámira mu kivá
inkuungu 'hornless cow'>gukámira ku nkuungu 'to milk on a hornless cow'> to
milk without lightening ritualistic milking fire'
inká 'cow'>kunywáana inká ikirégo 'to drink a cow's milk with accusation'>to be
ungrateful'>kwíisaba inká 'to get up late'
>kuvúga inká 'to praise cows'>ntaa nká ndí mó 'I am in deep trouble'
>guhérekeza inká 'to accompany cows'>to do good without seeking any
>guhómerera iyoónkeje 'to put chalk on the cows breasts to prevent calves
from sucking'to waste ones' time'/
>gukóra mu za Miroónko 'to put hands in Mironko's cows'>to provoke
somebody who is more powerful'
uruhiimbi 'milk stand'>kuména uruhiimbi 'break the milk stand'>to cheat the
husband during claustration period'
inyána 'calf'>gukúbira mu bw'inyana 'to retire into the calves' quarters' >to act
>kuvuga zigata inyana 'to talk so that cows leave their calves'>to scream
very loudly and for a long time'
injíishi 'rope to tie cows'to burn the rope to tie cows>gucáana injíishi 'to lose all the
cows'/gufáta injíishi 'to own cows'
impfizi 'bull'>gukúrikiza imfizi 'to ressemble a bull'> to ressemble the father'
> gushyíra ku mpfizi ya se 'to put on the father's bull'>'to cause the parents
to make a serious mistake'

Generally, the majority of cow metaphors have good connotation.Some of the endearment expressions complementing a woman's beauty are related to cows as the following ones illustrate:


máaso y'íinyána 'eyes of calf'; kaárire k'íinyána 'sleeping grass for calves;
ruhoóngore rw'íinyána 'calf room'

Except in few examples such inká 'cow' meaning 'stupid person' and icúkiro 'pile of dung' meaning 'fat and ugly person', introduced by Europeans during the colonial period to put down the Rwandan culture.

IV. Colors

Kinyarwanda doesn't have basic terms for color. All color terms are nouns of objects with a particular color as shown in the following examples:

4. icyaátsi kibísi 'raw grass'>green ; urugina 'anthill'>red; igitáre 'rock'>white;
umukara 'mangoose/marten'>black; inzóbe 'swamp entelope'>light skin',
umuhoondo 'first milk of a cow which has just given birth'>yellow, uruvúuzo
'dregs of sorghum beer'>gray, imibiri yóombí 'both bodies'> dark brown person,

The majority of color names come from the color of the cow's coat. All the following color terms referred originally to the color of cows' coat only.

5. umuseengo 'brown with white spots', igaaju 'brown'(igaaju ry'íntukura 'red
brown'/igaaju ry'íntamu 'light brown'), ibihogó 'brown' (ibihogó bitosé 'wet
brown'>'dark brown'), isiine 'violet', urwíiruúngu 'ash color'(urwíiruúngu
rw'úmugórooba 'ash color of evening'>'dark ash', urwíiruúngu rw'ámaárwa 'ash
color of sorghum beer'>brown ash'), ubugoóndo 'white with black spots',
ikibaámba 'black with white spots'.

Goats and dogs have their own color names also. Thus umutamu refers to 'light brown' for goats, uruhuúga 'black over white' for both he-goats and dogs.

V. Greeting expressions:

Greeting expressions are either questions asking how the person is or wishes.

6. Uri aaho ? 'You are there?'> Hi!
Waramutse (hó) ? 'Did you spend the night alive?'>Good morning!
Wiiriwe (hó) ? 'Did you survive the day?'>Good afternoon!
Gira abáana ! 'Have children'!

The most common are the ones wishing people plenty of cows:

7. Gira inká ! 'Have cows'! >Greetings!
Amashyó ! 'Herds of cows'! >Greetings!

The reply to the preceding greeting expression is:

8. Amashoongoré ! 'A lot of female herds'!

VI. Exclamations and swear expressions

All exclamations and swear expressions are about cows. Traditionally, Rwandans swore by the name of the king or the person who gave them a cow or somebody very special such as a father or a best friend. Instead of mentioning the name of the person who gave the cow, other indexical information such the cow's name, the type of cow, the place where it was given, the time or the circumstances in which the cow was obtained might be uttered instead as indicated in the following examples.

9. Aahá uwaámpaaye inká! 'Impossible the one who gave me a cow'
Inká nzíizá! 'Beautiful cow'
Inshoóngore ! 'Majestic (cow)'
Yaámpaaye inká! 'He gave me a cow'
Rudáhigwá twáatáramye ! 'Rudahigwa when we were in a party together'
I Nyaánza twáatáramye! 'At Nyanza when we were at a party
' Rukabú túri i Mwiíma! 'Rukabu when we were at Mwima'

All these expressions are equivalent to the English counterparts : 'My god'! Jesus Christ'!

VII. Daytime expressions

Rwanda was both an agricultural and pastoral society. Expressions having to do with both agriculture and cattle are used to refer to day time expressions. The cattle expressions are more frequent, however. Here are some examples.

10. inká zikamwa 'when the cows are being milked'>early in the morning
inká zahutse 'when cows go out to graze'> time between seven and eight in the
inká zímenyereye urwuri 'When cows are accustomed to the pasture'>time
between 10 and 11 am
inká zíshootse 'when cows go to drink'> time between one and two pm
inká zíkutuse 'when cows get out of the watering place'> time after two pm
kibeerinká 'time suitable for cows'>sunset
inká ziíasashye 'when cows return home'>time around six pm
inká zíhuumuje 'when cows make home smell good'>time after eight pm after

VIII. Use of euphemisms

When referring to cows, the king and the drum such as body parts, use, state, activities etc, special linguistic expressions are used and regular ones are avoided (euphemism).

11. the milk gourd and milk wooden cup don't break gusáduka, 'they smile' guseka
cows don't defecate kunnya , 'they throw away dung' gutá amasé
cow's anus is 'a stomach of dung' inda y'ámagaanga
to hang a milk gourd or jar is 'to put it on a leash' kujíisha
to buy a milk gourd or milk wooden cup is 'to pay bridewealth' gukóosha
to finish milking is 'to cause to smell good' guhúumuza
the cow doesn't conceive, 'it goes on the throne' kwíima
the cow doesn't go into heat, 'it waits for'/'guards' kuriinda
the cow does not get pregnant, 'it receives people as clients' guháka
the cow does not stop giving milk, 'it cooks' gutéeka .
A bull is not killed to be replaced by another one, 'it is taken out of the watering
place' gukúuza imfíizi

IX. Morphological metaphorical "cowization"

In Kinyarwanda and other Bantu languages, the majority of nouns which refer to human beings belong to class 1 and 2, singular and plural, respectively. In Kinyarwanda, no noun from other semantic categories are found in these two classes. There are many nouns which refer to human beings which are found in 7 and 8, however, where the majority of inanimate objects are found. Here are some examples:

12. ikireémba 'impotent', igikuri 'dwarf', igisaambo 'crook', igicúucu 'stupid',
igishéegabo 'virago', ikinege 'only child', igipfáamatwí 'deaf', ikiréma
'handicapped', ikiragi 'mute', ikinyándáaro 'out-of-wedlock'...

These are humans who are irresponsible, stupid, parasites, physically handicapped or who pose a threat to society belong. This is therefore a metaphoric use of prefix ki- which dehumanizes human beings and demotes them to the inanimate category:

The word inká 'cow' belongs to class 9, with -n- prefix. The majority of words referring to animal words (reptiles, birds) belong here. The majority of cow names are found in this class also:

13. Ingaángaare 'the strong one', Imbaanzamihigo'the one who starts the challenges',
Inshoóngore 'the very beautiful one', Inkuúumburwa 'the one who is always
missed', Inyamíbwa 'the trustable', Indaángamirwa 'the one that is looked up'.

Most of the praise-words are found in this class:

14. indaátwa 'the one ought to be praised', imparirwakurusha 'the one who has all
the challenges', inyamámare 'the famous one', intáriindwá 'the one that cannot
be guarded against', intágaanzwá 'the one that cannot be defeated', inkootanyi
'great fighter', ingirakamaro 'the useful one', indáhemúka 'the one who is
never unfaithful', inyaangamugayo 'the one who hates scorn', imfúra 'the
noble one', inkuúndwaakazi 'the cherished one', indáshyikíirwa 'the

Whereas the use of the use the prefix -ki- is a metaphoric demotion, the use of -n- is a metaphoric promotion.

X. Cultural relativity and linguistic determinism

Like in other pastoral societies such as the Fulani of West Africa and the Masai of East Africa or the Nilotic people of Sudan (Evans-Pritchard 1940, 1948, 1960, 1962), the cow in Rwanda is highly valued. This is reflected in all aspects of Rwandan life: art, music, poetry, games, oral literature, etc. There are two types of tradional poetry in Rwanda : court or elite poetry (Kagame, 1969 and Coupez and Kamanzi, 1970) and folk poetry. This court poetry which was traditionally performed at the king's palace consisted of three genres: dynastic poetry (ubusízi ), panegyric poetry (ibyíivugo ) and pastoral poetry (amazína y'íinká ) . All these genres of poetry were praise-poetry for the king, national heroes and great warriors, and royal cows, respectively. According to Kagame, pastoral poetry was the highest ranked. Cows had also call praise-poems (Ibihamagaro by'íinká ) which herders recited during the cow parade or when they were called to the watering place. There are also cow songs (amahaamba, amajurií and amayeengayeengo ) which are sung when they are returning home in the evening, or when they are drinking or grazing. They were also sung at parties.
Regular folk songs use cows as themes or motifs, too. The latest audio-tape, Amahoro "Peace" (1998), of Cécile Kayirebwa, the superstar of the Rwandan music, includes Urubamby-ingwe 'what pegs the leopard's skin', a very beautiful melody which praises cow pastures and drinking places. The refrain of this song is amaazi ya nyaanja 'delicious fresh water'. One of the songs of the Rwandan greatest poet and sing-song writer, Cyprien Rugamba, killed in the 1994 Tutsi genocide, is Ijana rya Bisangwa "the hundred cows of Bisangwa".
In regular poetry, cow metaphors and motifs abound as well. In all genres of Kinyarwanda oral literature (folktales, riddles, children's literature, proverbs), cows are recurrent motifs.
Cow metaphors are used in folk games especially igisoro (African stone game) and children's games. In igisoro, the players try to capture each other's "cows" inká and one can tell that somebody is going to lose when his or her "cows" start becoming 'a line of calves' urunyána . The player usually can start the game from any hole of the igisoro board which has more than one stone inká at least , moving all of them , putting one stone in each hole from the one on the right. If those holes are empty, moving the stones creates urunyána because there will be only one "cow" in each hole which cannot be removed and played in the next moves.
Cow metaphors are seen in folk dance: Women imitate the grace and the elegance of cows and they always raise their arms to imitate the elegant Rwandan cows' long horns. At important events, women dancers wear decorative small light sticks called imihehá 'straws' on their temples and so do cows during cow parade. Women at the royal court wore these decorative objects, also. Male dancers (intoóre ) also execute a dance called inká 'cow' and many dances end by dancers 'falling in the cow' kugwa muu nká. Intoóre dancers also had highly valued cow tattoes on the chest in the shape of cow horns to make the dance performance more spectacular.
Many Rwandan names refer to cows (Kimenyi, 1989) as some of these examples attest: Nkurikiyinka 'I am following cows'; Nshokeyinka 'I am taking cows to a watering place'; Nshunguyinka 'I am coming to the rescue of cows'; Harerinka 'Only cows can raise'; Mutumwinka 'The one who is sent to bring a cow', Rukeribuga 'the one who goes early in the morning to the cow watering' etc. Like the military, cows also participate in the parade kubyúukuruka at important ceremonies (king touring the country, visit of foreign dignitaries, wedding ceremonies).
The cow social structure mirrored the society social organization. The country was divided into provinces which coincided with the military companies. Most of the province names came from the name of the military company: Nyaruguru , Imvejuru, Bashumba Nyakare, Buhanda-Ndara. Cows living in these respective provinces had also distinct names. As each province had its military leader, cows also had their leader known as Inká y'Indaátwa 'The etite cow'. It is usualy this elite cow that poets composed praise-poems for. Here are some examples below from Kagame, 1963:

15. Umutwe w'Ingabo Umutwe w'Inka
(Military Company) (Corresponding Cow Company)
Abashakamba Umuhozi
Uruyange Ingeyo
Imvejuru Inkabuzima
Nyaruguru Inkondera
Nyakare Ibyiza
Indara Amarebe
Impamakwica Ingaju z'i Giseke
Abarasa Ingaju z'i Sakara
Intaganzwa Uruyenzi

Cows were treated exactly like warriors, not only in participating in parades but also in having the same type of names as mililatry companies, being objects of inspiration for poets, having praise-poems, praise call-names and so on. Because they were considered as warriors in the pastoral poetry, two moieties had been created for this purpose. Each cow belonged either to the Ibihogo 'light brown' moiety or Amagaaju 'dark brown'. The moieties' names didn't have anything to do with color, however, (Kagame, 1963 ) but with their respective origin. Indigenous cows of Rwanda belonged to the moeity, Ibihogó whereas those obtained abroad as war spoils, automatically belonged to the Amagaaju. Since in the pastoral poetry, the antagonists are cows, the poet had to make sure that the cow he was composing a poem for didn't have an adversary from the same moiety.
Cows play a very important role in the culture. They are used for bridewealth inkwáano . They are given as rewards for accomplishment, services or a sign of appreciation and friendship. The society depended on every thing from the cow. The skin was used as bed sheet, drum cover, clothing and as a baby-carrier ingobyi. The butter was used for cooking and robbing the body and curing wounds, urine for medicine and washing certain ustensils, wet dung as a glue for baskets, fertilizer and firewood and in construction , while horns were used for pipe straws. Nothing from the cow was wasted. It was to the Rwandans what was the buffalo, the icon of the Plains Indians and the enduring icon of the American West because it, too, provided everything to the Plains Indians. For American Indians the buffalo was only second to Mother Earth (Callenbach, 1996, Matthews, 1992). The Rwandan cow, however, is more than the Plains Indians buffalo. First because it was domesticated. Second because of its symbiotic relationship with the society and what the society does to show its high status in the society fabric. In a nutshell, the Rwandan cow is both a mother and an amazon because the society depended on it for everything, for its gentleness, its grace, its elegance and also for its warrior-like qualities. All these examples clearly support the linguistic and cultural relativity hypothesis.
Not only does the cow vocabulary reflect the Rwandan culture but it also affects it. It shapes the way they look at the world they live in. In this cow-centric society, people see the world around them in terms of cows, by cow standards or in relation and association with the cow. The folk saying " If the hammer is the only tool you have everything starts to look like a nail", seems to be valid in this culture. When Rwandans see a green hill they automatically associate it with being graced by cows grazing it. A quiet valley is seen as a place where cows should be resting. A clear water river makes people feeling thirsty for the cows.

XI. From icon to symbol

Cow linguistic expressions support Peirce's theory of semiotics which classifies signs and structures into three categories namely icons, indices and symbols. Icons occur also in three categories: images, diagrams and metaphors. Images refer to sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. Sound symbolism, onomatopeias and reduplication are good examples of images. Diagrams entail an isomorphism, a one-to-one relationship between the sign and the object. Morphology and syntax are diagrammatic icons.
There are three types of indices also namely symptoms, signals and metonymies. Symptoms as the clinical metaphor entails are warning signs, underlying causes.
In language something illustrating this concept would perhaps be something like the question marker je, in Kiswahili, which always occurs in the sentence initial position, to let the hearer know that the speaker is about to ask a question. Signals give spatio-temporal information and actors (speaker/hearer) involved in the speech event. Deictic expressions such now, then, here, there are signals. The majority of signs are symbols. Peirce refers to these as 'amputed signs' because of the opacity in the relationship between the signifier and the signified. This is because the sign has been deiconized or deindexized. Deiconization in the majority of cases is due to phonetic shrinking whereas deindexication is caused by cultural change. The majority of expressions as expressions given earlier show such as color terms, metaphors and many idiomatic expressions entered the language as icons, because of the similarity between the referent expressed by the cow linguistic expression and other referents. Other expressions such as the daytime expressions were indexical (metonymic) because of the association between cow activities and the time of the day. The culture has changed, however. Many people don't have cows anymore, others live in cities or abroad where there are no cows. What is interesting, however, is that even though the culture has changed, the language has remained the same. In the past, people swore and uttered exclamations by using the name of the person from whom they received a cow, the name of the cow, the color of the cow, or the circumstances in which the cow was received. Today the same type of expressions are still being used when clearly no cow or cow donor is involved. The majority of these cow metaphors are "dead metaphors". Others have thus been deiconized, becoming opaque thus reaching the symbolic level as predicted in Peirce's semiotics.
The fact that Kinyarwanda uses a lot of cow metaphors is not surprising since the cow is indeed a cultural icon. Metaphors are drawn from linguistic expressions which relate to basic human experiences. Some of these metaphors are universal: concretization, anthropocentrism, space. Others are cultural specific such as cultural icons which might come from local fauna, flora or artifacts. The American car for instance has contributed a lot of metaphors and idioms to the English language such as to be in the fast lane, to be in the driver's seat, to be in the back seat, to put a pedal to the metal, a bumpy road ahead, easy ride, to get a free ride, etc. with the latest expression the information superhighway referring to the internet and the world wide web (Kimenyi, 1985). This is, because the car plays a very important role also in the American society.

XII. Cow metaphors and cognitive linguistics

The use of cow metaphors in Kinyarwanda also lends support to the work being done in cognitive linguistics (Lakoff and Johnson 1980 and 1999). These metaphors are not just tropes but conceptual metaphors as well. Live and dead metaphors entail a similarity (physical or functional) with the referent in the primary plane of expression. Conceptual metaphors, on the other hand, are used to help speakers understand new concepts such as space locations words to express states, movement expressions to express activities, destinations vocabulary to refer to purposes or journey metaphor to refer to life (Kimenyi (ms), Lakoff and Johnson 1980 and 1999). The contribution of cognitive linguistics, the study of the unconscious mind, has been the discovery of the "metaphorical thought" and "unconscious metaphors" (Lakoff and Johnson 1980 and 1999) used in everyday language. Some of the metaphors are known by native speakers to be metaphors but many are unconscious and don't have any similarity whatsoever with cows. It is thus not surprising that cow vocabulary be in the category of these primary conceptual metaphors in Kinyarwanda knowing the role cows play in the Rwandan culture. Some of these conceptual cow metaphors are the warrior is a cow, the woman is a cow and the dancer is a cow.
That a warrior is a cow metaphor was shown in section IX where it is indicated that cows and warriors have the same praise-names: such as ingaángaare 'strong one, imbaanzamihigo 'the one who starts challenges', indáshyikíirwa 'unreachable', intágaanzwá 'invincible', inkootanyi 'great warrior', inyamámare 'famous'. The same words used to refer to cows are used to refer to warriors also. A great warrior is called impfíizi 'bull'. A handisome warrior is séebihogo 'brown cow'.The warrior's activities are also referred to by using cow vocabulary as well. When he goes to the war front he is 'going to the cow watering well' gushooka. He goes there 'with cows's speed and energy' isibo. His weapons (bows, spears, swords) 'graze' kuríisha when they are used to kill the enemy. When he is using his spears to fight the enemy, he is 'watering them at the cow drinking well' kwuuhira amacúmu. When he recites his praise-poem, he 'bellows like a bull' kwíivuga and his praise-poem 'mooes for the calf' kuvumeera, that is resonates harmoniously and rhythmically.
The study of cow metaphors show how culture and the environment affect people's perception and view of the world they live in and that thought cannot exist independently of human experience. All these findings go along with Peirce's theory of the genesis and dynamism of signs and structures and the claims of cognitive linguistics about the role of the body and environment in the creation and comprehension of metaphors.

*I would like to express my gratitude to two anonymous reviewers of Anthropologidal Linguistics for their comments and suggestions.


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