This link may be one of physical contguity, but not necessarily.
Metonymy is a figure of speech that involves transferring a name from one thing to another on the basis of certain typical kinds of relations: designating the effect with the cause, the whole with a part, the contents with its container.
An example would be "a sail on the horizon" for "a ship on the horizon."
Metonymy is a fundamental notion supporting Lacan's thesis that "the unconscious is structured like a language."
It is analogous with the Freudian concept of "displacement" and refers to the problematic of desire and demand.
However, Lacan's use of the term owes little to this definition apart from the notionn of contiguity, since it is inspired by the work of Roman Jakobson, who established an opposition between metonymy and metaphor.
(For example, in the sentence 'I am happy,' the relation between the words 'I' and 'am' is a metonymic relation, whereas the possibility of substituting 'sad' for 'happy' depends on the metaphoric relation between these two terms.)
Metonymy thus concerns the ways in which signifiers can be combined/linked in a single [[signifying chain ('horizontal' relations), whereas metaphor concerns the ways in which a signifier in one signifying chain may be substituted for a signifier in another chain ('vertical' relations).
This formula is to be read as follows.
The sign = is to be read 'is congruent with'.
Thus the whole formula reads: "the signifying function of the connection of the signifier with the signifier is congruent with maintenance of the bar."
Metonymy and Desire
Desire is also characterized by exactly the same never-ending process of continual deferral; since desire is always "Desire for something else," as soon as the object of desire is attained, it is no longer desirable, and the subject's desire fixes on another object.
Metonymy and Displacement
However, he differs from Jakobson over the precise nature of this link.
Just as displacement is logically prior to condensation, so metonymy is the condition for metaphor, because "the coordination of signifiers has to be possible before transferences of the signified are able to take place."
- Jakobson 1956
- Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p.164
- Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p.167
- Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p.175
- Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book III. The Psychoses, 1955-56. Trans. Russell Grigg. London: Routledge, 1993. p.229