Metaphor in discourse

Lead Research Organisation: Lancaster University
Department Name: Linguistics and English Language


The study of metaphor has a long and venerable tradition, dating back at least to Greek and Roman antiquity. In recent years, advances in linguistics, psychology and philosophy have led to a resurgence of interest in metaphor. More specifically, scholars have pointed out that we systematically use conventional metaphorical expressions in everyday language (e.g. 'I'm at a crossroads in my life', 'She needs a new sense of direction'), and claimed that these patterns reflect conventional patterns of thought, known as 'conceptual metaphors' (e.g. LIFE IS A JOURNEY). This line of research has already inspired some important work on the conventional use of metaphor in a variety of genres, as well as on the novel use metaphor in literature. In particular, it is claimed that literary writers creatively exploit the metaphors that we all use in ordinary language. In my research, I investigate the forms and functions of metaphor in a range of genres belonging to a set of different socio-cultural domains, including literature, politics, science, education and advertising. I combine the close textual analysis of a representative sample of texts with the exploitation of large linguistic databases known as 'corpora'. My aim is to show the following:
That interplay between conventionality and creativity in the use of metaphor is a characteristic of many different genres and contexts of use, rather than being an exclusively or primarily literary phenomenon;
That, although metaphor has different dominant functions in different genres (e.g. persuasion in political speeches, explanation in educational materials, etc.), metaphorical expressions are used for a variety of purposes within individual texts and genres (e.g. in scientific articles metaphors are often used for the purposes of persuasion and humour as well as explanation);
`Those corpora provide an invaluable resource for the study of metaphor.
I will also point out the implications of my research for current metaphor theory, and particularly for current views on 'conceptual metaphors'.


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