AUTHOR: Steen, Gerard J.
TITLE: Finding Metaphor in Grammar and Usage
SUBTITLE: A methodological analysis of theory and research
SERIES: Converging Evidence in Language and Communication Research
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
Danko Sipka, Arizona State University
The present monograph addresses a topic central to cognitive linguistics. Ever
since the seminal works of the discipline such as Lakoff and Johnson (1980) and
Langacker (1987, 1991) metaphor is front and center in this linguistic approach.
A wide range of metaphor-related data is currently being analyzed. The studies
cover a broad range of languages and various linguistic segments, and an array
of research techniques. Gerard J. Steen, a professor of Language Use and
Cognition at Free University in Amsterdam, Holland, is well established as one
of the researchers in the field – among other things, he supervised a research
project titled ''Metaphor in Discourse''. We thus have an established expert
addressing a central issue of a linguistic approach, but the significance of the
topic treated in the present book goes even beyond that fact. Unlike the so
called ''formal approaches'' (Minimalism and previous versions of generativism,
HPSG, OT, etc.), which maintain a high level of formalization while leaving
large spheres of human linguistic abilities unaccounted for, cognitive
linguistics is wide-encompassing yet rather low on formalization. The basic
question asked by a reader of the present book is thus if research on metaphor
can be formalized and even further, if cognitive linguistic can overcome its
obvious methodological disadvantages while retaining its broad coverage.
The declared goal of the book is stated somewhat more cautiously, as follows:
''Finding Metaphor in Grammar and Usage aims to map the field of this development
in theory and research from a methodological perspective'' ( back cover).
At the top level of its architecture, the book is divided into three parts and a
concluding chapter. The first part is titled ''Foundation'' and it contains a
general methodological framework of the monograph. The two subsequent parts,
''Finding Metaphor in Grammar'' and ''Finding Metaphor in Usage'' put the
aforementioned methodological apparatus at work in concrete investigation of
metaphor. At this and at all lower levels the book is superbly segmented and
clearly streamlined toward fulfilling its declared goal.
The first part (Foundations) comprises five chapters. The first chapter (Mapping
the field, pp. 3-26) establishes three major delineations: grammar versus usage,
language versus thought and symbol versus behavior and employs them as follows:
''Combining these contrasts leads to a 2*2*2 configuration, producing eight
distinct areas for locating different types of language research'' (Steen,
2007:4). Each of the eight fields in the grid generates its pertinent research
question, which creates the following list of questions the present monograph is
centered around (with each question being treated in one or two chapters in the
second and third part of the book):
1. When does a conventionalized linguistic form-meaning pairing count as
2. When does any linguistic form-meaning pairing in text and talk count as
3. When does a conceptual structure related to a conventionalized linguistic
form count as metaphorical?
4. When does a conceptual structure related to any linguistics form in text and
talk count as metaphorical?
5. When does the storing, acquisition or even loss of a conventionalized
linguistic form-meaning pairing count as metaphorical?
6. When does the production or reception in text or talk of any linguistic
form-meaning pairing count as metaphorical
7. When does the storing, acquisition, or even loss of a conceptual structure
related to a conventionalized linguistic form count as metaphorical?
8. When does the production or reception in text or talk of a conceptual
structure related to any linguistic form count as metaphorical?
The second chapter (pp. 27-46) addresses ''The deductive approach''. The author
emphasizes strong sides of deduction, primarily in the form of the Conceptual
Metaphor Theory, but he also cautions against confusing mere compatibility of
results with converging evidence.
''Conceptualization: Theoretical definitions'' is treated in Chapter 3 (pp.
47-72), which addresses four models of metaphor, emphasizing their mutual
differences. The two-domain approach, the many-space approach, the
class-inclusion approach, and the career of metaphor approach differ in the
number and nature of conceptual structures they involve, in the relations
between them, their range of conventionality, their view of metaphor in mind.
They furthermore differ in the range of linguistic and rhetorical form, their
focus on grammar and/or usage, as well as in their predictions about and
empirical evidence for cognitive processing.
Chapter 4 (Operationalization: Operational definitions, pp. 73-102) logically
follows from the previous chapter in that it attempts to translate previously
discussed theoretical concepts into operational conceptual tools. This chapter
discusses the criteria for metaphor identification, the units of analysis, and
the decision-making procedure. Here, just like in the previous analysis, the
author emphasizes the diversification of the field and impossibility of
establishing uniform criteria: ''In considering the operationalization of
metaphor, it should be kept in mind that there is not just one specific way of
operationalizing metaphor. The operational definition of metaphor depends on the
research area in which metaphor is investigated'' (Steen, 2007: 103).
The final chapter of the first part of the book (Application: Data collection
and analysis, pp. 103-132) draws the argument further toward applied research by
discussing data types, data collection and analysis.
The four chapters of the second part (Finding metaphor in grammar) are designed
to address the aforementioned questions 1,3,5, and 7. Chapter 6 (Linguistic
forms in grammar, p. 133-170) is centered around question 1 stated above (When
does a conventionalized linguistic form-meaning pairing count as metaphorical?).
No straightforward answer is offered. Rather, the answer depends on a number of
operational decisions being made while deploying introspective, observational,
and experimental methods.
Chapter 7 (Conceptual structures in grammar (1): Domains, pp. 171-200) and
Chapter 8 (Conceptual structures in grammar (2): Mappings, pp. 201-238) focus on
question 3 (When does a conceptual structure related to a conventionalized
linguistic form count as metaphorical?). Answering this question is a two step
process. First, two distinct conceptual domains are identified and discussed.
The problems here involve establishing the level of abstraction, selecting
polysemous lexemes, and deploying a descriptive framework. Second, the nature of
a mapping between these two domains is identified – this primarily involves
deciding on the relative salience of the two domains and establishing the level
of similarity required for a mapping.
The final chapter of the second part of the book (Cognitive processes and
products in grammar, pp. 229-263) tackles the aforementioned questions 5 and 7.
The author emphasizes specific features of this segment: ''The methodological
situation in the area of grammar as cognitive process and product is radically
different than in the area of grammar as symbolic system and structure. In
symbolic research, all three types of data collection play an important role,
and can produce evidence that may be compared with each other in order to see
whether it converges to the same conclusion. In the area of the behavioral
research of grammar, however, there is a clear scale of usefulness: experimental
research outranks observational research, while research by means of
introspective data collection raises questions about its function in research,
since it usually conflates data collection with theory formation or data
The first two chapters of the third part of the book (Linguistic forms and
conceptual structures in usage (1): Metaphorical language use, pp. 267-308 and
Linguistic forms and conceptual structures in usage (2): Other forms of
metaphor, pp. 309-344) address metaphor as a symbolic unit in usage (i.e.,
attempt to provide answers to the aforementioned questions 2 and 4). The author
points out the danger of large sets of usage data (especially in language
corpora) which, without a proper procedures in place can compromise the results.
He furthermore points to the forms of metaphor other than metaphorical language
and outlines the procedure to identify them.
The final chapter of the third part (Cognitive processes and products in usage,
pp. 345-378) discusses metaphor in usage approached as behavior (i.e., the
aforementioned questions 6 and 8). According to the author, it is imperative
that there exist operational definitions of the processes, cognitive units,
symbolic structures, and cognitive structures involved in the process.
The book is concluded by Chapter 13 (Evidence for metaphor in grammar and usage,
pp. 381-403), which summarizes the previous analysis by outlining the main
findings of the eight questions stated at its beginning. The author states the
following: ''My main aim in this book has been to tease apart a number of aspects
of metaphor identification in language which are frequently conflated in various
ways in contemporary empirical research'' (381). He further points out the
following: ''One of my main points has been to show that it is possible to
formulate general methodological guidelines of doing empirical research on
metaphor identification which go beyond most of the guidelines followed until
now, at least in a lot of linguistics'' (382) and ''Another main point in my
argument has been to recognize the need for an encompassing, systematic,
consistent and relevant ordering of the field in order to provide orientation to
many questions and issues that have to be addressed in the study of metaphor''
(290) and finally ''The third important theme of this book has been to emphasize
that the nature of converging evidence can be made more precise and open for
critical discussion'' (399).
Reading of this monograph will leave no doubt as to the fact that the author was
able to present his claims in a systematic anD efficient manner. The
architecture of the book consequently builds its arguments, the coverage of the
field (albeit restricted to just one approach, cognitive linguistics) is most
comprehensive, the conclusions are logically driven and clearly stated.
This book is an important step in increasing the level of methodological rigor
in metaphor research, and, more broadly, in cognitive linguistics. However, it
does not offer straightforward formal mechanisms (it does not even attempt to do
so), but rather points to general heuristics and possible pitfalls. With this
excellent book cognitive linguistics becomes more methodologically self-aware
however in its level of formalization still remains far-apart from formal
Lakoff, G. and M. Johnson. (1980) _Metaphors We Live by_. Chicago: Chicago
Langacker, R.W. (1987) _Foundations in cognitive Grammar, Vol. I: Theoretical
prerequisites_. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Langacker, R.W. (1991) _Foundations in cognitive Grammar, Vol. II: Descriptive
application_. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Danko Sipka is a professor of Slavic Languages at Arizona State University.