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Review of  Metaphor

Reviewer: Wendy Anderson
Book Title: Metaphor
Book Author: Zoltan Kovecses
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Linguistic Field(s): Psycholinguistics
Issue Number: 21.3040

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AUTHOR: Kövecses, Zoltán
TITLE: Metaphor
SUBTITLE: A Practical Introduction, Second Edition
PUBLISHER: Oxford University Press
YEAR: 2010

Wendy Anderson, Department of English Language, University of Glasgow, UK


This is the second edition of Kövecses' classic introduction to metaphor. A
review of the first edition (2002) appeared on Linguist List 13.1703. This
edition has been thoroughly updated to take account of continuing work on
metaphor since the first edition, and also contains two new chapters, on
'Cognitive models, metaphors, and embodiment' (the new Chapter 8), and
'Metaphors in discourse' (Chapter 18). There are also new exercises.

The book contains 19 short chapters. Each is closely focused on a particular
aspect of metaphor, although connections between chapters are also made evident,
both in the discussion and in recurring examples. This lends the book a strong
cohesiveness. Each chapter concludes with a short summary, helpful notes on
further reading, and a number of exercises.

For the purposes of summarising the content, it is useful to group chapters into
three main parts: Chapters 1-5 set out the foundations, introducing the notion
of metaphor, illustrating it through common source and target domains,
identifying types of metaphor and contextualising the phenomenon in general
language, literary language and in its various non-linguistic realizations.
Chapters 6-11 deal in depth with conceptual metaphor, focusing in turn on the
basis of metaphor (similarity, experiential basis and motivation), the partial
nature of mapping, the notion of embodiment, entailments, the interactions of
source and target domains, and broader systems of conceptual metaphors. Chapters
12-18, while very broad-ranging, each extend the scope of the discussion in
different directions and begin to apply these theoretical notions. They look at
metonymy, the questions of universality and cultural variation, applications of
conceptual metaphor theory to language learning, the relationship between
metaphor/metonymy and concepts such as polysemy, semantic change and grammar,
the relationship with Conceptual Blends, and metaphors in discourse. Finally
Chapter 19 asks 'How does all this hang together?' and identifies fruitful
angles for future research.

Chapter 1, 'What is metaphor?,' explains the relevance of metaphor and describes
its scope, making a clear distinction between conceptual metaphor (that is, the
underlying mapping) and metaphorical linguistic expressions (the realizations of
conceptual metaphors in linguistic form). To illustrate the latter, Kövecses
sets out the recently introduced metaphor identification procedure (MIP, see
Pragglejaz Group 2007), and applies the procedure to the example 'He's without
direction in life.' The chapter also identifies the sets of questions which each
of the 17 chapters which follow will tackle.

Chapter 2, 'Common source and target domains,' draws on a number of resources
such as dictionaries of metaphor and thesauruses to identify the most common
domains used in metaphor, whether as source (e.g. human body, health and
illness, animals, plants, buildings) or target (e.g. emotions, morality,
politics, communication, religion). Kövecses notes that mappings are
directional, going from concrete to abstract, and are usually not reversible.
Chapter 3, 'Kinds of metaphor' centres around three broad types of conceptual
metaphor, structural, ontological and orientational, and also considers
metaphors with a basis in image-schemas. The interaction between generic and
specific level metaphors is introduced here and developed further in later
chapters, particularly Chapter 11.

Until this point, metaphor has been treated as a phenomenon of general language.
The next chapter focuses on metaphor in literature, demonstrating how literary
metaphors are based on everyday conventional metaphors and also considering the
relationship with personification, image metaphors, and 'megametaphors' or
extended metaphors. Chapter 5, on the other hand, looks beyond language to
explore where else metaphors manifest themselves, such as in films, advertising,
symbols, myths, politics, and gestures. The chapter draws these areas together
with a glance at exciting recent work in multimodal metaphor.

With the general nature and scope of metaphor established, the next few chapters
offer a more focused examination of aspects of conceptual metaphor. In Chapter
6, 'The basis of metaphor,' Kövecses looks at the constraints on metaphor
production, contrasting traditional approaches to metaphor which assumed a
pre-existing similarity between source and target, and cognitive approaches
which shift the emphasis to correlation in experience and perceived structural
similarity. The chapter is also brought up to date with a new overview of the
neural theory of metaphor (e.g. Lakoff 2008), which predicts, among other
things, that conceptual metaphors based on primary metaphors are more easily
learned, and that metaphorical processing will not take longer than
non-metaphorical processing.

Chapter 7, 'The partial nature of metaphorical mappings,' explores which aspects
of a source domain are used to understand which parts of a target, both
conventionally and in creative exploitations of the mapping. Much of the
discussion here is based around the example of the various source concepts which
pick out different aspects of the targets HAPPY/HAPPINESS/BEING HAPPY. The
exercises for this chapter ask the reader to apply the discussion to the target
SAD. Chapter 8, one of the new chapters in this edition, develops the example of
HAPPINESS further, in the broader context of the concept of EMOTION, and through
the more powerful lens provided by a combination of conceptual metaphor,
conceptual metonymy, related concepts (such as the concept of friendship
inherent in the concept of love), and prototypical cognitive models. Kövecses
argues that concepts of emotion, like many others, are strongly embodied in
human experience.

Chapter 9 follows on from some of the issues raised in Chapter 7 on the partial
nature of mapping, by considering 'Metaphorical entailments,' or the additional
knowledge about a source which is mapped onto a target. This draws on the
'invariance principle,' which ''blocks the mapping of knowledge that is not
coherent with the schematic or skeletal structure of the target concept'' (p.
131). The exercises here invite readers to identify entailments both in genuine
language (e.g. song lyrics) and decontextualised examples. The tenth chapter
continues the exploration of the complex nature of mappings, looking at the way
in which source concepts map onto multiple targets and the components of the
source domain which are conventionally mapped. This is further developed in
Chapter 11, 'Metaphor systems,' in which Kövecses uses the Great Chain of Being
and the Event Structure metaphors to demonstrate how metaphors are not
independent but are instead coherently organised.

Having now delved deeply into the nature of metaphor, in Chapters 12-18 the book
extends the discussion to closely related concepts and applications. Chapter 12
is the first of several that deal with the concept of metonymy, which Kövecses
notes is distinct from metaphor but ''related in several interesting ways'' (p.
171), as in cases where conceptual metaphors derive from conceptual metonymies.
With the partially metonymic character of metaphors which are embodied in human
experience now set out, Chapter 13 considers the extent to which metaphors can
be said to be universal. Again, examples are drawn from the concepts of
HAPPY/HAPPINESS, across eight genetically unrelated languages. Naturally only a
limited amount of evidence can be offered, but a main conclusion is that the
universality of some conceptual metaphors, especially generic ones, may be due
to their metonymic correlations. The opposite perspective, that of cultural
relativity, is the focus of Chapter 14, which continues to draw on concepts of
emotion to explore cross-cultural and within-culture variation in metaphors and
metonymies, and indeed in the choice between a metaphorical or a metonymic
mapping for a particular concept. Taking Chapters 13 and 14 together it can be
seen that both universality and relativity are significant in different respects.

Chapter 15 takes an applied view, explaining how conceptual metaphor theory can
contribute to the learning of idioms, expressions whose meaning cannot be
predicted from the sum of their parts. As shown by Kövecses and Szabó (1996),
learners perform better when learning idioms in a motivated way: conceptual
metaphor theory highlights the underlying motivation of idioms. Chapter 16
continues the consideration of how metaphor and metonymy interact with other
features of language, such as polysemy, semantic change, and grammar. Kövecses
proposes, for example, that denominal verbs can be analyzed as cases of
metonymic relationships. 'Author the book,' for example, can be analyzed as

Chapter 17, on 'Metaphors and blends,' has been significantly expanded in this
second edition to address recent developments in conceptual integration theory,
including Fauconnier and Turner's typology of blends (see Fauconnier and Turner
2002). The chapter also benefits from newly drawn network diagrams, which are
much clearer here than in the first edition.

The penultimate chapter, on 'Metaphor in discourse,' is the second new chapter.
It looks at three areas in particular, each very well supported by examples:
metaphorical coherence within and across discourse; contextual factors that
contribute to creativity, for example in using elements of a source domain which
are not typically mapped; and face-to-face discourse. This last topic draws
heavily on the work of Lynne Cameron (e.g. Cameron 2007, 2008). The chapter ends
by returning to the distinction between conceptual metaphor theory and
conceptual integration theory, illustrating this with examples from discourse
and in light of the discussion of the effect of context in this chapter.

Chapter 19, finally, tackles the question 'How does all this hang together?'
from three perspectives: that of the supraindividual level at which the
conceptual metaphors of a language are identified, the individual level where
language users draw on metaphor in online thinking, and the subindividual level,
which is particularly relevant for metaphors motivated by embodiment. Under the
heading of 'Some recent issues in the study of metaphor', Kövecses ends by
identifying possible areas of future research, and by outlining how the
different theoretical approaches fit together in a complementary manner.

The book ends with a concise and clearly expressed glossary, solutions to
exercises, bibliography, a general index, and an index of conceptual metaphors
and metonymies.


This is an excellent introduction to conceptual metaphor, one which
undergraduate students, graduate students, and general readers will find
accessible yet thought-provoking. This edition has been significantly updated
and improved, while retaining the features that have made it a well-loved book
for students, such as clear expression, interesting exercises with a useful key,
concise chapter summaries, and a very handy index of metaphors and metonymies.

As with any book that aims to survey broad concepts that draw on multiple
disciplines, there are always places where one might wish for greater detail. To
give just one example, this is the case with the newly-added overview of the
neural theory of metaphor in Chapter 6. Kövecses notes that it is only possible
here to give ''the barest outline'' of the theory (p. 87), which is a pity, as
there is not space in this outline to draw out the implications of the theory
for metaphor theory more generally. The chapter's further reading section does
give a few references, however, for readers who require a fuller treatment. This
topic has not been added to the index, although the index has been updated to
include the other new additions.

In most respects, however, even where the treatment of a topic is necessarily
brief, Kövecses manages to provide an excellent overview of the key points, and
outstanding contextualisation and illustration.


Cameron, L. (2007). Patterns of metaphor use in reconciliation talk. Discourse
and Society 18: 197-222.

Cameron, L. (2008). Metaphor and talk. In Raymond Gibbs, ed., The Cambridge
Handbook of Metaphor and Thought, 197-211. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Fauconnier, G. and Turner, M. (2002). The Way We Think. New York: Basic Books.

Kövecses, Z. and Szabó, P. (1996). Idioms: a view from cognitive linguistics.
Applied Linguistics 17(3): 326-355.

Lakoff, G. (2008). The neural theory of metaphor. In R. Gibbs, ed., The
Cambridge Handbook of Metaphor and Thought, 17-38. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.

Pragglejaz Group (2007). MIP: A method for identifying metaphorically used words
in discourse. Metaphor and Symbol 22(1): 1-39.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER Wendy Anderson is a Lecturer in the Department of English Language, University of Glasgow, Scotland. Her teaching and research interests include: semantics, corpus linguistics, English, Scots and French, and translation. Between 2004 and 2008, she was Research Assistant for the Scottish Corpus of Texts and Speech (SCOTS), and Corpus of Modern Scottish Writing projects, at the University of Glasgow. Recently, with John Corbett, also University of Glasgow, she published 'Exploring English with Online Corpora' (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009).

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