EDITORS: Zanotto, Mara Sophia; Cameron,Lynne; Cavalcanti, Marilda C.
TITLE: Confronting Metaphor in Use
SUBTITLE: An applied linguistic approach
SERIES: Pragmatics & Beyond New Series 173
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
Mareike Buss, Institute of Linguistics and Communication Studies (ISK), RWTH
Aachen University, Germany
This volume is an applied linguistic contribution to metaphor studies. It
comprises a selection of 14 papers that were presented at the 2002 conference
''Metaphor in Language and Thought'' in Sao Paolo, Brazil. The editors summarize
its overall purpose as follows: ''It is timely for researchers to approach
metaphor as social and situated, as a matter of language and discourse, and not
just as a matter of thought'' (1). The theoretical and empirical focus of the
volume lies, hence, on naturally occurring metaphors in discourse, which are
analyzed through qualitative and quantitative methods. The volume is subdivided
into four parts with, respectively, a more theoretical focus (i.e. metaphors in
different medial settings), a methodological focus (i.e. metaphor in corpora),
and, in the last two parts, a more strictly applied linguistic focus (i.e.
metaphor in language education and professional development).
In addition to giving a thematic overview of the contents and structure of the
volume, the editors' introduction presents the fundamental theoretical
assumptions and methodological principles that underlie all contributions to the
volume. The editors consider ''applied linguistics'' a field of research that is
committed to studying language use in different medial settings (spoken,
written, and computer-mediated) and socio-cultural contexts (e.g. foreign
language education, workplace communication, public and professional discourse).
Rhetorical figures such as metaphor and metonymy are understood as cognitive and
linguistic phenomena, whose primary, natural 'habitat' is discourse. Thus, an
applied linguistic perspective on metaphor and metonymy allows retracing and
accounting for the stabilization and variation of figurative patterns in
different contexts of language use.
Part I ''Investigating the nature of metaphor in use'' contains four papers that
explore the use of metaphors on the micro-level of spoken or written linguistic
Maria Sophia Zanotto and Dieli Vesaro Palma reconstruct the interpretations of a
modern Brazilian poem by three different groups of readers. The data, elicited
through the ''Group Think-Aloud technique'' (p. 16), documents the processes of
meaning construction that are involved in the social readings. The authors show
in detail how the groups construct the meaning of both single figures and the
poem as a whole on the basis of multiple metonymic and metaphoric readings. Even
though the interpretations of the different groups vary to a certain extent, a
surprisingly coherent network of meaning emerges that can be explained with
reference to the broader cultural context in which the poem is embedded.
Lynne Cameron analyzes metaphor shifting in talk-in-interaction. Her examples
are drawn from two different discursive contexts, classroom and conciliation
talk, her data being transcripts of talk sequences. She identifies and discusses
three types of metaphor shifting: vehicle re-deployment, vehicle development,
and vehicle literalization. Vehicle re-deployment consists in reapplying a
metaphorical vehicle to another topic, while vehicle development implies a shift
in the domain of the vehicle, not the topic; it is achieved by vehicle
repetition, relexicalization, explication, or contrast. Vehicle literalization
occurs when a so-called 'bridge term' is used that is connected with both the
vehicle and the topic domain, thus allowing for a semantic oscillation between
the literal and the metaphorical.
Frank Boers and Hélène Stengers examine the lexical composition of metaphorical
idioms in English, Dutch, and Spanish, the data being a corpus of manually
extracted items from idiom dictionaries. The authors argue that the
stabilization of metaphorical expressions involved in the formation of
metaphorical idioms is not only semantically but also phonologically driven. On
the one hand, the relative frequency of certain source domains seems to be due
to the cultural salience of these domains. On the other hand, they suggest that
the selection of specific lexical items from the source domains is
phonologically motivated, especially by alliteration and assonance.
Graham Low investigates how reviewers of academic books position themselves with
respect to their readers as well as to the authors of the reviewed books.
Positioning is achieved by using different linguistic devices, inter alia
metaphor. However, his analysis of 20 reviews leads him to the conclusion that
metaphor plays a less systematic and important role in this genre than expected.
The four papers in part II ''Examining metaphor in corpora'' deal with the
dynamics of metaphor formation and stabilization that can be made visible
through the investigation of larger corpora.
Veronika Koller analyzes two highly frequent, yet contradictory metaphorizations
of the marketer-consumer relationship in contemporary marketing discourse, i.e.
the WAR and the RELATIONSHIP metaphor. Combining quantitative and qualitative
methodologies she explores the specific elaborations as well as the ideological
underpinnings of these metaphor complexes in secondary and in primary marketing
discourse. The analysis of a first corpus (circa 160 000 words) shows that the
WAR metaphor dominates the secondary marketing discourse both in absolute
numbers and in terms of metaphorical productivity. In primary marketing
discourse, however, the RELATIONSHIP metaphor prevails, as is illustrated
through a qualitative analysis of multimodal metaphors in advertisements.
Tony Berber Sardinha addresses the topic of metaphor probability, i.e. the
likelihood of a lexical item being used metaphorically in a particular corpus.
He examines two corpora with regard to metaphor probability, a smaller
register-specific corpus of teleconference transcripts from the financial domain
(circa 85 000 words) and a large register-diversified corpus (''Banco de
Portoguês'', circa 223 million words). Since both corpora exhibit a high or
moderately high probability of metaphorical language use, Berber Sardinha
empirically undermines the widely held view that metaphors are not always the
''default option in language'' (142) and suggests, quite on the contrary, that
there is often no way of avoiding metaphorical language use.
Alice Deignan discusses how conceptual metaphor theory (CMT) and corpus
linguistic research complement each other. CMT has been one of the most
influential paradigms in metaphor studies during the last 30 years; yet, its
theoretical claims have not always been supported by sound empirical evidence.
Deignan convincingly shows that both choice and use of data in this tradition
appear somewhat problematic from a corpus-linguistic perspective: the examples
are often invented, they are presented without sufficient context-information,
and hence seem to be ambiguous. Furthermore, phenomena such as the scope of
conceptual metaphors or the existence of fixed metaphorical expressions have to
be reconsidered in the light of corpus-linguistic findings.
In a similar vein as Deignan, Solange Vereza advocates the use of
corpus-linguistic methods in metaphor studies. As an example she explores
metaphorical uses of ''war'' in an analysis of its collocational patterns that are
investigated in a collocational database. It is shown that ''war'' combined with
its most frequent adjectival or nominal collocates is commonly used
non-metaphorically. However, ''war'' in combination with locational or temporal
prepositional collocates such as ''between'', ''against'', ''during'', ''before'' etc.
exhibits different patterns of distribution with regard to metaphorical and
Part III ''Understanding metaphor in language education'' consists of two papers
that analyze the mechanisms of how speakers develop 'metaphorical competence' in
foreign language acquisition.
Ana M. Piquer-Piriz investigates children's comprehension strategies of
figurative language. For her study, small groups of 7-year-old Spanish learners
of English as a second language were presented with a task in which they were
asked to interpret three unknown idiomatic expressions in English involving
figurative extensions of HAND (''give me a hand'', ''the hands of a watch/clock'',
''hand it to me''). The obtained data is analyzed qualitatively and
quantitatively. It is demonstrated that also in their second language children
make extensive use of figurative reasoning strategies, both metonymical and
metaphorical, in order to predict the meaning of unknown semantic extensions.
Jeanette Littlemore focuses on metaphor comprehension strategies employed by
adult foreign language learners. The effectiveness and the import of different
strategies were tested in a written comprehension task. It is shown that the
interpretation of figurative expressions is influenced by three factors: the
concreteness or imageability of a word, the presence of contextual clues, and
the cognitive style of the speaker (verbalizer vs. imager). Metaphorical
extension strategies prove to be very productive in the process of foreign
language learning and should be included in every foreign language teaching
The four papers in part IV ''Using metaphor as a tool in professional
development'' explore metaphor as an analytic tool in professional contexts, more
specifically in teacher education and business communication.
Joao A. Telles reconstructs the use of metaphor in narrative interviews. He
presents the results of a hermeneutical-phenomenological case study of an
individual teacher. His analysis shows how individual identity, biographical
coherence as well as professional self-concept are constructed through the use
of recurrent metaphorical patterns, in this case a JOURNEY metaphor and an
Marilda C. Cavalcanti and Ana Cecilia Bizon investigate the use of metaphors in
chatroom conversations that were part of an online diploma course for teachers
in Brazil. The participants of the course had only superficial knowledge of the
technology they were supposed to use. In the analyzed chatroom conversations,
metaphors are used to create emotional group cohesion and to position the
different individuals within the group. Furthermore, metaphors seem to provide a
face-saving way of criticizing others and asking for help.
Fernanda Coelho Liberali outlines the use of metaphors and metonymies in the
reflective reconstruction of difficult social and professional settings. The
data was collected through questionnaires in a professional development course
for teachers in Sao Paolo, Brazil. It is shown that the teachers make sense of
their social as well as professional context by using metaphors and metonymies
that carry evaluative connotations. These connotations can be critically
reconstructed, reflected, and discussed, thus providing a key to a deeper
understanding of one's individual situation. The critical reflection of
figurative language is an important instrument in processes of personal and
Maximina M. Freire explores the potential of the metaphor of ''PROFESSIONAL
KNOWLEDGE LANDSCAPES'' for the reflection and analysis of computer-mediated
business communication. On the one hand, this metaphor helps professionals to
gain particular insights into their communicative practices and experiences. On
the other hand, it is also a useful tool for the analysis of business communication.
The volume discusses rhetorical figures such as metaphor and metonymy from a
cognitive and applied linguistic perspective. It is well structured, carefully
edited, and contains a helpful author and subject index. One of its most
stimulating aspects is its commitment to language use and hence ''real data,''
which is analyzed in order to substantiate or redress some theoretical claims
put forward in previous cognitive metaphor studies (cf. also Deignan 2005; Steen
2007; Stefanowitsch & Gries 2006). Another very positive aspect of the volume is
the methodological diversity that it displays: qualitative methods (hermeneutic,
phenomenological, and sociological), quantitative methods (corpus-linguistic and
experimental), and in some cases a combination of both. I think that this
diversity and the overall high quality of the research presented in this volume
reflect how metaphor studies have grown in the last 15 years to become a
full-fledged linguistic subdiscipline.
From a theoretical perspective, the studies presented on ''discourse metaphors''
(cf. Zinken, Hellsten & Nerlich 2008), i.e. metaphorical patterns emerging on
the level of discourse, are very interesting (Cameron, Low, Koller, Telles,
Cavalcanti/Bizon, Coelho Liberali). These studies give an insight into the
dynamics of metaphor formation and change in spoken, written, and
computer-mediated discourse. Since cognitive-linguistic researchers have only
started to systematically analyze these patterns, there is not yet an
established consistent terminology: Cameron, for instance, describes them as
''systematic metaphors,'' Low as ''recurrent metaphors,'' and Koller as ''metaphor
complexes.'' It is clear, however, that discourse metaphors differ significantly
from single-utterance-metaphors in that they organize the argumentative
structure and contribute to the cohesion of single texts or even entire discourses.
Furthermore, this volume emphasizes the socio-cultural diversity of figurative
language use without reducing this diversity to a mere ''surface phenomenon.''
Especially the finer-grained micro-analyses show how important it is to take
into account the socio-cultural background of the readers/interpreters of
figurative language (cf. Zanotto/Palma, Piquer-Piriz, Littlemore, Freire). It is
only against the backdrop of specific social and cultural practices that the
evaluative implications or ideological dimensions of metaphor use can be
critically analyzed and reflected (cf. Koller, Coelho Liberali).
Still, I would also like to add a final critical remark concerning the quality
of some of the papers in the volume. In my opinion, it is generally a challenge
for micro-analytical studies of social, communicational, and linguistic
practices to maintain the right balance between the in-depth analysis of single
phenomena and the larger theoretical picture that they contribute to. Most of
the papers in this volume have done a great job at keeping this balance;
however, some did less so. I think that the overall quality of the volume would
have profited significantly, if merely descriptive accounts had not been
included. The excellent introduction to the volume, however, compensates for
these occasional lapses of theoretical reflection.
All in all, this volume is an important contribution to the field of metaphor
studies both from a theoretical and an empirical perspective. It is of great
interest not only for scholars and graduate students in this field, but also for
scholars in education and workplace communication studies.
Deignan, Alice. (2005). _Metaphor and Corpus Linguistics_. Amsterdam,
Steen, Gerard J. (2007). _Finding Metaphor in Grammar and Usage: A
Methodological Analysis_. Amsterdam, Philadelphia: Benjamins.
Stefanowitsch, Anatol & Stefan Th. Gries (eds.) (2006). _Corpus-based Approaches
to Metaphor and Metonymy_. Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
Zinken, Jörg; Iina Hellsten & Brigitte Nerlich (2008). Discourse metaphors. In
Frank, Roslyn M.; René Dirven; Tom Ziemke & Enrique Bernádez (eds.), _Body,
Language and Mind 2: Sociocultural Situatedness_. Berlin, New York: Mouton de
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Mareike Buss is affiliated with the Institute of Linguistics and Communication
Studies (ISK), RWTH Aachen University, Germany. She is currently finishing her
PhD thesis about 'iteration' as the central semiotic mechanism governing the
interaction of language system and language use. Her research is concerned with
metaphor studies, functional and usage-based models of language, semiotics and
historiography of (modern) linguistics.