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Review of  Finding Metaphor in Grammar and Usage

Reviewer: Stephen Pihlaja
Book Title: Finding Metaphor in Grammar and Usage
Book Author: Gerard J. Steen
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Cognitive Science
Issue Number: 21.556

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AUTHOR: Steen, Gerard J.
TITLE: Finding Metaphor in Grammar and Usage
SUBTITLE: A methodological analysis of theory and research
SERIES TITLE: Converging Evidence in Language and Communication Research 10
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
YEAR: 2009

Stephen Pihlaja, Faculty of English Language Studies, The Open University


Gerard Steen's ''Finding Metaphor in Grammar and Usage'' began as a joint project
with the noted cognitive linguist Ray Gibbs, but eventually became solely
Steen's work, focused on metaphor and language rather than on language and
thought. The resulting book is a comprehensive survey of the current state of
metaphor research. Steen takes issue with the tendency of metaphor researchers
to cross lines of enquiry between grammar and usage, language and thought, and
symbol and behaviour without careful consideration to the key differences in
these types of metaphor research. This book is then an attempt to lay out the
distinct forms of metaphor research as Steen sees them, describe how research
into each distinct field has been undertaken, and critique current research.
Current areas of metaphor research are broken into eight broad categories:
first, metaphor in grammar approached as symbolic structure in language (1) and
as thought (2), and approached as behaviour in language (3) and thought (4); and
second, metaphor in usage approached as symbolic structure in language (5) and
as thought (6), and approached as behaviour in language (7) and thought (8).

Steen states that his goal is two-fold: 'First of all, I will argue that caution
needs to be observed when evidence from different domains of investigation is
crossed. [Second,] I will argue that obtaining converging evidence in the field
of metaphor research can best be promoted by applying a form of methodological
pluralism within each of the various areas of research' (Steen 2007: 21). The
importance of drawing distinctions between research areas is a major theme in
this book because, Steen argues, it allows for appropriate applications of
findings that do not confuse areas of enquiry and over-generalise. Given the
different perspectives used to approach metaphor, there is the possibility that
questions about metaphor could be answered in different ways, depending on the
perspective of the researcher. In the first chapter, Steen writes that his
concern '…with present day research is that different schools and researchers
conflate these perspectives in diverging ways, confounding or concealing issues
which need to be kept distinct' (Steen 2007: 4). This can be seen, for example,
in enquiry into metaphor in grammar vs. metaphor in usage, which Steen argues
are distinct and should not be confused with each other.

Steen first presents the deductive approach to metaphor research as 'eminently
suitable for testing' (Steen 2007: 28), and therefore, valuable to help create
reliability and replicability. The approach works by first, postulating a
relationship between two phenomena; second, observing, often through
experimentation; and third, deciding whether the first proposition stands. He
then goes on to describe four conceptualisations of metaphor: the two domain
approach (Lakoff and Johnson 1980; 1999), the many space approach (Fauconnier
and Turner 1996, 1998, 1999, 2002), the class inclusion approach (Glucksberg
1991, 2001; Glucksberg, Brown, and McGlone 1993), and the career of metaphor
approach (Bowdle and Genter 2005). Steen presents these models and discusses how
metaphor can be seen as a relationship between two, three, or four conceptual
structures, depending on the conceptual model one chooses to adopt, but are
regarded as based in non-literal similarity. Steen then discusses the
operationalization of metaphor research, discussing how the conceptual metaphor,
class-inclusion, and career of metaphor theories would identify words as
metaphorical or not in instances of both grammar and usage. Finally, he presents
different applications of the methods, looking at the different kinds of data
collection that are available to researchers (introspection, observation, and
manipulation) and how this data might be used in analysis (quantitative and
qualitative methods).

After the introductory chapters, each chapter addresses a different question (or
set of questions) related to the particular category of research and argues for
the same procedure in addressing any given question: first, discussing the
deductive approach to the research question; second, discussing
conceptualization and operationalization in the particular approach; and third,
discussing introspection, observation, and manipulation in terms of data
collection for the approach. This layout allows for quick reference between the
chapters as each subsection is the same in any given section. Each chapter sets
forth the theoretical frameworks and methods used in each category of research,
with Steen commenting on the validity and effectiveness of each. Each chapter
deals with the issues in great detail, discussing the research process in depth
at each level.

Part One: Foundations

Chapter One: Mapping the field; An overview of the book as whole, Steen's
concerns about overlapping metaphor research, and his grid of eight approaches
to metaphor research.

Chapter Two: The deductive approach; An introduction to the deductive approach
to metaphor research.

Chapter Three: Conceptualization: Theoretical definitions; Introduction to four
models of metaphor.

Chapter Four: Operationalization; An explanation of operationalization in
metaphor research.

Chapter Five Application: Data collection and analysis; An overview of different
methods of data collection and analysis, focusing on different available forms
of data collection and qualitative vs. quantitative analysis of data.

Part Two: Finding Metaphor in Grammar

Chapter Six: Linguistic forms in Grammar; Metaphor Research Area One.

Chapter Seven: Conceptual structures in grammar (1): Forms; Metaphor Research
Area Two.

Chapter Eight: Conceptual structures in grammar (2): Mappings; Metaphor Research
Area Two.

Chapter Nine: Cognitive processes and products in grammar; Metaphor Research
Areas Five and Six.

Part Three: Finding Metaphor in Usage

Chapter Ten: Linguistic forms and conceptual structures (1): Metaphorical
language use; Metaphor Research Areas Three and Four.

Chapter Eleven: Linguistic forms and conceptual structures (2): Other forms of
Metaphor; Metaphor Research Areas Three and Four.

Chapter Twelve: Cognitive processes and products in usage; Metaphor Research
Areas Seven and Eight.

Chapter Thirteen: Conclusion


A general overview is a very welcome addition to the metaphor studies literature
given the increasing diversity of the theoretical and methodological frameworks.
This book is a key starting place for any linguist interested in understanding
metaphor research in general terms and, more importantly, the frameworks and
methods that various metaphor researchers are employing. Steen's argument that
evidence across different categories of metaphor research needs to be applied
with caution is also very timely, as lack of distinction between different areas
of research (e.g., careless application of cognitive science findings to
discourse analysis) is likely to skew the results of research. Moreover, Steen's
clear writing and decision to format all chapters around the same layout
welcomes comparison and quick reference, a very helpful feature for a researcher
interested in developing their methods. With a consistent single voice
throughout the text, this book offers an extremely coherent approach to the
field that would be unlikely in an edited volume on the same subject.

These strengths, however, bring with them the inherent weakness of having only
one voice speaking on what are heavily contested issues in the field,
particularly that metaphor studies could (or should) be condensed to eight
research questions, as Steen argues. Although the grid of eight areas of
metaphor research is a clean, easy-to-understand way to conceptualise the field,
that scholars in each of the categories may not see their work as necessarily
separate from the others or agree to this division of research interests seems
unlikely. For example, Steen's strong distinction between grammar and usage,
although well-argued and reasonable, would not likely go unchallenged by other
scholars. Additionally, the pursuit of replicability and reliability through use
of the deductive method begs the question whether or not all research can be fit
into the same procedure and runs the risk of creating a positivist paradigm that
cannot be reasonably applied to the field. These points, however, are given
ample consideration in the book and Steen's style invites questions and
consideration rather than being a defensive polemic from one perspective.

Essentially, this is a book about methodology and as Steen states at the end,
his hope in the text is, in a small way, to reduce personal bias and increase
validity and reliability of metaphor research. With a continued focus on
operationalization of metaphor research and step-by-step instructions for making
judgments about what is or is not metaphorical, the book reads in many ways like
a very useful handbook that the researcher could use to investigate
metaphoricity in their given pursuit. With the text covering such a broad
overview of the field, Steen manages to effectively compare and contrast across
the categories and draw distinctions between the different perspectives that are
available without becoming especially evangelistic for any one method or
conceptualization. This even-handed approach is a welcome addition, especially
for researchers who are new to the field and have not yet established clear
positions on the contested issues.

This book is an essential read for any metaphor researcher or linguist looking
for a broad overview of the field and a starting point for further reading. For
the researcher interested in contextualising their work in the broad field, this
book is also essential for its comprehensive approach to metaphor research, past
and present. Moreover, Steen's focus on validity and reliability is a timely one
for metaphor researchers to consider as the field would benefit greatly from
less biased research and clearly developed methods of metaphor identification
and analysis which draw distinctions between different areas of enquiry. The
text is vital starting point for understanding the field of metaphor research,
regardless of one's theoretical or methodological convictions.


Fauconnier, G. and Turner, M. (1996) 'Blending as a central process of grammar'.
In Conceptual Structure, Discourse, and Language. A. Goldberg (ed.), pp.
113-130, Center for the study of language and information, Stanford (distributed
by Cambridge University Press).
Fauconnier, G. and Turner, M. (1998) 'Conceptual integration networks',
Cognitive Science: A Multidisciplinary Journal, vol. 22, no. 2, pp. 133-187.
Fauconnier, G. and Turner, M. (1999) 'Metonymy and conceptual integration', In
Metonymy in Language and Thought, K. Panther and G. Radden (eds.), pp. 77-90.
John Benjamins, Amsterdam.
Fauconnier, G., Turner, M. and Turner, M. (2002) The way we think: Conceptual
blending and the mind's hidden complexities, Basic Books, New York.
Lakoff, G. and Johnson, M. (1980) Metaphors We Live By, University of Chicago
Press, Chicago.
Lakoff, G. and Johnson, M. (1999) Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and
its Challenge to Western Thought, Basic Books, New York.
Steen, G. (2007) Finding Metaphor in Grammar and Usage: A Methodological
Analysis of Theory and Research, John Benjamins, Amsterdam.
Turner, M. and Fauconnier, G. (1995) 'Conceptual integration and formal
expression', Metaphor and Symbol, vol. 10, no. 3, pp. 183-204.

Stephen Pihlaja is a research degree student at the Open University (OU) in Milton Keynes, UK, but is originally from the suburbs of Chicago. He holds an MA in Applied Linguistics from the University of Birmingham, is now completing a Master of Research at the OU before continuing on to a PhD beginning this autumn. His research interests include Metaphor Theory, Computer Mediated Communication, Complex Systems Theory, and Religious Discourse. When not academically engaged, he enjoys Haruki Murakami novels and entertaining his two beautifully precocious daughters.