LINGUIST List 28.2463

Fri Jun 02 2017

Review: Cognitive Science; Discourse Analysis; Linguistic Theories; Pragmatics; Sociolinguistics: Romano, Porto (2016)

Editor for this issue: Clare Harshey <>

Date: 21-Dec-2016
From: Judith Bridges <>
Subject: Exploring Discourse Strategies in Social and Cognitive Interaction
E-mail this message to a friend

Discuss this message

Book announced at

EDITOR: Manuela Romano
EDITOR: Maria Dolores Porto
TITLE: Exploring Discourse Strategies in Social and Cognitive Interaction
SUBTITLE: Multimodal and cross-linguistic perspectives
SERIES TITLE: Pragmatics & Beyond New Series 262
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
YEAR: 2016

REVIEWER: Judith Bridges, University of South Florida

Reviews Editor: Helen Aristar-Dry

The volume “Exploring Discourse Strategies in Social and Cognitive Interaction: Multimodal and Cross-Linguistic Perspectives” edited by Manuela Romano and María Dolores Porto investigates the inherent connection between discourse, cognition, and society. Divided into three sections, the volume presents studies which are simultaneously use-based language-and-cognition studies, and exemplars of research approaches which consider real social structure and behavior. Following an introductory chapter by the editors, the volume comprises ten papers, each a case study examining an area of language-in-use as a multifaceted, intricate, and collaborative practice. An emphasis throughout the volume is on the importance of combining the disciplines of cognitive linguistics and discourse analysis to study how real discourse is constructed and interpreted. Additionally, the volume emphasizes the significance of engaging a strong sensitivity to the sociocognitive context and multimodality of communication.

The volume begins with the introduction, “Discourse, cognition, and society,” authored by the co-editors Manuela Romano and María Dolores-Porto. Introducing the aims, concepts, and background of the volume, the chapter outlines a new social turn in cognitive linguistics in terms of its scope of study, as well as its methodology. The field of cognitive linguistics has recently grown to become merged with other language-related studies, and this new turn is branded primarily by the push for a stricter understanding of language as inseparable from the context of its socio-cognitive reality. The authors provide some background of this paradigm shift within the field of cognitive linguistics, its intersection with other fields such as Critical Discourse Analysis and Metaphor Studies, and the ensuing blending of theories and methodologies across the fields. Specifically, this new turn in cognitive linguistics aims to establish an empirically-supported relationship between linguistic elements and social implications, and aims to do so by rejecting interpretative readings and urging scholars to look instead to experimental and corpus-based evidence.

Next, the editors spend some time on the essential theoretical concepts that emerge in the volume’s subsequent essays: embodiment, multimodality, conceptual integration, metaphor, and creativity. These concepts are integrated in cognitive linguistics and must be understood by the reader to fully grasp and benefit from the volume; thus each construct is concisely explained and coherently linked to the historical framework from which it emerged. In the last section of the introduction chapter, the editors provide a brief abstract of each chapter in the volume, preparing readers for what each essay comprises, as well as an evaluation of the significance of each study for the fields of cognitive linguistics and discourse studies.

The following three essays make up the volume’s first section, “Socio-cognitive approaches to discourse.” The first essay, by Enrique Bernárdez, identifies methodological flaws in mainstream cognitive linguistics, and important changes to be made in standard procedures. In this chapter, “From butchers to surgeons to the linguistic method: On language and cognition as supraindividual phenomena,” Bernárdez focuses on the metaphor ‘This surgeon is a butcher’ as an example of how metaphor studies isolate themselves within an unbalanced sociohistorical context. Metaphor analyses frequently fail to consider the metaphor’s usage beyond the English language and recent history. Bernárdez reviews two previous articles on the expression, pointing out the omission of any historical, cultural and social situatedness of the metaphor. The author then shows that not only has the metaphor existed for thousands of years, but has existed in other languages. This finding thus gives warning of methodological errors in cognitive linguistics, such as studying metaphors in what the author calls a “solipsistic” manner, i.e., disregarding other possible meanings existing elsewhere in time or space. The paper ultimately calls for linguists to avoid studying language in space-time isolation, and instead consider interaction with other languages and eras. The editors refer to this chapter as “a checklist that all cognitive linguistics should take into account” (p. 8).

Similar to the first paper, the next paper emphasizes the importance of contextualization when analyzing language. “Individual differences and in situ identity marking: Colloquial Belgian Dutch in the reality TV show ‘Expeditie Robinson’” by Eline Zenner, Gitte Kristiansen, and Dirk Geeraerts also point out the necessity of considering intraspeaker dialect variation and its meaning in discourse. Specifically, the chapter focuses on a morphological feature which speakers are often aware of, and a phonemic variation which speakers are not conscious of. The study takes into consideration some features commonly neglected in discourse studies such as personal and social characteristics, plus circumstantial aspects where speakers may deliberately alter their linguistic variables as communication strategies for in-group accommodation. The concepts of situatedness and embodiment are central, as the study reveals identity creation in discourse. The authors connect the similarities and differences between speakers’ socio-cultural backgrounds (e.g., Netherland or Belgian Dutch speakers) and personalities (e.g., discourse strategists or non-strategists), and their positioned identities at the moment of the exchange. The final section of the chapter calls for a new perspective for contemporary sociolinguistics, considering more in-depth analysis of interaction between situation-related and speaker-related features.

The third and final paper of the volume’s section on socio-cognitive approaches to discourse, Augusto Soares de Silva presents “The persuasive (and manipulative) power of metaphor in ‘austerity’ discourse: A corpus-based analysis of embodied and moral metaphors of austerity in the Portuguese press.” As the title may hint, this paper demonstrates the power of metaphor as a discourse strategy in the press to conceptualize austerity policies in the public’s mind and to promote an ideological, emotional, and moral agenda. De Silva first introduces the word ‘austerity’ and its economic, social, and cultural significance, then provides a thorough and useful theoretical and methodological background and rationale for fusing methods from Cognitive Linguistics, Critical Discourse Analysis, and Corpus Linguistics to approach the construct of conceptual metaphor. Using qualitative and quantitative methods, the study identifies three principal themes of austerity-related metaphors used in news and opinion articles: great chain of being, image schemas, and event/action conceptual metaphors. Offering a historical perspective and definition of each metaphor type, as well as an analysis of examples from the data set, the study then discusses a sub-categorization of various specific conceptual metaphors such as obesity/diet, good student, indebted family, and sacrifice. Findings also reveal an increase in negativity of metaphors between 2011, the initial implementation of these economic policies, and 2013, when protests intensified against austerity measures, marked with shifts from positive (e.g., ‘sacrifice’) to negative (e.g., ‘impoverishment’). Overall, the chapter demonstrates how the embodiment of metaphor in political and economic contexts can subliminally construct a hidden ideology in public opinion.

The second part of the book includes three papers that investigate “Discourse strategies in multimodal communication.” The first is “The construction of meaning in multimodal discourse: A digital story as a case study” by Silvia Molina and Isabel Alonso Belmonte. The authors begin with a rationale for their various analytical tools and mixed methods approach to transmedia storytelling, and offer a background on the narrative chosen for analysis. The study identifies micro- and macro-level strategies of meaning-making processes used by producers and interpreters of the story, as well as the construction of individual and social identities. Molina and Belmonte first demonstrate micro-level strategies occurring in three separate modes – verbal, visual-spatial, and audio – such as color and typography of text, a balloon reporting a character’s speech, or the song chosen to play in the background. Additionally, the authors include a section on multimodal metaphors showing how the metaphors function on the micro- and macro-level, exhibiting the dynamism and highly contextualized nature of the character. The study then turns to the macro-level, disentangling the multi-modality of the story in presenting each semiotic resource as “cross-mapped mental spaces,” which evolve into a comprehensive meaning that surpasses the implications conveyed by the three modes individually. In the end, Molina and Belmonte uncover the fact that combining the Conceptual Integration Theory and the multimodal functional approach resulted in similar, overlapping findings, revealing how close both frameworks are. Consequently, the authors argue that only through combining mixed frameworks can the interwoven semiotic resources and strategies of such a complex analysis be displayed.

Laura Hidalgo-Downing, M. Ángeles Martínez and Blanca Kraljevic-Mujic contribute the next paper to the volume: “Multimodal metaphor, narrativity and creativity in TV cosmetics ads.” Similar to the previous chapter, this article explores the interaction between multimodal metaphor and multisemiotic narrativity as a discourse strategy, but the focus of this study is on British television advertisements for cosmetics and the creative discourse strategies used to create cognitive and socio-cultural experiences. The authors review how numerous the studies are on the relationships between narrativity, multimodality, and creativity in ads, then offer the rationale behind their study, which is to address the role and nature of closure, or a meaningful end in advertisement narration. From the chosen commercials, the authors point out several features of images and sound and how they correspond with the organization of the narrative, as well as discuss how multimodal metaphors operate as a method for synopsizing the overall purpose of ad. The study demonstrates consistencies in multimodal resources used in commercials whose narrative is in chronological order (e.g., agent with beauty problem transpires to beautiful, thanks to the product), and ads that use a “defamiliarizing effect” to begin the narrative with the end-point (e.g., agent looks beautiful, then we learn which product she used.) Lastly, the authors offer a further detailed analysis of the persuasive strategies of four specific cosmetic ads, revealing how the multimodal metaphors influence the audience to accept the product.

In the third paper on multimodality, “Multimodal discourses of collective memory,” Małgorzata Fabiszak analyzes the interaction of visual and verbal discourse from four Holocaust memorials in Poland, two of which were erected in the 1960s, and two that were constructed in the 2000s. Using two cognitive frameworks, Conceptual Metaphor Theory and Image Schemata, alongside the functional framework of Critical Discourse Analysis, this chapter, like the previous two, combines analytical approaches to explore the interaction of visual and verbal layers of the memorials. After outlining the theoretical frameworks and the four memorials chosen for the study, the author analyzes the landscape and visual features with Image Schemata, walking the reader through the embodiment of tactile sensory meaning of elements such as constricted spaces, shade and coldness, and mass graves. The verbal layer is analyzed through the written inscriptions on the structures of names, dates, and messages, as well as plaques on the walls. The paper shows how memorials not only fortify collective memory and in-group relations, but how they become “the potential vehicle of ideology of the period in which they were created” (p. 160). Fabiszak’s analysis of the memorials’ visual and verbal meanings exposes how the change in discourse over the years influenced the design of the memorials. Finally, the historically-significant geographical locations of the former extermination sites poignantly illustrate the notions of embodiment and situatedness, as the memorials carry cultural meaning. Together, the interaction of the verbal and visual allows for the cultural continuation of ideals and ideologies.

The final section of the volume, “Cross-linguistic perspectives,” is formed by four papers that explore discourse strategies across languages. The volume’s editors note that the fact that each paper looks at English and Spanish, allows for the possibility to examine “how the same cultural contexts can influence discourse in different ways” (p.11). In the first paper, “Exploring specific differences: A cross-linguistic study of English and Spanish civil engineering metaphors,” Ana Roldán-Riejos investigates civil engineering zoomorphic metaphors or metonyms in the two languages, such as butterfly valve or garra de fijación (‘clamp’ in English; literally, ‘fastening claw’). Combining a socio-cognitive and multimodal approach with discourse analysis and corpora-driven data, the study provides an observation of how verbal-visual metaphors and metonymic mapping are similar and different across languages. That is, while visual mappings often correlate, linguistic metaphors almost always differ. Namely, English tends to use names of animals (e.g., caterpillar), while Spanish uses parts of animals (e.g., wing) more frequently than English. Additionally, Roldán-Riejos discovered that the case for Spanish was not always so; up to the 16th century, there were more animal names used that are now obsolete. Overall, this paper illustrates a specific way that metaphor is a cultural phenomenon and asserts how meaning is constructed through the dual process of metaphor and metonymy.

In the next chapter, “The use of metaphor and evaluation as discourse strategies in pre-electoral debates: Just about winning votes,” Mercedes Díez Prados also examines metaphors from a cross-linguistic perspective. The contrastive analysis first investigates which economy- and government-related metaphors were used by two opponents in Spain’s 2011 general election debates. Next, the author compares the metaphors to equivalent metaphors used in the debates leading up to the 2008 American presidential election. The findings conflict with the expectation that right-wing and left-wing party ideologies necessarily align, respectively, with the strict father and nurturing parent metaphors. Examining the interplay between metaphors and candidates’ evaluation of themselves and each other, the study shows how all four politicians generally present themselves as nurturing parents and their opponents as strict fathers. Prados discusses how this result suggests politicians use metaphors less for ideological reasons than for the purpose of winning elections.

The last two chapters of the volume choose a cross-linguistic perspective to focus on narrative structure or oral stories. In the first, “A text-world account of temporal world-building strategies in Spanish and English,” Jane Lugea employs Text-World Theory to examine how speakers use temporal deixis to construct mental representations of temporal events through language. Then using corpus-based quantitative measures, the study compares strategies between speakers of American English, British English, Peninsular Spanish, and Latin American Spanish. The chapter provides an outline of the “frog story” used to elicit the narratives, and details Text World Theory in contrast to other similar cognitive models as the most effective, approaching discourse as a two-way meaning-making process. The analytic process resulted in the author’s creation of a three-dimensional diagramming method necessary to trace the temporal world-switching occurring in the stories. The subsequent findings not only show cross-linguistic differences between English and Spanish speakers, but some similarities between American English and Peninsular Spanish speakers, who showed a preference for the present as an anchor tense, suggesting they use temporal deixis for reasons beyond marking temporality. This first chapter demonstrates that Text-World Theory can be extended to non-English, non-written and cross-linguistic data. Secondly, this study provides evidence that linguistic reasons alone might not account for varietal differences, affirming the volume’s emphasis on sociocultural influences and context, showing experiential and cultural knowledge merging to co-construct meaning.

The final chapter, “Gesture structuring strategies in English and Spanish autobiographical narratives” by Ana Laura Rodríguez Redondo, analyzes the gestures that interact and structure two oral emotional narratives, as well as what gesture differences arise between the Spanish and English narratives. To study the conceptual unfolding of discourse through cognitive gesture studies, the author draws on Mental Spaces Theory, which observes narrative structure as a series of fragmented mental spaces between which speakers guide their listeners by use of various linguistic and non-linguistic mechanisms. These fragmented mental spaces were mapped with the corresponding gestures that signaled shifts between the narratives’ segments. The study found that speakers’ metanarrative use of gestures such as eye-gaze shifts or head movements marked mental spaces that were not signaled linguistically. Additionally, while Rodríguez warns against generalization, she found that at least at the idiosyncratic level, the Spanish speaker’s gestures mostly marked narrative structure, whereas the British speaker’s gestures were largely attentional devices used for emphasizing important points. The primary aim of this chapter is not necessarily to draw conclusions from the study, but rather to present gesture-structure as a field of abundant potential research and to recommend improved descriptive tools for such a comparative analysis.

To sum up, this volume intends to join and promote the paradigm shift in discourse analytic methods by emphasizing the inseparable interplay between the discursive, cognitive, and social dimensions of discourse. Alongside highlighting new trends in discourse research, at times the authors called attention to theoretical and methodological obstacles that still exist in the field, problematically analyzing isolated or decontextualized discourse from solipsistic perspectives. Instead, this volume investigates language use in terms of its three core facets –discourse, cognition, and society– which requires a multidisciplinary approach, linking theories and methods such as Critical Discourse Analysis, Multimodality, Sociolinguistics, Conceptual Metaphor Theory, and Corpus Linguistics, to name a few. The contributing authors in this volume provided studies which applied socio-cognitive approaches to real data analyzed within its specific social and cultural context, showing human communication as a lively, collaborative, and highly complex practice. Each chapter offered a detailed analysis of diverse types of discourse and the discursive strategies of the participants. Together, this volume demonstrates not only the countless means through which meaning making is produced, but also various methodologies that can be used to integrate discursive, cognitive, and social components to achieve a more comprehensive understanding of language use based on real-world evidence.


This book provides valuable models of research studies aiming to understand how language is integrally interwoven in our social realities and cognitive perceptions of the world. Each chapter is vastly different from the one before it, with studies ranging from pictorial discursive strategies of digital storytelling to cross-linguistic zoology metaphors. As diverse as each chapter is, they all provide insight to human language and how meaningful communicative interaction is achieved through analysis of a piece of language in its specific sociocultural and sociohistorical environment.
These essays together make up a volume that offers a wide range of theoretical and methodological approaches to understanding how real discourse is constructed and interpreted in real-life interactions. Consequently, this collection of essays would no doubt be valuable to anyone interested in the complexities of language and its bond with society and cognition. More specifically, this book could be helpful to readers with interests in discourse analysis, sociolinguistics, cognitive linguistics, metaphor studies, corpus linguistics, and the philosophy of language. Readers will enjoy the fact that each chapter is written clearly and each construct and rationale is thoroughly explained. As most of the essays utilize a unique research approach, most chapters also call for more research and replication of the particular area of discourse. Plus some chapters, such as the final one, wish to expose an area of discourse teeming with research questions yet to be answered, as well as to inform about the reliability of new or upgraded analytical methods that can be used for similar studies.

A defining element to this book, which makes it more than a simple volume of studies, is its promotion of the so-called ‘new turn’ in discourse studies. Outlining the background and development of the field of cognitive linguistics, readers learn how new modes and genres are continually being created, combined, and refined, and how this enormous expansion is pushing our tools of inquiry into new directions. What was once easily classifiable in the field is now replaced with a blur of disciplines and methods incapable of categorization. But this seemingly messy and overlapping indistinctness in discourse studies is not a negative progression. The book makes it clear that these multi-modal, cross-disciplinary blendings are indeed improvements, as they break through limitations that discourse studies previously were confined by, expanding the boundaries of linguistics to better understand language as the multidimensional, fluid, and complex entity that it is.

Each chapter is an exemplar of how discourse can actually be studied when researchers pull conceptual and functional frameworks from other fields, and utilize methodologies such as corpus linguistics that provide more reliable results. Upon reflecting on the complexity and intricacy of the discursive strategies analyzed in these essays, it is easy to imagine some of these studies practically impossible to carry out without using the new epistemology and empirical tools that cognitive linguistics has absorbed. This book makes it clear that cognitive linguistics is celebrating its bonds with other fields and open trade of methods, theories, and epistemologies. Plus, as language is known for unpredictable complexity and an incapacity for clear classifications, it seems appropriate for fields studying language to be equally multilayered and integrated.

The expansion allows for empirical investigations on very subtle nuances of language use, such as in the essays of this book, that reveal the interdependencies, however subliminal they might be, between language use, mental processes, and social norms. Overall, this book successfully explores a dynamic range of discourse strategies, demonstrating how real socio-cultural interactions affect discourse. Anyone interested in how discourse shapes society and cognition would find the contents in this volume advantageous to their learning.


Judith Bridges is a doctoral student of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies at the University of South Florida. Her interests include sociolinguistics, critical discourse analysis, metadiscourse, and language ideologies.

Page Updated: 02-Jun-2017