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Review of  Cognitive Explorations into Metaphor and Metonymy

Reviewer: Marcin Kuczok
Book Title: Cognitive Explorations into Metaphor and Metonymy
Book Author: Frank Polzenhagen Zoltán Kövecses Stefanie Vogelbacher Sonja Kleinke
Publisher: Peter Lang AG
Linguistic Field(s): Discourse Analysis
General Linguistics
Linguistic Theories
Cognitive Science
Issue Number: 26.3151

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Review's Editor: Helen Aristar-Dry


The monograph titled “Cognitive Explorations into Metaphor and Metonymy” constitutes an edited collection of eighteen papers devoted to the issue of conceptual metaphor and metonymy. Their authors present a variety of perspectives on the phenomena of metaphor and metonymy, assumed by researchers in contemporary cognitive linguistics. Fourteen papers are written in English and four texts are in German. As noted in the editor's preface, the volume is the fruit of the annual symposium on metaphor and metonymy held at the University of Heidelberg, initiated in 2009 by Prof. Sonja Kleinke. In fact, the present book constitutes the second volume that documents the effects of the symposium, after “Cognition and Culture: The Role of Metaphor and Metonymy”, edited by Sonja Kleinke, Zoltán Kövecses, Andreas Musolff and Veronika Szelid, and published in 2012 in Budapest by Eötvös University Press.


Zoltán Kövecses, the author of the first paper, titled “Metaphor and metonymy in the conceptual system” aims to present the relationships between the two conceptual phenomena on the one hand, and their place in the human conceptual system, on the other hand. The questions that are posed by the author refer to the ways of distinguishing between metaphor and metonymy, determining which of the two mechanisms is primary, and deciding where to identify the border between metonymy and polysemy. By studying the concept of EMOTION, Kövecses shows that the basic level of meaning construction is the level of general image schemas, which in turn, give rise to higher-level structures. The author notices that if a conceptual link occurs within the same functional domain or frame it is metonymy, but when the source concept comes from a different vertical hierarchy, it is metaphor. Finally, it is claimed in the paper that metonymies prevail over metaphors in our conceptual system.

In “Corpus-based analysis of conceptual metaphors of HAPPINESS in Russian and English” Olga Pavpertova compares the emotion of HAPPINESS in English and Russian from the conceptual point of view. On the basis of a corpus study, the author aims to discover whether such metaphors as HAPPINESS IS LIGHT, HAPPINESS IS WARMTH, and HAPPINESS IS FIRE exist in the same way in both languages. It is possible to identify three prototypes of HAPPINESS: an ideal state represented by the lexemes “happiness / schastje”, an emotional state: “joy / radost'” and a physical state: “pleasure / udovol'stvie”. In Russian, there is a strong opposition between schastje and “udovol'stvie”, which is reflected in the smaller number of collocates for “schastje”. In English, by contrast, “happiness”, “joy” and “pleasure” seem to be closer to one another than their Russian counterparts, and they often collocate with the same lexemes.

Erzsébet Tóth-Czifra, the author of the third article, titled “Feeling the taste of victory: The figurative utilization of the concepts MOUTH and TONGUE in English, German and Hungarian” conducts a comparative analysis of the metonymic extensions of the two concepts mentioned in the title. She presents source-target mappings between the domains of EATING and LINGUISTIC ACTION, as well as between EATING and EMOTIONS. While the former mappings seem to be largely based on the CAUSE-EFFECT metonymy, the latter ones are often motivated by metaphors.

In the next paper, Rebecca Netzel presents the metaphorical expressions involving verbs of motion in the Lakota language. The author compares the imagery identified in this Native American language to the metaphorical patterns of thought characteristic of such European languages as English, German and Spanish. The study is based on Netzel's field work with the Lakota people, as well as on a number of dictionaries of their language. The results reveal that the metaphorical uses of motion verbs in Lakota usually involve comparisons to animals. Additionally, the verbs of movement reflect a high degree of dynamism and vigor, which can be connected to the nomadic tradition of the Lakota tribe. As the author claims, her findings support the hypothesis of the universality of metaphorical thinking across cultures.

“The metaphor of the «body politic» across languages and cultures” by Andreas Musolff is a cross-cultural comparison of the NATION-AS-BODY metaphor in contemporary English and Chinese. The study shows that the conceptual structure of the metaphor in the two languages differs: while British informants describe their constitutional system in terms of the human body, the Chinese refer to geographical entities on the map of China. This differentiation may be ascribed to socio-historical traditions in the analyzed communities. The author concludes that the claim that metaphor is universal across cultures may be used only with reference to certain general metaphorical terms, such as NATION IS BODY (Kövecses 2005), but the specific use of these metaphors in particular cultures displays a high degree of conceptual variation.

Next, Orsolya Farkas studies the metaphorical structure of the concept of STATE in the paper “The concept of the STATE in Hungarian political discourse: Variations reflected in the language of the constitutions”. The author poses a question if the state is conceptualized metaphorically in the language of constitutions, and if yes, how are these metaphors structured. The studied texts include three Hungarian constitutions: of 1949, of 1989 and of 2012. The results show that metaphorical uses of the state are more common than non-metaphorical ones, especially as personifications. While in the 1949 constitution the Hungarian state is pictured as an active entity, in the 1989 constitution it becomes passive, to become active again in the 2012 constitution.

Orsolya Putz also analyzes political discourse in her paper, titled “Metaphors on the territorial changes of post-Trianon Hungary”. The aim of the article is to identify conceptual metaphors referring to the territorial changes introduced in Hungary after the Treaty of Trianon of 1920. The studied corpus was based on academic and popular texts concerning this treaty, and published between the years 1990 and 2013. The author observes that popular texts are more metaphorical than the academic ones, and that they also use more intensive image schemas. The most common image schema in the described metaphors is the SEPARATION schema, found in such metaphors as SUBDIVISION, DETACHING, CUTTING, TEARING, and AMPUTATION. It is noted that while in academic texts conceptual metaphors function as euphemisms hiding the politicians' responsibility for diminishing the territory of Hungary, in popular texts metaphors evoke feelings concerning the sufferings of the country.

“Cognitive metaphor and the «Arab Spring»” by Nicole Möller is a contrastive analysis of the metaphors used in German and English news coverage concerning the transformations in the Arab world that started in 2010. The study is based on press articles concerning Tunisia and Egypt. The author observes in the texts describing the political protests in both countries the most common metaphor is based on the source domain FORCES OF NATURE. Referring to water, fire, an earthquake, a volcanic eruption or a wind serves as a means for emphasizing the strength of the upheaval on the one hand, but on the other hand, suggests the potential dangers of the revolution. However, there are also certain culture-specific metaphors: the uprising in Tunisia is conceptualized as A JASMINE FLOWER and in the texts about Egypt HUSNI MUBARAK is depicted as A PHARAO.

In the next paper, Alexandra Núñez focuses on the role of the PATH schema in the metaphors of the so-called Arab spring. The author analyzes German press materials from the years 2010-2011 concerning the events that took place in the Middle-East-North-Western region of the world. The study shows that the PATH image schema constitutes the basis for the conceptualization of the Arab spring with regard to the event development in media discourse. Thanks to this Western schema of thought the press offers German readers an interpretation of the events associated with the Arab spring corresponding to their way of thinking.

Katrin Strobel in her article presents research into the INTEREST metaphors in English advertisements. The study compares American press advertisements published from the 1940s to the present day. Strobel bases her research on Ungerer's (2003) AIDA formula, according to which adverts arouse ATTENTION, stimulate INTEREST, awaken DESIRE and make customers ACT. However, in opposition to Ungerer, the author suggests that there are new metaphors in contemporary adverts, which are linked to the emotional domain of VALUES. The identified mappings include FREEDOM metaphors, in which the product is seen as something that gives freedom, PROTECTION metaphors, in which the product is conceptualized as a protective shield, personifications, which introduce a personal relationship between the product and its consumer, and CHARITY metaphors, which link buying the product with helping those in need.

INTEREST metaphors are also the theme of the next paper, “Metaphor, metonymy, and brands: From INTEREST metaphors to INTEREST metonymies” by Carmen Simon, suggesting that in some cases these metaphors turn into metonymies. The author applies Ungerer's (2003) idea that INTEREST metaphors interact with the GRABBING metonymy in the analysis of the UK website of Wall's ice dream. The identified relationship is formulated as THE DESIRED PRODUCT IS AN INTERESTING PRODUCT BECAUSE ITS BRAND STANDS FOR X, where X involves such INTEREST domains as HEALTH, HIGH QUALITY, TRADITION or LUXURY. What is more, the choice of a specific domain in a particular advertisement may appeal to a specific target group of people, who are interested either in luxury, health, high quality or tradition, activating the GRABBING metonymy through one of those INTEREST domains.

Ágnes Kuna, the author of “The conception of diseases in the persuasive sections of Hungarian medical recipes from the 16th and 17th centuries” studies the metaphors and metonymies used in the speech acts of persuasion in medical recipes. This corpus-based analysis assumes that the hints at a result of a treatment described in a recipe involve metaphorical conceptualizations of the disease and recovery. The results of this investigation reveal a number of such conceptual metaphors as HEALING IS THE PASSING OF THE DISEASE, HEALING IS DEATH / KILLING THE DISEASE, RECOVERY IS STOPPING THE DISEASE, and RECOVERY IS POSITIVE CHANGE.

Then, in the following article Réka Szabó investigates the possibility of applying the theory of conceptual metaphor, as well as the conceptual blending theory in psychoanalysis. The author reminds us that in the Jungian depth psychology metaphors are used in the interpretation of the unconscious content of dreams. Her aim is to depict the psychotherapy process on the basis of the cognitive-linguistic metaphor theory. The presented case study reveals that the patient is able to locate her difficulty on the way of life, and find a solution through the mappings between the source and the target domains. This application of conceptual metaphor supports the cognitive-linguistic understanding of metaphor as the mechanisms of thought in the first place, and makes it clear that metaphors play an important role in the creation of our cultural and psychological truth.

Frank Polzenhagen in “What did 18th-century grammarians know about grammaticalisation? Notes on the early history of a current idea” offers an answer to the question posed in the title of his paper, showing that it is possible to talk about the awareness of metaphor among linguists in the 18th century. The author starts with a claim that modern linguists often neglect the origin and development of the notions that underlie their research. As an example he provides the term ‘grammaticalization’ which has become one of the important issues for cognitive linguists, who associate the process with the conceptual mechanisms of metaphor and metonymy. As Polzenhagen shows in his paper, combining grammaticalization and metaphor or figurative thinking in general can be found already in the 18th-century works by Cesar Chesneau du Marsais, William Ward, and James Beattie, or by William Whitney in the 19th century. In the conclusion, the author quotes Nerlich and Clarke (2007), who write that cognitive linguistics is a branch of study with a short history but a long past, which needs to be rediscovered.

The author of the next paper, Sonja Kleinke, identifies metonymic connections in the discourse of the Internet communication. She studies the language of citations used in the online discussion forum titled “Should the US give the Pope such a presidential welcome?” and located on the BBC forum section “Have Your Say”. The identified metonymies are claimed to influence the coherence of the discussion although, as the author claims, unlike conceptual metaphors, conceptual metonymies in discourse analysis receive little attention from linguists.

In “WTF is «helicopter parenting»? Metaphor commenting and negotiation in an online debate at BBC Being a parent” Stefanie Vogelbacher presents a new metaphorical expression “helicopter parenting”, used in Internet communication by the users of the “Being a parent” message board operating at the BBC website. The metaphor appears in a longer online discussion concerning parents' interference with school affairs. As the author observes, the use of this metaphor depends on contextual, semantic and communicative factors. It is necessary to know the context of this particular discourse domain, and to understand the semantic motivation of the new formation and the interactional activities, such as the positioning of the discourse participants.

Lisa Vollmar in the paper titled “Culture-specific metonymic relations in the conceptual system: On cognitive linguistic attitude research” presents data from her own questionnaire concerning the role of English in conceptualization in communicative situations in Ghana. It is worth mentioning that the study constitutes a contribution to the relatively new subdiscipline of cognitivism called cognitive sociolinguistics. The author shows that the attitudes to English as the second language are strictly connected with cultural models, prototypes, as well as linguistic and social categories and stereotypes. It is possible to identify metonymical links between ENGLISH and EDUCATION, SUCCESS, WEALTH, POWER and ACCESS TO THE WEST. All these metonymies are said to reflect the culture-specific conceptualization of English in Ghana.

The last article in this book is Mario Brdar and Rita Brdar-Szabó's “Croatian place suffixations in -ište: Polysemy and metonymy”. The authors treat the suffix “-ište” in Croatian as a polysemous category developed on the basis of meaning extension between its various senses. The suffix may mean a part of a physical object (“sjekirište” – axe-handle), an instrumental-like substance (“sirište” – rennet), and place names (“igralište” – playground). Furthermore, it is observed that the locative senses of “-ište” may involve a point, a surface and a space. In their analysis, the authors argue that the polysemy of the studied suffix may be motivated by conceptual metonymies, and additionally, in figurative extensions, also by conceptual metaphors.


First of all, it needs to be emphasized that despite the variety of the topics presented in Cognitive “Explorations into Metaphor and Metonymy”, the book constitutes a well composed whole. The common ground for all the articles is the ubiquity of conceptual metaphor and metonymy, whose prevalence in our thought and language is confirmed by the variety of the presented issues. As the editors note in their preface, the papers included in the volume follow different methodologies and approaches to analyzing metaphor and metonymy. But even this fact, serves as a merit of the volume since the tensions between the academic conclusions and opinions inspire linguists to intensify their studies to support their standpoints in a better way, rather than discouraging them from following the paradigm of cognitive semantics in their academic work.

Next, it must be noted that the themes addressed by the contributors represent the state-of-the-art research in the cognitive theory of metaphor and metonymy. The papers collected in the volume revolve around specific issues, all of which are of vital importance for contemporary cognitive linguistics. Thus, Zoltán Kövecses and Frank Polzenhagen discuss certain theoretical issues connected to cognitivism: while Kovecses focuses on the nature of the human conceptual system, Polzenhagen reminds readers of the necessity to return to the ideas postulated by the forerunners of cognitive semantics. Next, Olga Pavpertova, Erzsébet Tóth-Czifra, Rebecca Neztzel and Andreas Musolff focus on the specific patterns of figurative thought, which remain one of the key issues in cognitive-linguistic studies. Other authors contributing to the volume focus on the role of conceptual metaphor and metonymy in specific kinds of discourse: legal documents (Orsolya Farkas), the press (Orsolya Putz, Nicole Möller and Alexandra Núñez), advertisements (Katrin Strobel and Carmen Simon), medical documents (Agnes Kuna), psychotherapy (Réka Szabó), and online communication (Sonja Kleinke and Stefanie Vogelbacher). Additionally, Mario Brdar and Rita Brdar-Szabó show that metaphors and metonymies cannot be excluded from the analysis of word-formation processes, and Lisa Vollmar shows the importance of cognitive semantics for sociolinguistic studies.

It is worth emphasizing that each of the authors bases his or her study on the latest findings in the area of cognitive semantics, providing exhaustive lists of bibliographical references, which always contain the works of the leading researchers and unquestioned authorities in the field of linguistics. Additionally, from the formal point of view, it is worth noting that all the papers in the volume are well structured, the arguments are presented logically and supported with apt examples. All the authors contributing to this unique volume prove with their research that conceptual metaphor and metonymy are definitely much more than marginal linguistic phenomena and as such, these mechanisms deserve more serious attention in modern humanities.

However, probably the biggest, if not the only disadvantage of the book is the fact that not all the papers included in the volume are published in English. Translating the four papers written in German into English would undoubtedly contribute to a better coherence of the whole volume and facilitate reaching a higher number of potential readers in the modern scientific world, in which the English language functions as an unquestioned lingua franca, especially since the contributors represent four European countries: Germany, Hungary, England and Croatia. Nevertheless, this drawback does not diminish in any way the value of the studies presented in the German articles.

To sum up, despite the above-mentioned shortcomings it is my pleasure to recommend “Cognitive Explorations into Metaphor and Metonymy” to all scholars who are interested in the cognitive theory of metaphor and want to follow the most recent findings and trends in this field of contemporary linguistic research. I strongly believe that the papers collected in this volume may motivate and inspire further research into the role of conceptual mechanisms in language at an international scale.


Kövecses Zoltán. 2005. Metaphor in Culture: Universality and Variation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Nerlich Brigitte and David D. Clarke. 2007. ''Cognitive linguistics and the history of linguistics''. In: Dirk Geeraerts and Hubert Cuyckens (eds.), Handbook of Cognitive Linguistics, 589-607. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ungerer Friedrich. 2003. ''Muted metaphors and the activation of metonymies in advertising''. In: Antonio Barcelona (ed.), Metaphor and Metonymy at the Crossroads. A Cognitive Perspective, 321-340. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Marcin Kuczok is an Assistant Professor in the Institute of English at the University of Silesia, Poland, where he graduated with an MA in English Philology in 2005 and a PhD in English Linguistics in 2012. He also received an MA in Theology from University of Opole in 2003. His academic interests revolve around cognitive semantics, especially the theory of conceptual metaphor and metonymy and the theory of conceptual blending, as well as their applications to studying religious language, describing the axiological parameter of language, and analyzing English and Polish word-formation processes.

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