Evaluating Psycholinguistic Research into Metaphor

    Activity: Lecture / PresentationAcademic


    Since the launch of Conceptual Metaphor Theory (hereafter CMT) in the 1980s (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980; Lakoff, 1993), cognitive linguists have produced a large amount of empirical research testing predictions about the role of conceptual metaphor in daily communication. In a recent overview, Gibbs (2011a, 2011b) has presented a selection of linguistic and psychological studies as evidence for CMT.
    In this paper I will argue that the results of these studies cannot, without reservation, be marshaled as evidence for CMT. A close examination of the stimuli used in these studies shows that many of the metaphors are of a special kind: they are deliberate and actively invite the reader to build a comparison between two domains, which is not the standard manifestation of metaphor in natural discourse (Steen, 2008). More precisely, recent corpus-linguistic (Steen, et al., 2010) and psycholinguistic research (Gentner & Bowdle, 2008; Glucksberg, 2008) suggests that most of the metaphors found in natural language may not be processed by cross-domain mapping or comparison. The question therefore arises what the role of deliberate metaphor in the confirmation of CMT is and whether an alternative interpretation can be offered for the findings from the studies that are advanced as providing proof for the existence of CMT.
    The presentation will review the relevant literature on this issue and aims to shed new light on the interpretation of their results by introducing the notion of deliberate metaphor. How many of the metaphors used in experimental studies are, in fact, deliberate and what does this tell us about the presence of conceptual metaphors in cognition? This presentation consequently not only intervenes in the discussion about CMT but also hopes to make a contribution to the debate on deliberateness, a long neglected phenomenon in metaphor research.
    Period12 Jul 2012
    Event title4th UK Cognitive Linguistics Conference
    Event typeConference