Gerard Steen, VU University Amsterdam
5th of September 2011. 9.30h
LSP and metaphor: It's all about genre
Metaphor has been reconceptualized from a figure of speech to a figure of thought that people use to think about abstract, difficult and poorly understood phenomena in terms of concrete, simple and better understood phenomena (Gibbs, 2008; Semino, 2008). Metaphor in language is taken as a reflection of that type of thought. These are technically defined as cross-domain mappings that often have conventionalized structures, including seeing argument as war, organizations as machines, or love and lust as hunger.
However, the story is not that simple. When cancer patients and their doctors or caregivers talk about cancer as war, they do something else than when politicians frame their model of the state in terms of the family with a strict or nurturing father. When people read a novel they make different use of the metaphors they encounter than when they read a journalistic report on the financial crisis as bad weather or a disease. When educationalists write textbooks on biochemistry they develop different designs than when researchers create metaphorical models for theory formation. There is a highly variable relationship between the structures, functions, and processes of metaphor in various registers (Steen, Dorst, et al., 2010)
It is the claim of the present paper that it takes a full-blown genre model of discourse to account for these differences and to describe them in such a way that they can be made productive for application in LSP work. I aim to sketch such a model and show how variation of metaphor between various registers can be addressed. I will show that metaphor has three dimensions (linguistic, conceptual and communicative¿Steen, 2011) and that these can be exploited for describing the relation between metaphor and register, style and rhetoric. The latter can be modeled as part of the code of each and every genre, which also includes a text and context component. The overall genre model is presented as a psychological construct, capturing people¿s knowledge of how they use language in specific genre events (Steen, in press). Relations between code, text and context will be illustrated for a number of selected genres in order to demonstrate how metaphor can work in diverging but also comparable ways in distinct situations of discourse.
Gibbs, R.W. 2008. The Cambridge handbook of metaphor and thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Semino, E. 2008. Metaphor and discourse. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Steen, G.J. 2011. The contemporary theory of metaphor¿now new and improved! Review of Cognitive Linguistics 9 (1), 26-64.
Steen, G.J. In press. Genre between the humanities and the sciences. In Bi- directionality in the cognitive sciences: Examining the interdisciplinary potential of cognitive approaches in linguistics and literary studies (Lohöfer, A., Keller, W., Callies, M., eds.). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Steen, G.J., Dorst, A.G., Herrmann, J.B., Kaal, A.A., Krennmayr, T., Pasma, T. 2010. A method for linguistic metaphor identification: From MIP to MIPVU. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins