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Gerard J. Steen. VU uni·ersitv av.teraav
\hen people ha·e to deal with anvthing else than their concrete bodv and their
phvsical en·ironment. thev need abstract categories. Abstractions are tvpicallv thought
oí as categories labelled time`. thoughts`. emotions` or relations`. lowe·er. the direct
expression oí abstractions is not the onlv wav to concei·e oí abstract thought.
Abstractions are also constructed in indirect wavs. ·ia metaphor. metonvmv. and
svnecdoche. Metaphor. in particular. has turned out to be a conceptual mechanism bv
which speciíic and operational knowledge about more concrete phenomena and
experiences is projected onto a wide range oí more abstract ones. 1hus we tvpicallv
conceptualize oí time as space. oí lo·e. or more generallv emotions. as natural íorces.
oí thoughts as objects that can be manipulated. or organizations as plants or machines.
1his projection írom concrete to abstract knowledge structures works ·ia analogv.
similaritv. and comparison between elements oí distinct conceptual domains. and
naturallv contributes to the íormation oí manv abstract categories. Metaphor is hence
one oí the ·erv íew basic mechanisms íor abstract categorization. which in turn is
íundamental íor human cognition. communication. and culture.
1he conceptual use oí metaphor can be obser·ed in science and education. but also
in the arts and literature. and in religion. It can be íound in more mundane domains
too. such as business and organization. politics and go·ernment. health and care. and
entertainment and leisure. In all oí these areas. metaphors can íunction in three wavs: as
models oí thinking. as language íor expressing those thoughts. and as rhetorical de·ices
íor communicating metaphorical models in interesting wavs. Metaphor is ubiquitous in
all spheres oí human acti·itv.
lrom this perspecti·e. metaphor also has phenomenal potential íor application. It
can be exploited íor diííerent tvpes oí inter·entions in people`s ·erbal and non-·erbal
beha·iour. either to make them aware oí how thev appear to see the world and appear
to act upon those perceptions. or to demonstrate alternati·e wavs oí seeing to them. It
is the aim oí this paper to raise and describe some oí the central de·elopments in
researching and applving metaphor todav in order to show that metaphor is a central
topic íor applied linguistics in all sorts oí domains.
1hat we need good íundamental research beíore we can do the right kinds oí
applied work can be shown bv the íindings oí a small studv held at the Anéla coníer-
ence at which a diííerent ·ersion oí this paper was presented. 1he studv was iníormal
and should not be taken too seriouslv. since less than halí oí the audience returned their
responses. But when participants were asked what percentage oí words in discourse is
metaphorical. some twentv-odd respondents estimated 45.4° standard de·ia-
tion~23.4,. 1he íindings írom extensi·e corpus research conducted in our research
group. co·ering about 190.000 words oí Lnglish and 130.000 words oí Dutch in
·arious language ·arieties. show that the correct answer should be in the order oí
13.5° Steen et al.. in press,. \hen I asked how manv oí these words related to
metaphor are signalled bv a comparison marker. such as ti/e and so on. the participants`
estimate was 19.4° standard de·iation~18.3,. 1he correct answer to this question.
according to our own research again. is about one halí percent. And when I asked what
the order oí the íour registers is in terms oí use oí metaphor related words. the
íollowing rank order was produced bv the coníerence participants. with corresponding
mean estimates íor percentages plus standard de·iations oí metaphor related words per
)abte ]: í.tivatea rav/ oraer ot tovr regi.ter. regaraivg treqvevcy ot vetapbor
Register Lstimated metaphor percentage Standard de·iation
1. liction 44.¯ 23.9
2. (on·ersation 39.¯ 21.9
3. News 34.9 22.5
4. Academic 32.8 20.¯
1he true rank order. bv contrast. is as íollows:
)abte 2: Rav/ oraer ot tovr regi.ter. iv ívgti.b regaraivg treqvevcy ot vetapbor t´teev et at.. iv
Register Obser·ed metaphor percentage
1. Academic 18.3°
2. News 16.2°
3. liction 11.¯°
4. (on·ersation ¯.6°
I do not ha·e the space to discuss these íindings. and ha·e to reíer the reader to our
íorthcoming monograph íor íurther details Steen et al.. in press,. lowe·er. the
diííerences between the data on the one hand and the relati·elv iníormed intuitions bv
a representati·e selection oí mostlv Dutch applied linguists are striking. 1hev are
suggesti·e oí the need to do this kind oí íundamental research in careíul and svstematic
wavs beíore application can be undertaken in sensible wavs.
In this article I will íirst oííer a brieí historv oí the studv oí metaphor since the
1980s. in order to relate a number oí research areas with respect to each other. 1hen I
will make a íew comments about a number oí important aspects oí metaphor in applied
linguistics. linallv I will mo·e on to an impression oí the applied-linguistic studv oí
metaphor in a íew distinct domains oí discourse. 1ogether these pages are meant to
present metaphor as a rapidlv de·eloping area oí studv íor applied linguists who are
adding an inter·entionist dimension to the more íundamental research on metaphor
pursued in linguistics. psvcholinguistics. and sociolinguistics.
Re.earcbivg ava apptyivg vetapbor 93
2 . briet bi.tory ot vetapbor
A broad outline oí the historv oí metaphor in linguistics has to start in 1980. 1his was
the vear when Lakoíí & Johnson 1980, published their íamous Metapbor. re tire by. but
it is also the time when two edited ·olumes were published in psvchologv that are
equallv seminal íor the studv oí metaphor. One is Ortonv`s 19¯9, Metapbor ava tbovgbt
and the other is loneck & loííman`s 1980, Cogvitiov ava tigvratire tavgvage. Ortonv`s
collection was re-issued in a re·ised second edition in 1993. to reílect the impact oí the
explosion oí new research on our ·iews oí metaphor in language and thought. L·en
more telling. it has recentlv been replaced bv a completelv reorganized Cavbriage
bavaboo/ ot vetapbor ava tbovgbt Gibbs. 2008,. which aims to capture the present state oí
the art. Metaphor studies is mo·ing íast. and a brieí historv mav be useíul to appreciate
the present-dav situation.
1he e·entual point oí reíerence oí mv o·er·iew will be applied: metaphor research
did not start out as an applied íorm oí linguistics. but it has recentlv become genuinelv
interested in application. Applied-linguistic research naturallv íeeds back into
íundamental research. vet I still think that the basic relation between the two is the
other wav around. In other words. applied linguistics in·ol·es the application oí
theories and research that ha·e been de·eloped in what mav be called íundamental
linguistics. 1hat is whv it is called applied. And application tvpicallv takes place íor the
aim oí practical problem sol·ing.
Applied linguistics is tvpicallv inter·entionist whereas íundamental linguistics is not.
As a result. sociolinguistics. to me. is not applied linguistics. but part oí íundamental
linguistics - it asks íundamental questions about the relation between language and
societv. or language and interaction between real people. And íirst language acquisition
is one central phenomenon in the de·elopmental branch oí psvcholinguistics. which
itselí is another cornerstone oí íundamental linguistics. 1he íindings oí these disciplines
can be utilized in applied sociolinguistic or psvcholinguistic studies. in order to address
and hopeíullv resol·e practical problems in a number oí domains oí language and its
use. including. íor instance. second-language acquisition and íoreign-language learning.
But I do not agree with those who claim that all psvcholinguistics and sociolinguistics
are also bv deíinition applied: on the one hand. thev pursue íundamental questions oí
research oí their own. and on the other hand. that would lea·e a ·erv narrow and
restricted area íor íundamental linguistics. In mv opinion. all oí this is also irrespecti·e
oí the methods that are used in anv oí these íields. since anv academic íield will attempt
to use as manv diííerent methods oí data collection introspection. obser·ation.
manipulation. simulation, and analvsis qualitati·e and quantitati·e, as possible Steen.
200¯,. But I acknowledge that this is a ·iew that is not generallv shared among all
lundamental linguistics can consequentlv be seen as an area which is shaped bv
three distinct íorces. which each mo·e into a diííerent direction. It íirst oí all includes
linguistics proper`. which is the studv oí language as sign or svmbol. and mo·es
towards the general discipline oí all sign svstems and signiíication. that is. semiotics.
Secondlv. psvcholinguistics is the studv oí language approached as indi·idual beha·iour.
and that branch oí íundamental linguistics mo·es into the direction oí psvchologv. And
sociolinguistics. thirdlv. is the studv oí language as ·erbal beha·iour between people
and groups oí people: it mo·es into the direction oí the social sciences. Between the
three disciplines labelled linguistics. psvcholinguistics. and sociolinguistics. a general
domain oí íundamental research on language and its use comes into existence which is
íairlv stable. and which moreo·er continuouslv spills o·er on all sides into the area oí
1he studv oí metaphor can in íact be seen as one case which exempliíies this
general ·iew oí the disciplinarv dvnamics in the studv oí language and its use. It will be
no surprise that. íor the studv oí metaphor. cogniti·e linguistics should be positioned in
between linguistics. psvcholinguistics. and sociolinguistics as the speciíic new hot
school with interests in all three íields that has radicallv iníluenced the scene since 1980.
Its temporarv predominance in the late eighties was reílected in the presence oí a new
chapter bv George Lakoíí 1993, in Ortonv`s 1993, re·ised second edition oí Metapbor
ava tbovgbt. brazenlv entitled 1he contemporarv theorv oí metaphor`. L·en though
this stvle oí selí-presentation mav ha·e antagonized quite a íew researchers oí
metaphor in language. it cannot be denied that. at least íor a while. this is what manv
people inside and outside cogniti·e linguistics thought - or needed to denv.
\hat íollowed as a result was a series oí interactions between the cogniti·e-
linguistic approach to metaphor. on the one hand. and the three corners oí the íield oí
íundamental linguistics. on the other. 1he íirst altercations took place between
cogniti·e linguists and representati·es oí other brands oí linguistics. lor instance. in
1986 \ierzbicka wrote a 26-page re·iew oí Lakoíí & Johnson 1980, under the title
Metaphors linguists li·e bv`. And Jackendoíí co-authored a re·iew article in íavgvage.
no less. oí Lakoíí & 1urner`s 1989, More tbav coot rea.ov Jackendoíí & Aaron. 1991,.
Both questioned the ubiquitv and rele·ance oí metaphorical meaning. claimed to be
ali·e and kicking in all oí lexico-grammar and usage bv Lakoíí & Johnson 1980,.
Partlv because oí all oí this mavhem in linguistics. psvcholinguists got interested as
well. 1hev had been working on metaphor beíore. as is e·idenced bv the two abo·e-
mentioned ·olumes edited bv Ortonv 19¯9, and loneck & loííman 19¯9,. but those
were tvpicallv limited approaches to metaphor as a rather marginal and essentiallv weird
phenomenon in language processing. \hat the cogniti·e-linguistic ·iew oííered was the
claim that metaphor was central and íundamental to cognition. and that it was not
weird but regular and con·entional. Interactions with ·arious psvchologists íollowed.
ranging írom decidedlv positi·e in the person oí Gibbs íor an o·er·iew oí his earlv
work. see 1994,. through íairlv neutral in the case oí Gentner e.g.. 1983,. to radicallv
critical in the person oí Glucksberg e.g. Glucksberg & Kevsar. 1990: 1993,. 1he basic
issue here was whether so-called conceptual metaphors. such as LIlL IS A JOURNL\.
1IML IS SPA(L. lAPP\ IS UP. ARGUMLN1 IS \AR and so on are in íact part oí indi·idual
people`s conceptual svstems and whether thev are alwavs used in on-line processing. as
was suggested bv most cogniti·e linguists.
Similarlv. scholars interested in social and cultural aspects oí language and its use
were also getting in·ol·ed. 1heir questions pertained to the uni·ersalist aspirations oí
the cogniti·e-linguistic approach e.g. lolland & Ouinn. 198¯: lernandez. 1991:
Palmer. 1996,. Shore 1996, insisted that it was unclear how macro- and micro-social
analvses oí metaphor use were meant to interact in a more encompassing model oí
metaphorical meaning making. 1he sociolinguistic and cultural-linguistic problem with
the cogniti·e-linguistic proposal. in particular. was its high degree oí abstraction. which
seemed to ignore concrete processes oí interaction and resulting situated meanings and
I belie·e that these tensions ha·e become too much íor the cogniti·e-linguistic ·iew
oí metaphor. and that it is losing ground. I cannot point to a precise moment in historv
Re.earcbivg ava apptyivg vetapbor 95
when this happened. but íor the sake oí the argument I will claim that the catastrophe
was sealed with the íoundation oí the International Association íor Researching and
Applving Metaphor. or RaAM. in Mav 2006. lor what is special about this new
association íor the studv oí metaphor is that it does not ha·e a particular allegiance to
the cogniti·e-linguistic ·iew oí metaphor. It does not make a one-on-one connection
between metaphors in language and metaphors in thought. and ií it does. it does not
necessarilv claim that thought means genuine human beha·iour. in the íorm oí
cogniti·e processing or social interaction. At the same time. RaAM does include
independent linguistic. psvcholinguistic. sociolinguistic. and applied-linguistic
approaches to metaphor as appropriate to its agenda. 1his suggests that the cogniti·e-
linguistic approach has had to gi·e wav.
Sur·i·ing elements oí the cogniti·e-linguistic proposals about metaphor ha·e at
present been integrated in the three corners oí íundamental linguistic research on
metaphor. in linguistics. psvcholinguistics. and sociolinguistics. I will mention some oí
the most iníluential details in a moment. But what I wish to emphasize here is that it
looks as ií we ha·e gone back to a Kuhnian stage oí normal research. where puzzle-
sol·ing has become the norm: the re·olution on the cogniti·e-linguistic barricades oí
metaphor mav be turning into historv. 1hose modern puzzles. howe·er. ha·e clearlv
been redeíined in all three corners oí the íield bv the thirtv vears oí debate o·er
metaphor in cogniti·e linguistics.
One particular new aspect oí modern metaphor research. which is also attracti·e íor
applied linguists. is its attention to reliable metaphor identiíication. (ogniti·e linguists
ha·e long relied on their intuitions and clear examples in handling that problem. and
psvcholinguists ha·e constructed their own materials with a hea·v predominance oí .
i. ß metaphors. including ´cievce i. a gtacier or ívcyctopaeaia. are gotavive.. lowe·er.
empirical research on the ·erbal beha·iour oí people in discourse requires better tools
íor reliable metaphor identiíication. and this has been one oí the major areas oí
interests between discourse analvsts. sociolinguists. and applied linguists e.g. Pragglejaz
Group. 200¯: Steen. 200¯,. 1his is now beginning to aííect both íundamental and
applied research alike.
1he present. new ·iew oí metaphor in íundamental linguistics is spilling o·er into
·arious metaphor enterprises in applied linguistics. 1he assumption oí a direct
connection between metaphor in language. thought and communication has been
replaced bv a more tentati·e approach in which the question is raised how metaphor in
language. thought and communication are related to each other in speciíic situations oí
use. lundamental and applied issues are oíten connected in such empirical studies.
which moreo·er are still íairlv exploratorv in nature. In the next two sections I will íirst
highlight two crucial issues and then proceed to exempliív their role in a number oí
domains oí discourse.
² Metapbor iv apptiea tivgvi.tic.
In 1999. (ameron & Low published an edited ·olume with the same title as the present
article: in 2006. thev íounded the corresponding scholarlv association. Mv borrowing is
a tribute to the importance oí those e·ents. One oí the main practical eííects has been
to stimulate research on metaphor in discourse analvsis. sociolinguistics and applied
linguistics. \hat is more. in these areas. scholars ha·e not accepted the cogniti·e-
linguistic assumption oí a direct connection between metaphor in language. on the one
hand. and metaphor in cogniti·e processing or social interaction on the other hand.
Instead. thev treat this connection as an empirical issue which needs to be researched in
concrete situations oí language use. 1his is in line with (ameron & Low`s ideas íormu-
lated in their introduction: Despite the strong claims made bv this strand oí metaphor
theorv. the nature and strength oí links between metaphor and thought are still onlv
partlv understood` 1999. xiii,.
I ha·e recentlv re·iewed a wide range oí metaphor research in order to map the
methodological íield oí metaphor identiíication in language and thought 200¯,. and
argued that metaphor is probablv ·erv seldom a matter oí thought and mostlv just oí
language 2008,. \hat I belie·e instead is that it is more likelv that most lexical
metaphor is handled bv lexical disambiguation strategies. which pre·ent language users
írom accessing underlving conceptual domains that are metaphorical. 1o illustrate.
when people hear words like attac/ or aeteva used in the context oí argumentation. it is
most likelv that thev access the argumentation sense oí these words and pri·ilege that
íor íurther processing beíore thev set up some íigurati·e conceptual domain oí war. as
Lakoíí & Johnson and other cogniti·e linguists would claim. In íact. ignoring the
con·entionalized metaphorical sense oí such lexical items would go against the whole
idea that people`s mental grammars are usage-based. that is. a reílection oí parameters
like con·entionalization. írequencv. salience. and rele·ance. 1his position is in line with
a number oí research íindings in psvcholinguistics Steen. in press a,. It has critical
consequences íor the scope oí the sometimes sweeping claims made bv cogniti·e-
linguistic metaphor scholars about the importance and eííects oí metaphor on thought
Another new issue that has come out oí the more recent usage-based research
epitomized bv (ameron & Low 1999, is the question when metaphor is used
deliberatelv Steen. in press b,. 1his question can be turned into a slightlv more general
·ariant. addressing the issue when metaphor counts as metaphor in communication.
that is. as a speciíic linguistic de·ice between discourse participants. 1hus. manv
prepositions can be said to be metaphorical in language when thev are used to talk
about time or other abstract relations. and this has e·en be shown to ha·e some sort oí
psvchological ·aliditv in cutting-edge experimental research bv Boroditskv 2000,: these
prepositions mav hence also turn out to be metaphorical in thought. lowe·er. whether
language users would experience iv ]··· as metaphorical in communication is another
matter altogether. It does happen. but onlv in ·erv special circumstances. such as
wordplav: consider pop artist Prince`s use oí ricb in the íollowing lines: hev. I ain`t got
no monev. ´ but honev I`m rich ´ in personalitv`.,
Regular. unconscious metaphorical use oí íor instance prepositions should be
contrasted with deliberate metaphors oí which ricb is one example,. \hen Geert
\ilders speaks oí his íear oí a t.vvavi ot í.tavi.atiov. no language user will think that his
use oí the term t.vvavi is not metaphorical. lad he used the term .treav. howe·er. the
situation might ha·e been diííerent cí. (harteris-Black. 2006,. \hat counts as a
metaphor between interlocutors. or between writers and readers. turns out to be a
separate dimension oí the studv oí metaphor. It has not been gi·en suííicient attention
o·er the past three decades.
Deliberate metaphor and metaphor in psvchological processing raise íundamental
questions about the manv relations between metaphor in communication. thought. and
Re.earcbivg ava apptyivg vetapbor 9¯
language. 1hev are drawing an increasing amount oí attention írom applied linguists as
well. Some illustrations will be gi·en below.
1 Metapbor iv ai.tivct aovaiv. ot ai.covr.e
1he new ·iew oí metaphor can be exploited íor all sorts oí inter·entions in people`s
·erbal and non-·erbal beha·iour. It can make them aware oí what thev do and how
thev appear to see the world. or it can demonstrate unexplored alternati·es. One earlv
protagonist oí this tvpe oí application has been Lakoíí. who has inter·ened in
American politics in ·arious wavs. lis book Morat potitic.: !bat cov.erratire. /vor tbat
tiberat. aov`t 1996´2002, presented a description oí two metaphorical cogniti·e models
oí moral and political svstems. called the Strict lather and the Nurturant Parent. and
analvzed their eííect on political practice bv the American Democrats and Republicans.
lor instance. he showed that illegal immigrants are treated in diííerent wavs that mav be
argued to íollow írom the two models: the Strict lather model sees illegal immigrants
as lawbreakers that come in íor punishment. while the Nurturant Parent model sees
them as powerless people with no immoral intent. like innocent children that need
nurturance. On that basis. Lakoíí e·en de·eloped a liberal think-tank in the Rockridge
Institute which oííered practical ad·ice íor change to anv political practitioner who
wanted to take it. In re·ealing unconscious use oí metaphor in language and thought.
Lakoíí in eííect turned the issue írom a linguistic and conceptual one into a
communicati·e. more speciíicallv rhetorical matter. in which people can deliberatelv
choose or a·oid a particular metaphorical perspecti·e on realitv.
Inspired bv this applied approach (ienki 2005, carried out a íundamental.
descripti·e as opposed to inter·entionist studv oí a set oí tele·ised debates between
George Bush and Al Gore in 2000. Interestinglv. he íound that there were íew
metaphorical expressions oí the Nurturant ·ersus Strict Parent models in the ·erbal
data. lowe·er. what he did íind was a substantial number oí utterances that could be
interpreted as logicallv compatible with or íollowing írom the one or the other model.
lor instance. one Strict lather` entailment would be Bush`s íollowing utterance: I
think it`s important íor NA1O to be strong and coníident.` in which the last part oí the
sentence can be interpreted as deri·ing írom the Strict lather model. Bv contrast. when
Gore savs So I want to proceed careíullv to co·er more people`. in a debate on health
insurance. this mav be taken as a reílection oí the Nurturant Parent model. 1he
distance oí these utterances to the hvpothesized metaphorical model in thought.
howe·er. led (ienki to argue íor caution when drawing conclusions about the presence
oí the model in the indi·idual speakers` minds. arguing íor an alternati·e model in
which conceptual metaphor is spread across a speech communitv instead oí located in
indi·idual people`s minds cí. Steen. 1994,. I should like to add that the same caution
needs to be exercised when interpreting the relation between the ·erbal data and the
conceptual content oí the two metaphorical models Steen. 200¯,.
(ienki`s studv mav be seen as an illustration oí one line oí studies which looks at
the conceptual structure oí metaphor in the domain oí politics. oí which manv other
examples could be cited e.g. (ar·er & Pikalo. 2008,. (ienki`s studv goes back to the
essentiallv psvchological claims oí cogniti·e-linguistic theories oí metaphor in language
and thought. A book-length example oí a similar interest could be Musolíí 2004,. who
compares the use oí metaphor in a large corpus oí Lnglish and German political
debates about Lurope. 1he main point oí this studv is to re·eal the underlving
argumentati·e structure oí a number oí metaphorical argumentation scenarios. which
Musolíí argues reílects the wav people think about Lurope. 1hese íindings might then
help critical participants in the debate to reílect upon their own and other people`s
An example oí the communicati·e angle on metaphor is (harteris-Black`s
monograph Potiticiav. ava rbetoric: )be per.va.ire porer ot vetapbor 2005,. in which he
analvzes metaphor use bv such well-known politicians as \inston (hurchill. Martin
Luther King. Margaret 1hatcher. and others. \hat is crucial here is the thin line
between deliberate and non-deliberate metaphor. deliberate metaphor naturallv arising
írom manv con·entionalized metaphors in thought but getting exploited in all sorts oí
relati·elv conscious and speciíic rhetorical wavs. 1hese are no·el issues in the metaphor
research arena. where emphasis used to lie on the natural but unconscious use oí cross-
All oí this is somewhat reminiscent oí another well-known case oí application oí
metaphor in a diííerent public domain. Sontag`s books on íttve.. a. vetapbor and .íD´
ava it. vetapbor.. 1he íirst essav was written beíore the hevdav oí metaphor research. in
19¯8. and the second one. which is ten vears later. still manages to stav outside the
discussion in linguistics: vet both deal with issues oí an applied nature that ha·e since
iníluenced mainstream metaphor scholars. One question has to do with the use oí
illness as a metaphor itselí. íor all tvpes oí problematic or negati·e aspects oí
contemporarv societv. including. íor instance. citv liíe as cancer. Another aspect has to
do with the need oí metaphorical models to deal with aspects oí illnesses themsel·es.
such as cancer or 1B or AIDS. In her íirst essav. Sontag rejects the metaphorical
exploitation as well as conceptualization oí cancer. emphaticallv asserting on the íirst
page that illness is vot a metaphor` 1990. 3,. 1he potentiallv misleading character oí
metaphor in talking about illness. howe·er. is balanced bv a slightlv more positi·e ·iew
oí its potentiallv helpíul nature in the second publication. about AIDS. in which
metaphorical models are allowed their own place in the discourse oí health and care.
1hese questions ha·e become central in the line oí publications addressing the role
oí metaphor in health discourse. 1o gi·e just one example oí the metaphorical
conceptualization oí illness. lanne & lawken 200¯, examined the use oí metaphor
íor íi·e major diseases. including cancer and diabetes. in the ^er Yor/ )ive.. and íound
distinct linguistic and conceptual patterns íor each oí the diseases. More important íor
applied linguists. howe·er. is their inter·ention in practice bv calling íor journalists as
well as doctors to become more aware oí their metaphorical practice and deliberatelv
monitor their communicati·e use oí distinct metaphorical models or aspects thereoí. A
·ariant oí this tvpe oí approach is Ldwards 1999,. who analvzes the relation between
metaphor selection and deplovment bv patients in counselling sessions. An example oí
a studv oí the metaphorical use oí illness íor other target domains is (hopra & Doodv
200¯,. who compare the use oí schizophrenia and cancer as metaphorical terms íor
other phenomena and íind that. in the UK. schizophrenia is used metaphoricallv more
oíten than cancer. 1hev conclude that doctors mav ha·e to be careíul in assuming how
their patients relate to particular technical terms because oí their ·arving popular
(omparable studies ha·e been done on metaphor in other public domains oí
discourse. including science and education. management and organizations. and so on.
Re.earcbivg ava apptyivg vetapbor 99
\ell-known in science and education are the metaphorical models oí electricitv as a
íluid. or oí light as wa·es. In management and organization theorv and research. much
attention is gi·en to the analvsis oí metaphorical models. (ornelissen et al. 2008, oííer
a helpíul re·iew which makes a distinction between research on metaphor in
organization theorv. organizational communication. organizational de·elopment. and
organizational beha·iour. In each oí these contexts. metaphor is approached as
íulíilling a diííerent íunction. lor instance. the íirst two contexts ha·e promoted
attention to metaphor as a íorm oí modelling which mav be used either implicitlv or
explicitlv as wavs oí thinking and talking about complex and abstract phenomena
within organizations. Moreo·er. it is also pointed out that research ·aries between these
contexts with respect to the attention it pavs to linguistic ·ersus multimodal metaphor
in use. In their conclusions. (ornelissen et al. 2008, emphasize the need íor reliable
metaphor identiíication in the beha·ioural data oí real people in concrete situations oí
interaction. so that the interpretation oí the meaning and uses oí a particular metaphor
in context can become maximallv ·alid.
One speciíicallv new topic in this area is the possibilitv íor application oí metaphor
in knowledge management. (onsider. íor instance. the íollowing rather well-known
claim bv Nonaka 1991, as suggesti·e oí the ·alue oí metaphor in knowledge
It is a wav íor indi·iduals grounded in diííerent contexts and with diííerent
experiences to understand something intuiti·elv through the use oí imagination and
svmbols without the need íor analvsis or generalization. 1hrough metaphors. people
put together what thev know in new wavs and begin to express what thev know but
cannot vet sav. As such. metaphor is highlv eííecti·e in íostering direct commitment
to the creati·e process in the earlv stages oí knowledge creation.
1his is a wonderíul e·ocation oí the potential power oí metaphor in knowledge
management. which mav be connected to the state oí the art oí metaphor as well as
knowledge management research in the earlv 1990s. 1wo decades oí research on
metaphor in language and thought ha·e now howe·er raised íundamental questions
about this perspecti·e. in which the relation between metaphor in language. knowledge.
and communication turns out to be much more complex than originallv imagined bv
both cogniti·e linguists and organization theorists.
Metaphor in politics. health and care. and in management and organization are just
three examples oí the wide range oí areas that are currentlv being opened up bv
metaphor researchers. In those endea·ours. íundamental and applied research go hand
in hand and mutuallv aííect and inspire each other. Moreo·er. it is not just applied
linguists that are acti·e in these areas. but also academics írom speciíic domains oí
culture as well. including scholars oí politics. law. and so on. It is to be expected that
these interactions will produce exciting new ad·ances beíore long.
1here are se·eral wavs in which applied linguistic studies like the abo·e can beneíit
írom the íundamental work done on metaphor in linguistics. psvcholinguistics. and
sociolinguistics. lor one thing. the reliable identiíication oí metaphor in language.
cognition and communication is an extremelv problematic issue. which has onlv
recentlv been addressed in serious wavs. A good instrument íor metaphor identiíication
in language is now a·ailable. but its utilization in applied research still needs to become
common practice. Instruments íor relating these linguistic data to metaphor in thought
and in communication still need to be de·eloped and´or calibrated. Until that time.
claims that we ha·e scientiíic knowledge about metaphor need to treated with due care.
Another issue is the precise conceptualization oí the relation between metaphor in
language. cognition. and communication. (orpus íindings about metaphor use in sets
oí data are one thing. but their íunctional interpretation in terms oí people`s thought or
communication is quite something else. Interpretation oí íindings in applied linguistic
projects can be substantiallv impro·ed bv reíerring to an explicit map oí the íield in
which the ·arious relations between distinct aspects oí metaphor and its use are
clariíied Steen. 200¯,. Metaphor is not necessarilv alwavs a matter oí thought - on the
contrarv. there is just as much cause to think that most metaphor is in íact vot a matter
oí thought. ií thought is interpreted as on-line processing Steen. 2008,. Again. claims
about our scientiíic knowledge about metaphor are still not íundamentallv secure.
In spite oí these ca·eats. howe·er. metaphor presents one oí the best-studied topics
in language and its use. It has attracted attention írom linguists. psvcholinguists. and
sociolinguists. and because oí this aííords an exciting platíorm íor applied linguists to
utilize this knowledge as a starting point íor de·eloping new inter·entionist enterprises.
1hese mav tackle metaphor in diííerent domains oí discourse. metaphor in íoreign
language learning. and a number oí other issues that can bring out the best oí the
combination oí researching and applving metaphor.
I am grateíul to the editors oí ))!i. íor their comments on a pre·ious ·ersion oí this
article. which ha·e helped me to sharpen its íocus. I am also grateíul to the Netherlands
Organization oí Scientiíic Research íor N\O rici·grant Metaphor in discourse:
Linguistic íorms. conceptual structures. cogniti·e representations` 2¯¯-30-001,. which
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