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Showing how metaphors are used to talk about entities, relations, and attributes in one domain by drawing on another, Conceptual Metaphor Theory has sometimes been used in language analysis to highlight and explore fixed correspondences between domains. Another perspective is given by Schön (1993), who suggested that metaphors can draw a relationship between the topic and a common sequence of events – i.e. that metaphors can impose a narrative sequence on their topic – and by Musolff (2006, 2007), who described “scenarios,” metaphors based on fragments of experience, incorporating a culturally shared evaluation. In two case studies, these complex relationships are further explored: The first examines three artifacts apparently realizing LIFE IS A JOURNEY, initially in terms of correspondences between domains. The second provides a detailed analysis of two speeches about education, analyzing them both in terms of metaphorical mappings and correspondences, and as narratives. The exploration of narratives is informed by a reference corpus, which is used to provide data from the language at large about the behavior of words and phrases from the education speeches.
In this paper I discuss a corpus-based approach to the identification of metaphorical expressions in English and consider the insights which can be gained through such an approach. The approach described here has its roots in lexicography, and is influenced by models of language and thought developed by research within cognitive linguistics by writers such as Lakoff and Johnson (1980) and Gibbs (1994). I begin by arguing that the study of large corpora can give information about the frequency and use of linguistic metaphors which is otherwise difficult to access. I then discuss decisions which must be made in order to develop a sound methodological framework for research into metaphor. I give examples of some aspects of linguistic metaphors which can be investigated using corpora, and finally list some limitations of a corpus-based approach.
A computerised corpus is a large collection of texts held in electronic form, which can be accessed using various types of software packages; for the purposes of language description, these are often concordancing programs. A concordancing program enables the researcher to study a word form (or forms) by looking at large numbers of citations of that word form with its linguistic contexts. (To see how this data is presented, see the extract of the concordance of heated, below.) Citations can be sorted in various ways, enabling the researcher to examine different patterns of structure and collocation.
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