Research article
Issue: № 4 (12), 2017


The article deals with the phenomenon of metaphor use in linguistic texts dedicated to the study of Metaphor. Metaphor is one of the natural means of thought formation and wording in scientific search, it reflects knowledge processing and reasoning, and it is a means of linguistic representation of knowledge in science. In linguistic texts on Metaphor metaphors attain the role of metalanguage. Metaphorical modelling of the concept of Metaphor in linguistic texts helps to study the main peculiarities of this metalanguage and define its functions.


Metaphor is one of the phenomena of language and cognition that does not cease to attract researcher’s attention and interest. It is an object of study of philosophy, psychology, logic. Nowadays metaphor is viewed as a means of cognition not only by researchers of the metaphor itself (L.Alexeeva, M.Black, Grady J.E., G.Fauconnier, M.Johnson G.Lackoff, J.Ortega-y-Gasset, Osborn M., Ritchie D., M. Turner, etc.) but also by natural scientists (N.Bohr, W.Heisenberg, etc.). Metaphor is an effective tool in wording new knowledge because it is based on at least two interacting referents that tie together old and new knowledge. L.Alexeeva claims that academic metaphor is an “ideal” tool for creating the scientific model [1]. The paradox about studying metaphor is that one of the ways of explaining its nature and mechanisms is metaphorical [8]. The aim of this paper is to study the peculiarities of the concept of Metaphor as it is represented in academic papers on metaphors and its functions in different spheres of thought and speech.


In the study of peculiarities of metaphorical representation of metaphor along with general scientific methods of analysis, synthesis, generalization and systematization such linguistic methods as contextual analysis and cognitive analysis were used. The study was largely based on metaphorical modelling, which is a specific technique of cognitive analysis. Quantitative analysis was combined with qualitative processing of the data obtained from the study of linguistic material. Typological and descriptive methods helped to generalize, interpret and describe the data. In the course of the research over twenty linguistic texts on metaphors were studied.


All modern academic papers considering metaphor explore its mechanisms and describe its functions with the help of natural language. Natural language in its turn makes use of all its instruments including metaphor.

In academic language the process of metaphorization is quite natural because metaphors do not contradict the process of scientific thinking [1]. Moreover in modern science scientific concepts tend to become more abstract [2], and metaphor is a unity that combines both abstractedness and particularity. The role of metaphor to serve as a means of term formation is unquestionable because it reflects deductive, analogous and integrational character of scientific research. As a result, metaphorical terms are open to interpretation which is very important for science.

In the philosophy of language conceptual thinking is inseparable from metaphorical thinking, though there is a discussion on the adequacy of interpretation of people’s thought in the terms of cognitive metaphor. Thus, the question of whether people use metaphors when structuring their abstract concepts is discussed in D.Casasanto’s paper ‘When is a linguistic metaphor a conceptual metaphor?’ (2009). In studies of cognitive processes at least two types of metaphors should be distinguished: linguistic and conceptual. According to Casasanto, “linguistic metaphors should be treated as a source of hypotheses about the structure of abstract concepts” [5. p. 143]. Abstract concepts, in their turn, often have the form of conceptual metaphors. That means that conceptual metaphors lie deeper in thought, and their creation or ‘extraction’ from it is preceded by another process of interpreting and evaluation, which is done in terms of linguistic metaphors. Linguistic metaphors represent equipment for operating with abstract thought.

In linguistic papers the use of metaphors of both types – linguistic and conceptual, is quite common. Moreover, various metaphorical means are widely used in texts that represent the very theory of conceptual metaphor [5, 8]. Linguistic metaphors reveal the essence of authors’ thought and help to formulate the main scientific idea, they often play the explanatory role, while conceptual metaphors represent condensed knowledge (old or new), hypothesis or theory. Both linguistic and conceptual metaphors thereby form a metalanguage that reflects the authors’ way of thinking, their scientific ideas and their intentions. The study of this metalanguage would help to uncover the main sources from which linguists borrow the meanings for making their concepts clear to readers.


The analysis of metaphorical contexts allowed us to single out a corpus of metaphors that represent metaphorical models of the concept of Metaphor. The other part of metaphors used in the text was not connected with the description of the concept of Metaphor. Seven metaphorical models form the concept of Metaphor (Metaphor is Man – 41%; Spatial Metaphor – 19%; Metaphor is Tool / Device – 15%; Metaphor is Product – 14%; Metaphor is Law – 7%; Metaphor is Decoration – 4%).

The metaphorical model Metaphor is Man is predominant in the texts that were studied. The most representative frame of this model is “Human characteristics”; it reflects Metaphor’s Mental Abilities (Metaphor ‘conceives’ [13. P. 22], ‘operates actions’ [15. P. 16], ‘informs the way we think’ [14. P. 1]), Physical Abilities (it ‘strikes the hearer’ [15. P. 4]), Family Relations (‘family of metaphors’ [16. P. 15], ‘metaphors and their close cousins, analogies’ [ibid.]), Biological Characteristics (‘dying metaphor’ [13. P. 26]), Working Ability (‘a guide’ [13. P.  24], ‘metaphoric expressions may recruit’ [8. P. 7]). Other frames of the model that are less represented in studied texts are “Giving Birth” (‘metaphor generates new meanings’ [16. P. 15]), “Activity” (‘metaphors work” [11. P. 25]), “Rest” (‘dormant metaphor” [13. P. 26]), and “Death” (‘dead metaphor’ [16. P. 15]). All the metaphors of this model prove that Metaphor is a highly anthropocentric unit.

The model Spatial Metaphor underlies the key terms of Cognitive Theory of Metaphor, it is one of the basic models for the classical theory of conceptual metaphor of G.Lakoff, and the theory of blending and conceptual integration of M.Turner and G.Fauconnier. In this metaphorical model the major part of metaphors is conceptual. The most widely used metaphors are ‘metaphorical mapping’ [10. P. 1], ‘metaphoric projection’ [10. P. 2], ‘metaphorical schemas’ [13. P. 23], ‘metaphoric shifting’ [8. P. 14], ‘framing’ [7. P. 5], ‘metaphoric domain’, ‘four-space model’, ‘input space’, ‘generic space’, ‘blend space’ [8. Pp. 1-36]. Metaphor is also considered as a central element of language and thought (‘metaphor is central to abstract language’ [4. P. 17], ‘metaphor reasoning is the very core of what scientists do’ [4. P. 1], ‘metaphor lies at the very heart of creative science’ [4. P. 17].

The metaphorical model Metaphor is Tool / Device is used in all texts under study. It describes Metaphor as a transitional phase between old and new knowledge in cognition. The characteristics of this tool are various: it is ‘a creative tool’ [3. P. 12], ‘a research tool’ [3. P. 21], ‘a fundamental language tool’ [4. P. 3], ‘a tool of discovery’ [4. P. 16], ‘a powerful instrument’ [4. P. 1], etc.  

The metaphorical model Metaphor is Product is represented only in several texts that were studied. It represents Metaphor as a result or product of cognition. ‘Conventional metaphors are products’ [13. P. 13], ‘metaphor production’ [13. P. 14], ‘distribution of creative metaphors’ [14. P. 3], ‘processing of metaphors’ [15. P. 17].

The model Metaphor is Law is represented in the article “Metaphors we live by” by G.Lakoff (1980) (47% of all metaphors in the article). The author views Metaphor as a natural trait of language and thought that exercises its power of law over both of them (‘the power of metaphor’, ‘metaphor sanctions actions’, ‘metaphors justify inferences’ [12. Pp. 4-14]. Metaphors can be created as laws (‘to create a metaphor’ [12. P. 19]), and people’s life is guided by metaphors as by laws (‘metaphors we live by’ [ibid.]).

The least represented model is Metaphor is Decoration. It can be explained by unpopularity in modern linguistics of the concept of metaphor solely as a stylistic device. Metaphor in this model is used mainly as an illustration of former knowledge, of old-fashioned theories of metaphors as rhetorical devices (‘decorative view of metaphor’ [6. P. 7], ‘metaphor as a rhetorical flourish’ [6. P. 13]. Thus, the authors of the articles under study used the metaphoric description of metaphors as decoration only in argument with their opponents.


Metaphors in linguistic texts can be used as metalanguage in the process of describing their own nature. The use of this or that metaphorical model in the text depends on the aim of the author: it can be central to the main idea of the text or illustrate the accompanying ideas, it can word some new knowledge (as in Cognitive Theories of G.Lakoff, M.Turner, G.Fauconnier) or show old knowledge (as in W.Gray’s article “Metaphor and Meaning” where the old ‘ornament metaphor’ is opposed to the modern ‘conceptual metaphor’). No linguistic text about metaphor that has been studied is free of metalinguistic use of metaphors.


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