Program description

The cognitive revolution in metaphor studies has recently led to growing interest in metaphor as a device for conceptualization or framing such as calling cancer research a “war on cancer” or labeling the increase of Islamic influence in the west a “tsunami”. What has been entirely ignored in this context, however, is the fact that the typically implicit properties of metaphors as devices for conceptualization and framing are also resisted in various ways in specific discourse practices. Such resistance seems difficult to activate and formulate: it is not self-evident why or how one would resist Nixon’s “war on cancer” or Wilders’  “tsunami of islamization”. This requires specific linguistic, conceptual and communicative skills, special analytical and argumentative effort, and particular discourse conditions. There are some critical studies of less desirable aspects of metaphors by linguists, but how language users themselves (may) resist metaphor in actual practice has remained off the agenda, in spite of its scientific and societal importance.

This program will elaborate an innovative analytical framework in theoretical and empirical terms in order to answer the question when and how people can resist metaphor, and why. It will look at resistance to metaphor as a form of counter-argumentation and design a new, integrated theory combining a three-dimensional model of metaphor in language use (Steen, 2011a) with a pragma-dialectical (Van Eemeren, 2010) theory of argumentation. The program will yield an encompassing analytical model, four empirical studies in four distinct discourse practices, and experimental findings of people’s practices and abilities to resist metaphor.