From Conceptual Metaphor Theory to Cognitive Ethnolinguistics

Patterns of Imagery in Language

by Marek Kuźniak (Volume editor) Agnieszka Libura (Volume editor) Michał Szawerna (Volume editor)
©2014 Edited Collection 276 Pages


The origins of this volume lie in the international conference Cognitive Linguistics in the Year 2012, convened by the Polish Cognitive Linguistics Association. The proceedings of the conference revolved around three major thematic areas: metaphorical and metonymic underpinnings of meaning in language and beyond, prototypical and gradual phenomena pertaining to linguistic categorization across the lexicogrammatical continuum, and the need for advancing theoretical tools. These recurring themes are reflected in the three-part structure of this volume, with contributions from nearly two dozen researchers exploring a broad array of linguistic as well as non-linguistic data.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction
  • Part 1 Imagery we live by
  • Why are multimodal metaphors interesting? The perspective of verbo-visual and verbo-musical modalities
  • Ethnic and gender stereotypes in signed languages: A cognitive linguistic view
  • Metaphor, language and gesture
  • Swan neck and goose rump: Metaphor and metonymy in specialized English and Polish equestrian vocabulary
  • Conceptualizations of fear in English and Polish
  • Headlines of controversy and the role of metonymy and metaphor
  • The role of figurative language in political discourse
  • Part 2 Structures of meaning. Investigating lexicon, grammar and text
  • Levels of countability: A corpus based study
  • English and Polish ditransitive constructions in contrast: A construction grammar approach
  • Analysis of the verbal prefix iz- in Croatian using the corpus-driven method of cognitive linguistics
  • The same or just much the same? Problems with coreference from the reader's perspective
  • Cognitive grammar methods in the study of Polish emotion verbs
  • Gradation in the 'friend-enemy' opposition in English and Russian
  • Part 3 Advancing theoretical tools
  • Of triangles, trapeziums and ethnolinguists: The linguistic worldview revisited
  • About the need to integrate research approaches to the language faculty phenomenon
  • Embodiment and metaphorical meaning creation
  • The role of textual value-triggering snapshots in valuation
  • Series Index

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Marek Kuźniak, Agnieszka Libura, Michał Szawerna

This volume originated mainly from discussions at the conference titled “Cognitive Linguistics in the Year 2012,” organized by the Polish Cognitive Linguistics Association in collaboration with the University of Wrocław and the Society of Friends of Polish Philology in Wrocław (Wrocław, Poland, September 17-18, 2012). There were three main overarching topics pursued at this conference: (1) metaphorical and metonymic aspects of semantic structure, (2) prototypical and gradual phenomena pertaining to linguistic categorization at various level of language structure, and (3) the need for advancing theoretical tools. These recurring themes are reflected in the structure of this book.

The first part of this volume reflects the strong and long-standing interest in the conceptual theory of metaphor and metonymy. It also illustrates the growing tendency among researchers to focus on the non-verbal realizations of conceptual metaphors1 (Górska; Kosecki; Kiełbawska) and the political and social potential of metaphors and metonymies2 (Barczewska; Mammadov & Mammadov). In the first paper Elżbieta Górska focuses on multimodal metaphors and argues that studies of a broad array of issues pertaining to language and cognition could benefit from multimodal metaphor research. Górska investigates some illustrative examples of verbo-visual and verbo-musical metaphors from newspaper cartoons, ads, films, lectures, and psychotherapy and demonstrates that they recruit image schemas as their source domain. Based on this finding, Górska argues for an extended version of Slobin’s (1987) hypothesis, which she rephrases as thinking for multimodal communication. According to Górska, the fundamental function of multimodal metaphors which project cross-domain image-schematic patterns is that of iconic reinforcement. Not only can they introduce aspects of meaning which compensate for the low iconicity of the verbal code, but they also serve as a back-up mechanism for moments of lowered attention. It is to be expected, then, that studies of multimodal metaphors can also lead to new insights about linguistic attention and information flow. Moreover, by the broadening of the scope of ← 7 | 8 → metaphor research, the multimodal perspective makes it possible to avoid some circularity in argumentation for conceptual metaphor theory since it provides nonverbal evidence for metaphorical thinking.

In his paper, Krzysztof Kosecki sets out to investigate ethnic and gender stereotypes in signed languages, applying the methods of conceptual metaphor, metonymy and prototype theory. Drawing upon data from American, British, and Polish signed languages, Kosecki examines how names of nations and kinship relations are represented by stereotypical properties and actions attributed to particular groups and family members. Specifically, he takes into account such parameters of signs as hand-shape, location, movement and orientation, e.g. he describes one of the ASL signs RUSSIAN as 5-hand-shapes placed on the hips and moving forward and backward, which imitates a Russian folk dance. His analysis demonstrates how various aspects of outward appearance, habits, religion, culture, and power relations that are part of a given stereotype serve to express ethnic and gender identities. It also reveals underlying metonymic chains and metaphorical structure, noting that the former occurs more frequently than the latter. Kosecki’s study indicates that most ethnic stereotypes employed in the analyzed signs are rather unexpectedly neutral in terms of value-judgement.

As in the previous papers, Amelia Kiełbawska’s study applies the conceptual metaphor theory to non-linguistic data, namely gestures. Specifically, Kiełbawska investigates the relationship between metaphoric gesture and metaphoric speech. She examines possible speech-gesture combinations in an effort to reveal the dynamics of metaphoricity and points out that the conceptual metaphor theory can be profitably integrated with gesture studies. The unified framework would make it possible to transfer analytical tools from one field to the other, which would open new theoretical prospects. For instance, the conceptual theory of metaphor can significantly contribute to gesture studies by revealing the imagery of source domains mapped onto target domains, which appears to be present in some iconic gestures.

Shifting the focus to more conventional linguistic data, Eleonora Pawłowicz examines metaphor and metonymy in specialized English and Polish equestrian vocabulary. The study contrasts the General Theory of Terminology with recent theoretical developments and points out that while the former regards figurative language as undesirable and strives for clear-cut concepts and monosemy, the latter adopt socio-cognitive perspective, accepting polysemy and demarcational fuzziness. In concord with the non-prescriptive character of new approaches, Pawłowicz aims at demonstrating the importance of figurative language in specialized vocabulary. She discusses metaphors and metonymies in equestrian specialized vocabulary pertaining to three domains: horse breeds and breeding; horse conformation; horse colors and markings in order to reveal the recurrent patterns ← 8 | 9 → of imagery reflected in equestrian vocabulary, such as metaphorical extensions of the concept of precious material (amber, ivory, amber, pearl, etc.) to the domain of horse color. Pawłowicz concludes that metaphors and metonymies facilitate and refine specialized communication by anchoring their content in strongly entrenched and highly salient concepts.

The contribution by Anna Rewiśętkowska focuses on conceptualizations of fear in English and Polish. Specifically, Rewiśętkowska examines selected metaphors and metonymies unraveling the interplay between them, as well as image schemas which appear to be crucial to the understanding of the emotion in question. The study reveals that English and Polish share all the metaphors at a more generic level, a fact which can be accounted for by human organic embodiment, while the differences result from the choice of an aspect of the same bodily experience. Rewiśętkowska demonstrates that both English and Polish conceptual models of fear are based on three conventional construal patterns: the CONTAINMENT image schema, the metaphor FEAR IS A DANGEROUS/HOSTILE ENTITY, and the metonymy PHYSIOLOGICAL EFFECT OF FEAR STANDS FOR FEAR. She also points to the possibility of categorizing the physiologically motivated expressions according to two metaphtonymic concepts related to cold and illness.

The paper by Shala Barczewska examines headlines introducing articles on the contested passage of the teach the controversy bill(s) in Tennessee in April 2012. Barczewska identifies and categorizes metonymies and metaphors in the headline corpus and discusses their evaluative intent. On the one hand, Barczewska’s analysis indicates that PLACE FOR PEOPLE, PLACE FOR ACTIVITIES and PART FOR WHOLE metonymies are most frequently used in the data. According to Barczewska, these metonymies are employed to control the flow of information. First, they highlight certain aspects of the conceptualized scene while backgrounding others. Second, they appear to purposefully create ambiguity camouflaging the offender. On the other hand, Barczewska’s results show that the most frequent metaphorical patterns involve the concepts of war and game. Their role is to produce various inferences or entailments in accordance with the authors’ perspective. Barczewska concludes that both metonymy and metaphor can be evaluative and ideologically potent. Moreover, in headlines, metonymy has at least equal potential for influencing readers’ attention and inferential patterns as metaphor,

In their contribution, Azad Mammadov and Misgar Mammadov discuss issues pertaining to political discourse adopting the socio-cognitive approach. After introducing some theoretical perspectives on the problem, they set out to investigate metaphors and metonymies as well as some cliches and slogans that focus on ideology and power. They rely on data elicited from speeches of politicians with different cultural background (British, American, Russian and French). Mammadov and Mammadov differentiate between global and local knowledge. They ← 9 | 10 → point to some universal patterns, on the one hand, and culture-dependent imagery, on the other. To illustrate the latter, they discuss the Cold War example, pointing out that its calque Холодная Война has surprisingly positive associations in Russian political discourse, since cold and frost has been associated with victories (beginning with the Battle of the Ice in 1242 and ending with Hitler’s Operation Barbarossa). In conclusion, Mammadov and Mammadov argue for the potential of metaphor and metonymy to link explicit information with covert meaning.

In the second part of the volume, several lexical, grammatical and textual phenomena are discussed and their intricate semantic structures are revealed. Throughout this part, the recurring themes are network models, prototypicality, and gradience. This thematic organization reflects a major commitment of cognitive linguistics: to study human language in accordance with the findings of research conducted in other fields of cognitive science, specifically the research on conceptual organization and principles of categorization.3 All of the papers collected in this part advance the understanding of the patterns underlying semantic structure and demonstrate the flexibility of meaning. Most of them adopt a corpus-based approach and make use of substantial samples of varied language data as a basis for linguistic theorizing.

This part opens with Jacek Woźny’s corpus based study of countability. In his contribution, Woźny sets out to investigate the membership gradience of the conceptual categories of things and substances, which are encoded in English as countable and uncountable nouns, respectively. Woźny’s method is based on the statistical coefficient of average perceived referent size (or APRS), which is estimated by analysis of a random sample of corpus texts containing a particular noun. According to Woźny, the comparison of APRS for a group of English countable and uncountable nouns shows that countability is indeed gradable. Woźny suggests that his method can also explain why some English nouns (e.g. peas, flowers, and pebbles) are countable, while others (e.g. maize, grass, and gravel) are uncountable, even though the physical characteristics of their referents are effectively identical.

Shifting the focus to grammatical constructions, Joanna Paszenda invokes the conception of a radial set model, which enables her to show the motivational links between central and extended senses of various ditransitive subconstructions. Drawing on previous cognitive analyses of the ditransitive grammatical pattern in English and Polish, Paszenda compares the English family of ditransitive constructions with their Polish counterparts. Specifically, Paszenda employs the multidimensional model of constructional polysemy, previously applied to the English ditransitive, in a description of the patterns making up the family of ← 10 | 11 → ditransitive constructions in Polish. Paszenda’s description indicates that the Polish ditransitive construction has a broader range of application than its present-day English counterpart, most likely due to the expressive potential of the dative marking on the Polish indirect object.

Like Woźny’s paper, the contribution by Przemysław Brom relies on corpus data. Similarly to Paszenda, Brom also addresses the issue of prototype meaning and semantic network although his main research interest lies in other semantic patterns. In his corpus-driven cognitive study, Brom delves into the semantics of Croatian deverbal derivatives formed by means of the prefix iz- (e.g. izići ‘come out’, istjerati ‘drive out’, iźmikati ‘milk’, iskasljati ‘cough up’, ispremjestati ‘remove’). Specifically, Brom focuses on the ways in which the use of this prefix influences the semantic value of the verbs underlying the prefixed derivatives. Brom’s conclusion is that the influence is twofold: (1) if the verb encodes spatial relations, the prefix alters its meaning by providing it with the attribute of outside movement; (2) if the verb does not encode spatial relations, the prefix alters its meaning by providing it with spatial attributes.

The paper by Magdalena Zawisławska and Maciej Ogrodniczuk is another corpus based study included in this part. Despite focusing primarily on annotation in the Polish Coreference Corpus, their analysis provides the potential for additional insight into the processes of text understanding. Zawisławska and Ogrodniczuk discuss problems of coreference annotation on the example of the Polish Coreference Corpus. According to Zawisławska and Ogrodniczuk, who discuss a range of examples of errors in coreference annotation, there are three main reasons why annotators make mistakes in determining coreferential expressions in corpus texts: grammatical, semantic, and cognitive. Apart from discussing errors in coreference annotation and their possible causes, Zawisławska and Ogrodniczuk comment on the distinction between coreference and anaphora, discuss the dependence of coreference on specific properties of Polish grammar, and question the viability of detailed typologies of near-identity relations.

Also building on corpus data, the paper by Marta Dobrowolska contributes to the growing body of research on linguistic encoding of emotions. The central goal of Dobrowolska’s analysis is to capture the fluidity of meanings in terms of prototypes and their extensions. Specifically, Dobrowolska applies the methodology of cognitive grammar to the description of the semantic structure of the Polish verb bać się (‘fear’, ‘be afraid of’). Dobrowolska argues that the analytical tools of cognitive grammar, which enable the linguist to describe grammatical constructions in considerable detail and relate the meanings of polysemous linguistic expressions in the form of schematic network models, are particularly suitable to the description of the semantic structure of verbs like bać się as they afford ← 11 | 12 → comprehensive and intuitively convincing characterizations that eluded the proponents of earlier linguistic methodologies, formal as well as cognitive-semantic.

In her contribution, Olga Luntcova invokes the principles of contemporary theory of categorization to demonstrate that the conceptual opposition between friend and enemy, traditionally regarded as binary, is in fact gradual. According to Luntcova, the concepts of friend and enemy are best conceived of as endpoints of a cline, with an array of intermediate concepts situated between them. On the basis of data elicited from native speakers of English and Russian, Luntcova discusses the lexical items that encode these intermediate concepts in the two languages and suggests that native speakers of English and Russian have definite intuitions on where the meanings of these lexical items are situated along the cline from friend to enemy.

The third part of the volume collects papers which share the interest in theoretical issues. They aim at confronting cognitive linguistics with other frameworks and refining theoretical aspects of cognitive approaches to linguistic phenomena. The first two studies explore possibilities for cross-fertilization between theoretical concepts from various models of language.4 The paper by Adam Głaz and Katarzyna Prorok attempts to integrate the findings subsumed under the Lublin linguistic worldview program within the framework of Ogden and Richards’ semiotic triangle. The questions raised are epistemological and ontological as they relate to the nature of the external world accessed by humans. The argument as it unfolds in the course of the analysis leads to the reformulation of the original triangle into a trapezium with the concurrent claim that the world available to humans is not directly manifested but rather emerges as a projected reality communicated via cognitive-perceptual apparatus. The findings are thus consonant with the cognitive-linguistic philosophy of experiential realism. The overarching goal of the paper is supported by a minor aim to incorporate into the discussion semasiological and ontological axes of analysis with the ultimate postulate to combine the two approaches in view of the ethnolinguistic methodology adopted in the article.

The goals formulated by Jolanta Mazurkiewicz-Sokołowska in her paper on integrative framework of the description of language faculty are ambitious. To achieve these, she attempts to analyse different approaches to modelling language faculty and concludes by proposing a unified account of it. In doing so, ← 12 | 13 → Mazurkiewicz-Sokołowska attempts to reconcile generativist (rationalist) tradition of research with the cognitivist (empirical) insights into the working of the discussed faculty. In this proposal the universally stored information is not seen as contrasting but rather cooperating with specific information obtained from language processing. Her paper is in effect conciliatory as various traditions of research such as neurolinguistics, neurophysiology, sociolinguistics are staged as supportive of the integrative goals spelled out in the article. These are in turn strengthened by the necessity to bridge the gap between the apparently exclusive generativist and cognitivist approaches to language faculty. The emerging three-level model is corroborated by the provision of empirical data derived from language perception and production.

The paper by Gabor Simon is another insightful contribution to the role of linguistic metaphors in organizing rather than merely reflecting conceptual patterns in the mind. The novelty is to perspectivize the embodiment as circular rather than unidirectional, i.e. from the body to the mind. This circular conception allows for more elasticity in understanding the complex relations between the mind, the body and the physical environment. The account proposed is therefore not to view conceptual metaphorical configurations as static but rather as emerging locally determined networks prompted by Kohonen’s reference model. This reformulated conception of the linguistic metaphor helps in capturing the dynamicity of discourse on the one hand, and offers the sound explicatory ground for the processes of meaning creation, on the other.

In his contribution, Tomasz Włodarski proposes to expand Krzeszowski’s (1997) two-dimensional schematic representation of the domain of values, which comprises a hierarchy of values and a scale of their axiological charge, to include the so-called subjective/inter-subjective validity of values. Additionally, Włodarski introduces the idea of a textual value-triggering snapshot: a brief account of a scene which triggers valuations in the conceptual system of the snapshot’s interpreter by appealing to his or her background knowledge. By explicating the axiological potential of textual snapshots excerpted from selected travelogues, Włodarski seeks to justify his conception of a three-dimensional schematic representation of the domain of values.

We would like to express our gratitude to the Dean of the Faculty of Philology at the University of Wrocław, Marcin Cieński, who was instrumental in bringing this volume to print. We also owe a special word of thanks to Jacek Woźny, who was initially responsible for correspondence with prospective contributors. Last but not least, we thank the authors for their papers as well as the patience with which they approached our numerous questions and queries. ← 13 | 14 →


Forceville, Charles & Eduardo Urios-Aparisi. Intrduction. In: Charles Forceville & Eduardo Urios-Aparisi (eds.), 2009, Multimodal Metaphor. Berlin-New York: Mouton de Gruyter.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2014 (May)
metonymy Konzeptualisierung multimodality Zählbarkeit (Sprache) Metaphor
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 276 pp., 36 b/w fig., 18 tables

Biographical notes

Marek Kuźniak (Volume editor) Agnieszka Libura (Volume editor) Michał Szawerna (Volume editor)

Marek Kuźniak is associate professor in the Institute of English Studies at the University of Wrocław (Poland). Agnieszka Libura is associate professor in the Institute of Polish Philology at the University of Wrocław (Poland). Michał Szawerna is assistant professor in the Institute of English Studies at the University of Wrocław (Poland).


Title: From Conceptual Metaphor Theory to Cognitive Ethnolinguistics