Metaphors Used on Polish and American Internet Forums for Mothers

A Comparative Analysis

by Marta Gierczynska-Kolas (Author)
©2017 Monographs 192 Pages
Series: Gdańsk Studies in Language, Volume 11


This study analyzes the use of conceptual metaphors on Polish and American internet forums for mothers. In order to achieve these objectives, the author compiled a corpus consisting of ten thousand posts from Polish internet forums and ten thousand posts from American ones. The topics of threads were various, ranging from giving advice on breastfeeding to sex during pregnancy. The study contributes to a better understanding of online discussions – this issue has not been frequently investigated, especially from a comparative perspective.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of tables
  • Introduction
  • Chapter One Theoretical overview of cognitive linguistics and various theories of metaphors
  • 1.1 Introductory remarks
  • 1.2 Cognitive Linguistics
  • 1.3 Cognitive semantics
  • 1.3.1 Conceptual structure is embodied
  • 1.3.2 Semantic structure is conceptual structure
  • 1.3.3 Meaning representation is encyclopedic
  • 1.3.4 Meaning construction is conceptualisation
  • 1.4 The Conceptual Metaphor Theory
  • 1.4.1 Hiding and highlighting
  • 1.4.2 The cognitive processes in metaphor understanding
  • 1.4.3 The experiential basis of metaphor
  • 1.4.4 The Invariance Hypothesis and asymmetrical directionality
  • 1.4.5 Classification of metaphors
  • The conventionality of metaphors
  • The cognitive function of metaphor
  • The nature of metaphor
  • Levels of generality of metaphor
  • 1.5 The Context-Limited Simulation Theory of Metaphor
  • 1.6 The Discourse Dynamics Framework for Metaphor
  • 1.7 The Theory of Lexical Concepts and Cognitive Models
  • 1.8 Metonymy and metaphtonymy
  • 1.9 Research on the subject
  • 1.10 Concluding remarks
  • Chapter Two Communication in the Internet
  • 2.1 Introductory remarks
  • 2.2 The Internet as a unique environment for communication
  • 2.2.1 Asynchronous communication
  • 2.2.2 Synchronous communication
  • 2.2.3 Active communication
  • 2.2.4 The Internet as a medium stimulating communication
  • 2.3 The forum as a form of communication medium
  • 2.4 Features of language used in online communication
  • 2.5 Research on the subject
  • 2.6 Concluding remarks
  • Chapter Three Metaphors employed by Polish users of Internet forums for mothers
  • 3.1 The aims of the research
  • 3.1.1 Data collection
  • 3.2 An analysis of selected examples of conceptual metaphors
  • 3.2.1 Metaphors of emotions
  • Metaphors of anger
  • Metaphors of aggitation and nerves
  • Metaphors of depression
  • Metaphors of happiness and sadness
  • Metaphors of other feelings and emotions
  • 3.2.2 Metaphors of relationships
  • 3.2.3 Metaphors of sex
  • 3.2.4 Metaphors of conception
  • 3.2.5 Metaphors of bringing up children
  • 3.2.6 Metaphors of children’s progress
  • 3.2.7 Metaphors of the human body
  • Metaphors of parts of the body
  • Metaphors of teeth
  • 3.2.8 Metaphors of illnesses
  • 3.2.9 Metaphors of everyday life
  • 3.2.10 Metaphors of shopping
  • 3.2.11 Metaphors of problems and hardship
  • 3.2.12 Metaphors of people, their behaviour and attitudes
  • 3.2.13 Metaphors of time
  • 3.2.14 Other metaphors
  • Metaphors of weather
  • Metaphors of computers and Internet-related phenomena
  • Metaphors of the world, life, fate and nature
  • Metaphors of freedom and patience
  • 3.3 Concluding remarks
  • Chapter Four Metaphors employed by American users of Internet forums for mothers
  • 4.1 Introductory remarks
  • 4.1.1 Data collection
  • 4.2 An analysis of selected examples of conceptual metaphors
  • 4.2.1 Metaphors of emotions
  • Metaphors of anger
  • Metaphors of happiness and sadness
  • Metaphors of other feelings and emotions
  • 4.2.2 Metaphors of relationships
  • 4.2.3 Metaphors of sex
  • 4.2.4 Metaphors of pregnancy
  • 4.2.5 Metaphors of everyday life
  • 4.2.6 Metaphors of people, their actions and attitudes
  • 4.2.7 Metaphors of the human body
  • 4.2.8 Metaphors of experiences
  • 4.2.9 Metaphors of criticism
  • 4.2.10 Metaphors of choosing an option
  • 4.2.11 Metaphors of time
  • Metaphors of time in general
  • Metaphors of future
  • 4.2.12 Metaphors of weapons
  • 4.3 Concluding remarks
  • Chapter Five A comparative analysis of metaphors used on Polish and American Internet forums
  • 5.1 Introductory remarks
  • 5.2 A qualitative analysis of metaphorical language used on various discussion threads
  • 5.3 A quantitative analysis of metaphorical expressions
  • 5.4 Concluding remarks
  • Conclusions
  • Author index
  • Subject index
  • Series index

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List of tables

Table 1: Mappings for POLITICS IS A PLAY


Table 3: Ontological metaphors

Table 4: Orientational metaphors UP-DOWN

Table 5: Image-schemas

Table 6: A summary of synchronous and asynchronous forms of CMC.

Table 7: List of topics taken from the Internet forum BabyBoom

Table 8: Written language criteria applied to Netspeak

Table 9: Spoken language criteria applied to Netspeak

Table 10: Classification of word-formation processes of Internet neologisms

Table 11: Classification of blending neologisms

Table 12: Basic abbreviations based on pronunciation

Table 13: Acronyms in Netspeak

Table 14: Top 20 emoticons according to Twitter users

Table 15: Emoticons

Table 16: Abbreviations used on American forums for mothers

Table 17: Corresponding discussion threads

Table 18: Metaphorical expressions: Thematic areas

Table 19: Use of metaphors in thematic areas: Ranking lists

Table 20: Use of metaphors in thematic areas: Ranking lists (2)

Table 21: Target domains of the most popular metaphors

Table 22: Source domains of the most popular metaphors

| 13 →


The last decades in the field of linguistics are characterized not only by the development of many new disciplines within it but also by an increased interest in interdisciplinary research. Multidimensional phenomena include metaphor which has been studied by linguists, psychologists, sociologists, educators and philosophers.

The most sustained and innovative recent work on metaphor has occurred in cognitive science and psychology. Psycholinguistic investigation suggests that novel, poetic metaphors are processed differently than literal speech, while relatively conventionalized and contextually salient metaphors are processed more like literal speech. This conflicts with the view of “cognitive linguists” like George Lakoff that all or nearly all thought is essentially metaphorical. There are currently four main cognitive models of metaphor comprehension: juxtaposition, category-transfer, feature-matching, and structural alignment. Structural alignment deals best with the widest range of examples; but it still fails to account for the complexity and richness of fairly novel, poetic metaphors (Camp 2006: 154).

Stanulewicz (2009: 474) sums up Lakoff and Johnsons’s approach to metaphors. According to these researchers and their associates, “metaphor should be treated not only as a figure of speech used in poetry […] because they are also employed – frequently unconsciously – in ‘ordinary’ spoken and written texts”. What is more, “the metaphors we utilize not only shape our perception of the world, but also influence our personal decisions, including those of utmost importance, and even construct our social reality” (Stanulewicz 2009: 474). Sokołowska (2008: 37) states that metaphor is “a powerful cognitive tool”.

Understanding that metaphors are omnipresent in people’s lives was one of the reasons that motivated me to choose Internet forums designed for parents as sources of data for analysis of conceptual metaphors. The language used in threaded online discussions is specific because it shares features of written and spoken language. The topic of conscious parenting is constantly gaining popularity, also in the media. Breakfast TV shows invite specialists, like physiotherapists, psychologists and medical doctors, to give advice on how to raise children. Celebrities who are also parents advocate for various causes, like singing to babies, reading to children, ecological parenting etc. There are various magazines on the Polish market dedicated to parents, discussing topics such as giving birth, parenting, education of children etc.; newspapers issue extra material on problems connected with raising children. Finally, mothers themselves take the ← 13 | 14 → initiative and open clubs for young parents promoting healthy and active lifestyles, encouraging hobbies, organizing meetings with celebrities and various specialists. Also, the popularity of community portals and forums promoting conscious parenting has been constantly growing since 2009. According to the second largest website analyzing web traffic and web page statistics, Alexa (www.alexa.com, accessed on the 25th of May 2011), the community portal “BabyBoom” was ranked as number 787 among all Polish websites based on website traffic (the number of people visiting the website). The Internet forum of “BabyBoom” is extremely popular with mothers, which can be easily noticed by analyzing their statistics. In 2011 there were over 400 community groups, 23,300 topics, almost 75,500 users and nearly 7 million comments (data gathered on 20th of May 2011 on www.babyboom.pl) (Gierczyńska-Kolas 2013: 56). In 2015 there were over 29,000 topics, almost 115,000 users and nearly 11 million comments (data gathered on 7th of February 2015 on www.babyboom.pl) – a vast repository of linguistic data.

This study is an attempt to analyze the language of Internet forum users, especially the conceptual metaphors they employ. It offers an analysis of the material collected from various Polish and American Internet forums for mothers which are an ever-growing inexhaustible source of spontaneously used ordinary language.

The purpose of this study is to analyze conceptual metaphors used on Polish and American Internet forums for mothers.

Additional objectives of the thesis are the following: to present what thematic areas require the use of metaphors, to show what topics of Internet discussions cannot be expressed metaphorically and to examine the differences and similarities between the metaphors used by Polish and American parents.

Achieving the objectives of this study required performing some specific tasks:

developing a theoretical base of the study, in this case, considering the main objectives of the Conceptual Metaphor Theory;

selecting topics of Internet forums which provided versatile material for the analysis;

identifying conceptual metaphors in the analyzed material;

classifying metaphors by thematic areas, and more narrowly, by their target domains;


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2019 (April)
Conceptual metaphor Online discussion Quantitative analysis Source domains Target domains Internet’s language
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2017. 192 pp., 25 b/w tables.

Biographical notes

Marta Gierczynska-Kolas (Author)

Marta Gierczyńska-Kolas graduated from Trinity College, Dublin, and completed her doctoral studies in Linguistics at the University of Gdańsk. Currently she works as an Assistant Professor at the Pomeranian Academy in Słupsk, Poland. Her publications focus on conceptual metaphors, colour vocabulary and Multimodal Discourse Analysis.


Title: Metaphors Used on Polish and American Internet Forums for Mothers
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194 pages