Metaphor and Senses

The Synamet Corpus: A Polish Resource for Synesthetic Metaphors

by Magdalena Zawisławska (Author)
Monographs 202 Pages
Open Access

Table Of Content

  • Cover
  • Title Page
  • Copyright Page
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • Citability of the eBook
  • Contents
  • Introduction
  • 1 Theoretical background
  • 1.1 Conceptual theory of metaphor
  • 1.2 Overview of frame semantics
  • 1.2.1 Frames and domains
  • 1.2.2 Frame semantics and CMT implementations
  • FrameNet
  • MetaNet
  • 1.3 Theories of verbal synesthesia
  • 1.3.1 Synesthesia and synesthetic metaphors
  • 1.3.2 Models of verbal synesthesia
  • 1.3.3 Typology of verbal synesthesia
  • 2 Annotation methodology
  • 2.1 Metaphor identification procedure in Synamet
  • 2.2 Tools for annotation
  • 2.3 Annotation procedure
  • 2.3.1 Topic selection
  • 2.3.2 Annotation of activators
  • 2.3.3 Metaphorical unit annotation
  • 2.3.4 Atypical metaphorical units annotation
  • Mixed metaphors
  • Indirect (entangled) metaphors
  • Narrative metaphors
  • 2.3.5 Annotator inter-agreement
  • 3 Composition of the Synamet corpus
  • 4 Frames in Synamet
  • 4.1 Frame ontology in Synamet
  • 4.2 Statistics of perceptual frames in Synamet
  • 4.3 Statistics of perceptual frames in categories
  • 4.4 Statistics of non-perceptual frames in Synamet
  • 4.5 Statistics of non-perceptual frames in categories
  • 4.6 Statistics of frame elements in Synamet
  • 4.6.1 Perceptual frame elements in Synamet
  • 4.6.2 Non-perceptual frame elements in Synamet
  • 4.6.3 Pairs of source-and-target frame elements in Synamet
  • 4.6.4 Statistics of source frame elements in the categories with the highest rate of MUs
  • Perceptual source frame elements in the categories with the highest rate of MUs
  • Non-perceptual source frame elements in the categories with the highest rate of MUs
  • 4.7 Verbal synesthesia from the perspective of frame semantics
  • 4.7.1 Model of verbal synesthesia in Synamet
  • Models of verbal synesthesia in sub-corpora of Synamet
  • 4.7.2 Embodiment in synesthetic metaphors
  • 4.7.3 Frame structure in synesthetic metaphors
  • 5 Activators in Synamet
  • 5.1 Statistics of activators in Synamet
  • 5.1.1 Frequency of lexemes evoking perceptual frames
  • 5.1.2 Frequency of lexemes evoking non-perceptual frames
  • 5.1.3 Frequency of lexical items evoking perceptual and non-perceptual frames
  • 5.2 Grammar of metaphorical units
  • 5.3 Semantic factors in metaphorical units’ creation
  • 5.3.1 Comparison of the adjectives chłodny ‘cool’ and zimny ‘cold’
  • 5.3.2 Comparison of the adjectives mroczny ‘dark, obscure’ and ciemny ‘dark’
  • 6 Metaphors in Synamet
  • 6.1 Classification of metaphors in Synamet
  • 6.2 Typical metaphors
  • 6.2.1 Simple typical metaphors
  • 6.2.2 Elaborated typical metaphors
  • 6.3 Narrative metaphors
  • 6.3.1 Definition of a narrative metaphor
  • 6.3.2 Different types of narrative metaphors
  • 6.4 Mixed metaphors
  • 6.4.1 Simple mixed metaphors
  • 6.4.2 Entangled mixed metaphors
  • 6.5 Metaphorical triggers
  • 6.5.1 Lexicalized metaphorical terms
  • 6.5.2 Name of a subject
  • 6.5.3 Situational and cultural factors
  • 6.6 The function of metaphor
  • Conclusion
  • List of figures
  • List of tables
  • Bibliography
  • Index


This monograph presents the main findings of the Synamet – Microcorpus of Synesthetic Metaphors. Towards a Formal Description and Efficient Methods of Analysis of Metaphors in Discourse research project.1 The objectives of this research were to create a semantically and grammatically annotated corpus of Polish synesthetic metaphors and to examine features of various types of metaphors in naturalistic, non-prepared discourse. In order to properly study metaphor, which is a complex phenomenon, it was essential to start with a restricted research area. Synesthetic metaphors proved to be valuable material for research as they are frequent, diversified, and typical in all natural languages.

In this book, synesthetic metaphors are seen as a linguistic phenomenon not motivated by neurological synesthesia. Although synesthetic metaphors can be motivated by metonymy (Barcelona 2000), and metonymies and metaphors interpenetrate in texts, this book does not engage with the problem of metonymy. I assume that typical metaphor and typical metonymy are extreme points on a spectrum of various non-literal phenomena (Barnden 2016).

The overall structure of the study takes the form of six chapters. The first chapter analyzes the theoretical background of the Synamet project—Conceptual Metaphor Theory by Lakoff and Johnson (2008 [1980]), frame semantics by Fillmore (1985), and models of verbal synesthesia (e.g., Ullmann 1945, 1957; Viberg 1984; Williams 1976). Chapter two discusses the annotation method employed in the Synamet corpus and provides a description of the metaphor identification procedure, presents the annotation tools, and elaborates the procedure of annotation. The third chapter is concerned with the composition of the corpus. Chapter four provides an overview of the frame ontology in Synamet and the main statistics regarding source and target frames and their elements. Chapter five describes the statistics of activators (i.e., words that evoke frames) in the corpus and looks at the grammatical form of metaphors and the semantic factors in their creation. Chapter six focuses on different types of metaphors in Synamet and discusses functions of metaphors in the analyzed texts.

In this book, the following typographical conventions are employed: conceptual metaphors are indicated by small caps, names of frames are in UPPER CAPS AND BOLD, and frame elements are in UPPER CAPS AND ITALICS.

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1 Project no. UMO-2014/15/B/HS2/00182, financed by the Polish National Science Centre.

1 Theoretical background

The analytical approach adopted for Synamet draws on both frame semantics (Fillmore 1982) and Conceptual Metaphor Theory (CMT; formulated by Lakoff and Johnson (2008 [1980]). This chapter is concerned with the theoretical background of the Synamet project. The first section examines CMT. The second section deals with Fillmorean frame semantics. Since the main interest of the Synamet project was synesthetic metaphors, I provide a brief overview of different approaches to verbal synesthesia in the last section of this chapter.

1.1 Conceptual theory of metaphor

As a phenomenon involving both the conceptual system and language, metaphor has been a subject of interest for researchers in various disciplines, e.g., psychology, neurology, literary studies, linguistics, natural language processing, etc. Consequently, there is now a substantial body of scientific literature devoted to this topic. Since there are many conceptions of metaphor, and its range is constantly under debate, the term itself is vague. Theories of metaphor include the classical substitution and simile theory, reinterpretation theory (Searle 1993), interaction theory (Black 1993; Richards 1936), the theory of metaphor as predication (Arutjunowa 1981; Bogusławski 1971; Dobrzyńska 1984, 1994; Sedivy 1997; Wierzbicka 1971), the perspectival theory built on structural semantics’ concept of lexical fields (Kittay 1987; Kittay and Lehrer 1981), the theory of metaphor as categorization (Glucksberg and Keysar 1993), conceptual metaphor theory (Lakoff and Johnson 2008 [1980]), and conceptual integration theory (Fauconnier and Turner 2002). Metaphor has been defined in various ways—as a substitution for names, a shortened simile, a predicate, an ad hoc categorization, mapping across conceptual domains, the blending of mental spaces, or a speech act. However, metaphor was made the center of attention only in the seminal work Metaphors we live by (Lakoff and Johnson 2008 [1980]). The authors posit that metaphor is the base of human conceptual system. They argue that:

Metaphor is for most people a device of the poetic imagination and the rhetorical flourish—a matter of extraordinary rather than ordinary language. Moreover, metaphor is typically viewed as characteristic of language alone, a matter of words rather than thought or action. For this reason, most people think they can get along perfectly well without metaphor. We have found, on the contrary, that metaphor is pervasive in everyday life, not just in language but in thought and action. Our ordinary conceptual ←11 | 12→system, in terms of which we both think and act, is fundamentally metaphorical in nature. (Lakoff and Johnson 2008 [1980]: 29)

CMT views metaphor as central to human understanding, allowing us to “comprehend abstract concepts and perform abstract reasoning” (Lakoff 1993: 244).

According to Lakoff and Johnson (2008 [1980]), metaphors can be described as understanding one domain of experience in terms of another. Therefore, metaphorization is a process involving entire domains of experience and not just isolated concepts. Lakoff (1993) defines metaphor as “mapping (in the mathematical sense) from a source domain […] to a target domain […]” (206–207). The mapping is a tightly structured set of correspondences. Lakoff (1993: 207) exemplifies this process using the metaphor love is a journey. The mapping in the metaphor is follows: lovers correspond to travelers, the love relationship corresponds to a vehicle, and the lovers’ common goals correspond to their destinations on the journey. Although mapping involves whole domains, it is in fact partial and asymmetrical. Only parts of a source domain are mapped onto a target—some aspects are highlighted and some are masked. The mapping is unidirectional—only from source to target and never the other way around.

The main CMT statements (Lakoff 1993, 2006, 2014) about the nature of metaphor are as following:

1. Metaphor is a primal conceptual phenomenon, not linguistic. It can be manifested not only in language forms, but also in gestures or visually. Metaphorical thought and reason arise independently of language.

2. Metaphor enables humans understand more abstract ideas (target domains) in terms of more concrete, physical, and better-structured source domains.

3. Metaphors are grounded in our most basic physical experiences, everyday experience and knowledge—that means that a metaphor is embodied. For example, metaphors such as happy is up, sad is down, more is up, less is down, and affection is warmth arise from correlations between co-occurring embodied experiences.

4. Metaphorical mapping is characterized by the Invariance Principle: “Metaphorical mappings preserve the cognitive topology (that is, the image-schema structure) of the source domain, in a way consistent with the inherent structure of the target domain” (Lakoff 1993: 215).

One of the best-known examples of conceptual metaphors is argument is war. The metaphor manifests itself in expressions such as the following:

Your claims are indefensible.

He attacked every weak point in my argument. His criticisms were right on target.

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I demolished his argument.

I’ve never won an argument with him.

You disagree? Okay, shoot!

If you use that strategy, he’ll wipe you out. He shot down all of my arguments. (Lakoff and Johnson 2008 [1980]: 30)

Although CMT is widely used in metaphor analysis in various languages, it has been criticized for having many ambiguities (Gibbs 2017: 7). Stickles, David, Dodge and Hong 2016 (2016) note that CMT “has not been so far as rigorously formulated, unlike Frame Semantics and some versions of construction grammar” (167). CMT has been also criticized because of its reliance on researchers’ intuitions in the analysis of metaphor (Gibbs 2017: 8). The thesis that metaphor is primarily a conceptual phenomenon was also undermined due to a lack of strong scientific evidence proving that conceptual metaphors are “psychologically real”. According to Jäkel (2003), defining a metaphor as a basic cognitive tool of reasoning and understanding results in blurring the distinction between literal and figurative senses.

Lakoff and Johnson (2008 [1980]) view metaphor as a mapping across domains (from the source domain onto the target domain). However, it has not been precisely stated what the term conceptual domain stands for, and how the domain’s structure is supposed to be constructed. Sullivan (2013) notes:

Conceptual domains are a crucial concept in metaphor theory, yet there is no general agreement on how to define the type of domain used in metaphor. […] Some attempts have been made to identify a conceptual, rather than a linguistic, basis for domains. Langacker […] uses the term cognitive domain to refer to cognitive structures of any type, as long as they can be evoked using language; he asserts that “(a)ny cognitive structure – a novel conceptualization, an established concept, a perceptual experience, or an entire knowledge system – can function as the domain for a predication” […]. (20–21)

The concept of metaphorical mapping is also problematic. Strack (2016) notes that the definition of mapping in CMT has never been precisely clarified. Lakoff (1993) proposes to understand mapping in a mathematical way. However, Strack (2016) points out that there are “certain aspects of metaphorical mapping that are fundamentally different from the definition observed in set theory” (3). In mathematics, the result of mapping should be “logically generated, static outcomes of a formula being applied to the original set.” In contrast, mapping in metaphors posits the preexistence of two conceptual domains in order to establish the initial correspondence. Strack (2016) writes:

For this reason, metaphorical understanding cannot strictly be seen as the logically determined consequence of a function (mapping) being applied to a set (conceptual ←13 | 14→domain) thereby resulting in another set (conceptual domain); rather metaphorical understanding seems to occur as commensurable aspects of two pre-existing conceptual domains are linked thereby revealing latent structural similarities. (3)

According to Cameron and Deignan (2006), an analysis of discourse shows that metaphorical mappings are not as complete as cognitive theory suggests. Cameron and Deignan (2006) claim that “individual linguistic expressions have linguistic restrictions, as well as affective and pragmatic meanings that are not explained by the cognitive view of large scale systematic and stable mappings” (688).

The systematicity of conceptual metaphor is also doubtful. Pawelec (2005, 2006a) thinks that the explanation offered by Lakoff and Johnson is unclear and questionable. According to Pawelec, an individual metaphor can be the basis for subsequent metaphors that appear in a text as if they were analogical structures. Likewise, Cameron (2011) notes that in corpus studies on metaphors in discourse “undermines some of the claims of cognitive metaphor theory by showing that the systematicity is both less predictable and more specific than claimed” (26).


The book deals with the synesthetic metaphors in Synamet – a semantically and grammatically annotated corpus. The texts included in the corpus are excerpted from blogs devoted to, among others, perfume, wine, beer, music, art, massage and wellness. The thesis presents a Conceptual Metaphor Theory (CMT) and frame-based analysis of synesthetic metaphors in Polish. Using data from the corpus, the book provides ample empirical support for embodiment in metaphor and internal logic of mappings between frames. The study proposes new models of verbal synesthesia in the corpus and calls into question a universality of hierarchy of senses. This book should be of interest to researchers working within cognitive linguistics, in particular metaphor theory, frame semantics, corpus linguistics, and sensory science.

Biographical notes

Magdalena Zawisławska (Author)

Magdalena Zawisławska holds a PhD in Linguistics and works at the Faculty of Polish Studies, University of Warsaw. Her main research interests are metaphor, lexical semantics, cognitive linguistics, and natural language processing (NLP). Her publications focus on metaphor in the language of science, lexical and contrastive semantics, and coreference.


Title: Metaphor and Senses