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Inter- / Trans- / Unidisciplinary Methods – Techniques – Structures

Volume 1

von Beata Ptaszyńska (Band-Herausgeber) Paulina Stanik (Band-Herausgeber) Stanisław Świtlik (Band-Herausgeber)
Sammelband 168 Seiten


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List of Contributors

Adrianna Morawska

University of Warsaw

Agnieszka Urniaż

University of Wrocław

Ariana Fabiszewska

University of Warsaw

Emilia Wojtczak

University of Warsaw

Ewa Ścibior

University of Warsaw

Giorgia Scribellito

University of Warsaw

Joanna Majewska-Zarychta

John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin

Paulina Stanik

University of Warsaw

Paulina Pietras

Jan Kochanowski University in Kielce

Paweł Matoga

University of Warsaw

Urszula Majdańska-Wachowicz

University of Zielona Góra←7 | 8→

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Instead of an Introduction

Is there a need to talk about methods and techniques of doing and conducting academic research? Are we not postmodern, so everybody does what seems to be right and needed? For over 70 years, we have been happy with ‘contemporary’ literature and linguistics disappearing behind and under numerous fields, topics and theories.

As we think about science, its impact on social surroundings and as we pose numerous questions about it being ‘useful’ or ‘scientific enough’, there is a disparate answer: we shall do science but we shall not think of making any commercial use of our studies. In Academia, of course, we conduct research. But how is it done? What do young scientists think of the existing methods and paradigms?

Following a strong belief that there is a lack of theoretical discussion and critical thinking in contemporary theory of science, we decided to organize a conference. It was coordinated by the PhD candidates of the Faculty of Modern Languages at the University of Warsaw.

Among the researchers, as the two volumes of INTER-/TRANS-/UNIDISCIPLINARY METHODS – TECHNIQUES – STRUCTURES show, there is a strong need to ask questions and seek answers about doing science. One is certain: the “why” they conduct scientific research is powerful and the “how” can always get stronger. Consequently, many researchers sent in their papers and came to Warsaw to exchange their thoughts.

As the reader can choose between many different approaches and topics presented in our two volumes, it seems right to briefly introduce the authors and present the panorama of dilemmas, topics, methods and challenges that interest them.

In general, Volume 1 is dedicated to two complex issues: how the world is approached in, and through, languages and works of literature. There is, of course, the paradigm of new linguistics, where the world is being described in different languages and, therefore is experienced differently. And then, there is the paradigm of postcolonial studies with its strong belief in the existence of different kinds of literature in different cultures. Finally, there is the idealistic belief in a fundamental list of topics and forms that shape the whole ‘human literature’. That is, perhaps, too many “beliefs” concerning a scientific approach.

Thus, there should be a place where different approaches can be presented by PhD candidates of European universities – starting from the emotional desire to express the hypnotic pluralism and the hypothetic monolith of the human ←9 | 10→perception of the world. Since the conference was held in many languages, we decided to organize the volumes according to topics and methods, not languages.

The Colourful World of Plants by Agnieszka Urniaż is the opening paper of the first volume. The wide range of meanings and interpretations of colour leads straight to the next question of The Form and Function(s) of Headlines in American Music Journalism by Urszula Majdańska-Wachowicz. This odyssey connects to challenges of The SPACETIME IS A FLEXIBLE MATERIAL Metaphor in Popular Science Texts on the Internet by Paweł Matoga, where texts are seen as built of metaphors. The metaphors continue this chain block in the Persuasive Funktion der Metaphern im Pressediskurs über die Flüchtlingskrise by Joanna Majewska-Zarychta and, even though the journey takes the reader through different fields, there is less distance between them than one could have expected.

The section The World in Literature begins with Ambiguous Gender by Ewa Ścibior who analyses a fundamental moment in American Literature. As we approach the question of identity, the next paper introduces us to the relation between literature and music in the work von Hanns-Josef Ortheil, as seen by Adrianna Morawska. The trans-movement between human and art genders continues and provides insights into the Transculturalism and Trauma in the Novel The Dispossessed by Szilárd Borbély presented by Ariana Fabiszewska. In the next paper by Paulina Stanik, we get strong recommendations about Orientalism in Polish World War II Accounts of India and at the same time get closer to the Significant Others by Paulina Pietras. The explorations of the in-between or transgression lead to the contemplation of challenges in the Caribbean-American women’s writings by Giorgia Scribellito. Finally, the section closes with questions about the relations between techniques and science posed by a PhD in literature, Emilia Wojtczak.

We hope that the reader will enjoy discovering all the submissions as the texts aim to fulfil the strong desire of the series New Humanism to present new questions, methods and approaches in Humanism.

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Agnieszka Urniaż

The Colourful World of Plants. A Polyconfrontative Study of Colours in the Botanical Names of Plants

Abstract: The paper deals with the polyconfrontative analysis of certain types of phytonyms, namely the chromatonyms. Chromatonyms have been analysed in the view of onomastics. The author describes numerous examples of the use of colours in the formation of binominal structure of botanical specific names with special attention paid to the specific epithet.

Keywords: chromatonyms, binominal nomenclature, specific name/epithet, polyconfrontative studies

Due to the diversity of flora in different parts of our globe and the variety of species thereof, the way of naming the plants can be not homogenous. There are numerous factors (among others linguistic and cultural) that influence the way people name different and as well the same species. Before Linnaeus published his classification system there practically was no coherent (or better – universal) way of creating uniform botanical names. The proposed by him system of Latin nominalization is in a great part valid nowadays. It constitutes basically common base for identification of particular species. At the same time, the languages have kept the common names. This led to creating two parallel plant naming systems: Latin (to some degree universal) and national ones.

The Linnaeus “Species Plantarum” published in 1753 contributes to introduction of so-called binomial nomenclature, which consists of two elements: genus and specific epithet. The first one appears typically in the form of a noun whereas the other (basically) in the form of an adjective. In this period the botanists started using Latin for nominating newly discovered species. Although the usage of binomial nomenclature is credited to Linnaeus, the first occurrence of it appeared almost one century earlier in 1623 in “Pinax Theatri Botanici” by Gaspard and Jean Bauhin1.

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Also in the present times, the botanical nomenclature has not been completely ordered. The same plant may function under several names and on the other hand, the same Latin name can in different countries denominate other subspecies (e.g. Clematis ‘Orange Peel’ is used to describe two different plants, whereas Clematis paniculata a climber from New Zealand, in the USA is used to denominate the subspecies Clematis terniflora). The homonymy in the plant naming appeared as the result of consecutive attempts to its establishing. This way Polish ‘serduszka okazałe’ was primarily known as Dicentra spectabilis, at present functions as Lamprocampnos spectabilis, but the initial name is still found in the botanical literature.

The attempts to establish a uniform system of nomenclature have been made also recently. The recent valid document is so-called Shenzen Code (International Code for Botanical Nomenclature)2 published in 2018 and contains regulations concerning the species that appear in the natural environment. The way of naming so-called cultivars is regulated by “International Code for Cultivars Nomination3, that appeared in 2004. Both codes are also the basis for creating plant names in other languages.

In this article, we will present the results of our research in the field of binomial nomenclature of phytonyms and answer the question to what extent the names of phytonyms containing colours in their names are similar in the analysed languages and what are the tendencies thereof.

From the point of view of onomastics the names containing colours can be classified as chromatonyms (gr. ‘chroma’ = ‘colour’).

More than 700 specific names of plants (phytonyms) belonging to almost 30 most numerous plant families in Poland and Dutch-speaking countries (the Netherlands and Belgium) have been analysed. Only the plants that have names in English and Czech have been chosen. The analysed families are: Salicaceae, Polygonaceae, Chenopodiaceae, Amaranthaceae, Caryophyllaceae, Ranunculaceae, Papaveraceae, Brassicaceae, Violaceae, Saxifragaceae, Rosaceae, Papilionaceae, Onagraceae, Umbelliferae, Primulaceae, Ericaceae, Boraginaceae, Scrophulariaceae, Lamiaceae, Gentianaceae, Rubiaceae, Campanulaceae, Compositae, Potamogetonaceae, Liliaceae, Juncaceae, Cyperaceae, Gramineae and Orchidaceae.

The choice of material has been made on basis of “Katalog roślin ogrodowych” published by Związek Szkółkarstwa Polskiego4 and Dutch website soortenbank.←14 | 15→nl. The Czech examples have been excerpted from the database created by the team of Czech botanists as part of a scientific project ( Whereas the English names have been found in the dictionaries by Podbielkowski (1974)5 and Anioł-Kwiatkowska (2003)6.

The perception of colours as elements of plant names is not identical in each of the analysed languages and therefore the common names can differ significantly from the actually perceived colour.

The most common colours used in creating phytonyms can be considered black, white, yellow and red; whereby the colours may be represented by different varieties of their hue.

Foremost, chromatonyms can refer do different parts of described plants. These can include e.g. the colour of the flower (or its element), the colour of leaves, seeds, branches or bark.


The colours in case of some plants can be compatible in only two languages, there can also be found full compatibility in all the analysed languages. The feature that constitutes the basis of a specific chromatonym does not have to be seen explicitly in its name.

[1]; LAT Bidens frondosa, NL zwart tandzaad, EN devil’s beggarticks, devil’s-pitchfork, devil’s bootjack, sticktights, bur marigold, pitchfork weed, tickseed sunflower, leafy beggarticks, common beggar-ticks, PL uczep amerykański, CS dvouzubec černoplodý.

As seen in example [1]; in Czech the name suggests that the plant produces black (or rather dark brown) seeds. The Dutch name suggests dark coloration. The chromatonym can, in the case of trees, refer to the bark coloration. In case of the ‘poplar’ [2] there is a full compatibility of the names in the analysed languages.

[2]; LAT Populus nigra, NL zwarte populier, PL topola czarna (sokora), sokora, sokorzyna, jasiokor, topola nadwiślańska, EN black poplar, CS topol černý.

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On the other hand in the case of Salix myrsinfolia [3]; the native names are compatible, whereas the Latin name refers to the similarity of the leaves to other species (or rather genus) and complies with the alternative English name.

[3]; LAT Salix myrsinfolia, NL zwarte wilg, PL wierzba czarniawa, EN dark-leaved willow, myrsine-leaved willow, CS vrba černající.

It is worth mentioning that the Czech name reflects the process of the colour change of the twigs (the twigs are grey-brownish, in the beginning grey-haired then turn black), whereas in Polish the name reflects the degree of colour hue.

The name can also refer to the dark colour of seeds [4];.

[4]; LAT Brassica nigra, NL zwarte mosterd, PL kapusta czarna, kapusta gorczyca, gorczyca czarna, EN black mustard, CS brukev černá.

There may also occur plant names [5];, where in all the discussed languages the same element of the plant is taken into the consideration, but it can be perceived as a process or as a result of the process.

[5]; LAT Lathyrus niger, NL zwarte lathyrus, PL groszek czerniejący, EN black pea, blackening flat pea, black bitter vetch, CS hrachor černý.

In Polish, the name deals with the description of the process (the stem blackens while drying), in the other languages the name reflects the result of the process.

The most characteristic element of most of the plants is their flower. In the case of black not many examples of chromatonyms describing this feature have been found. What seems interesting is that there have been not found examples of plant names referring to the coloration of the corolla (petals). Only in the relatively small case of species from the Gramineae family, the name refers to the flower, that comes forth in an unspecific form [6];. The flower comes in form of a spike with a dark brownish bract. Also in this case different approaches to this feature can be noticed, e.g. the process or its effect.

[6]; LAT Schoenus nigricans, NL knopbies, PL marzyca czarniawa, EN black bog-rush, black sedge, CS Šášina načernalá.

The colour in the name of the plant can also refer to an element that is not black. The name [7]; reflects the dark green or dark brownish colour of the stem and the seeds.

[7]; LAT Ballota nigra, NL echte ballote, PL mierznica czarna, EN black horehound, CS měrnice černá.

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Black as the basis of a specific name can also refer to the building element of its flower. The plant flower [8]; contains black vesicles and chaffs.

[8]; LAT Carex parviflora, Carex nigra, NL zwarte zegge, PL turzyca czarna, EN common sedge, black sedge, smooth black sedge, CS ostřice obecná, ostřice hnědá.

The same species can be referred to with the use of a completely different colour [9]; (e.g. black-white). The reason thereof is that the chromatonym reflects the colour of other phytomorphological element. For example, the Latin, English and Czech names describe black root (and dark leaves), whereas In Polish the name refers to the white flower of the plant.

[9]; LAT Helleborus niger, NL winterroos kerstroos (nieskruid), PL ciemiernik biały, EN Christmas rose, black hellebore, CS čemeřice černá.


WHITE in the full meaning in the case of specific names refers to the colour of the flower, whereby the full [10] or partial [11] compatibility in the analysed languages can be seen. In the latter instance, the other languages use chromatonyms referring to other feature of the species, e.g. the way of growth.

[10] LAT Petasites albus, NL wit hoefblad, EN white butterbur, PL lepiężnik biały, CS devetsil bílý.

[11] LAT Trifolium repens, NL witte klaver, PL koniczyna biała, rozesłana, EN white clover, Dutch clover, Ladino clover, CS jetel plazivý.

Simultaneously ‘white’ can refer to a different hue of the flower (e.g. white to ecru) [12].

[12] LAT Veratrum album, NL witte nieswortel, wit nieskruid, PL ciemiężyca biała, ciemierzyca, EN false helleborine, white hellebore, European white hellebore, white veratrum, CS kýchavice bílá.

‘White’ can be also treated as one of the colours coexisting with other, here [13] e.g. with yellow, whereby in Dutch the colour is determined as light/pale-yellow, so as a degree of colour hue not a combination of colours.

[13] LAT Laphangium luteoalbum, NL bleekgele droogbloem, EN Jersey Cudweed, Cat’s paw, PL szarota żółtobiała, CS protěž žlutobílá.

There may be also some examples of chromatonyms without determining the name but its degree of hue [14].

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[14] LAT Carex pallescens, NL bleke zegge, PL turzyca blada, EN pale sedge, CS ostřice bledavá.


In some instances, the chromatonyms can interpret the colours in two concurrent ways. In [15] it can be seen that the Latin name can be realised both by white and silver in other languages. They refer to young shoots of the plant that are covered with white tomentose, the leaves that at the bottom are covered with silver tomentose, the bark is greyish-white, in the higher parts of the tree silver-white, older branches are ecru-white.

[15] LAT Populus alba, NL witte abeel, zilverpopulier, PL topola biała, EN abele, silver poplar, silverleaf poplar, white poplar, CS topol bílý, topol linda, linda.


Sometimes [16] the chromatonym with ‘white’ can refer to ‘silver’ or ‘grey’. For example Salix alba describes a plant with dark grey bark, grey twigs and silver bottom of the leaves.

[16] LAT Salix alba, NL schietwilg, PL wierzba biała, w. srebrna, w. pospolita, EN white willow, CS vrba bílá.


As far as ‘silver’ is concerned there are not many examples found. There have been no examples with full compatibility found. In [17] it can be seen that only the German languages use ‘silver’ to create a specific name. In this case, the chromatonym refers to a silver-white flower in the middle of a rosette with inner white-shining hulls.

[17] LAT Carlina acaulis, NL zilverdistel, PL dziewięćsił bezłodygowy, EN stemless carline thistle, dwarf carline thistle, silver thistle, CS pupava bezlodyžná.


‘Grey’ does not belong to the very common colours used to create chromatonyms. The examples [18] found in the analysed material show that there is only partial compatibility among the analysed languages. Only Dutch and Czech specific names can be considered chromatonyms reflecting the colour of the plant that flourishes in white, but has a hairy stem and leaves with grey star-like hair.

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[18] LAT Berteroa incana, NL grijskruid, PL pyleniec pospolity, EN hoary alyssum, false hoary madwort, hoary berteroa, hoary Alison, CS Šedivka šedá.

Example [19] is a representation of other partial compatibility of creating specific names in the form of chromatonyms. In this case Polish, English and Czech names refer to the whole morphology of a grey/bluish-green grass.

[19] LAT Corynephorus canescens, NL buntgras, PL szczotlicha siwa, EN grey hair-grass, grey clubawn grass, CS paličkovec šedavý.


Although yellow is a very popular colour in the natural environment and the chromatonyms created with the use of this colour are very frequent, they refer only to one element of phytomorphology, namely, the flower [20]. They come for as a denomination of different hues of the colour

[20] LAT Melilotus officinalis, NL citroengele honingklaver, akkerhoningklaver, PL nostrzyk żółty, lekarski, EN yellow sweet clover, yellow melilot, ribbed melilot, common melilot, CS komonice lékařská.

Whereby the degree of hue can be so intensive that in some languages but can be perceived as gold [21]. Whereas the Latin, English and Czech names refer to the colour of the flower in the form of one word only, Polish one explicitly shows the degree of the hue in the form of a compound (yellow-gold).

[21] LAT Trifolium aureum, NL akkerklaver, PL koniczyna złocistożółta, EN large hop trefoil, large trefoil, large hop clover, golden clover, CS jetel zlatý.


Red and the hues of red belong to the group of the most common chromatonyms. They come for in different variations and refer to different parts of phytomorphology. In [22] it can be noticed that only the Polish name refers to pink flowers and reddish twigs, while the English name refers to the red colour of the leaves. On the other hand the Czech name reflects the grey, bluish of the twigs in certain stadium of life.

[22] LAT Rosa glauca, NL bergroos, PL róża czerwonawa, EN red-leaved rose, readleaf r., CS růže sivá.

The chromatonym with reference to purple-red shoots can be seen in [23]. It is worth mentioning that in Polish there exist two apart parallel chromatonyms ←19 | 20→referring to colour, namely, ‘purple’ and ‘red’, whereas English and Latin take only ‘purple’ into consideration. Czech and Dutch do not form the name with the use of a chromatonym.

[23] LAT Salix purpurea, NL bittere wilg, PL wierzba purpurowa, w. czerwona, w. szpagatówka, wiklina, EN purple willow, purpleosier w., purple osier, CS vrba nachová.

‘Red’ in the name of chromatonym can refer to a morphological part of a plant that only in some instances can be red. For example [24] refers to the hulls that are regularly yellow-brown, only sometimes reddish.

[24] LAT Festuca rubra, NL roodzwenkgras, PL kostrzewa czerwona(wa), EN red fescue, creeping red fescue, CS kostřava červená.

Naturally, the chromatonym with the use of ‘red’ can refer to full-red flowers as in [25]

[25] LAT Cephalanthera rubra, NL rood bosvogeltje, PL buławnik czerwony, EN red helleborine, CS okrotice červená.

On the other hand, the hue of the colour can refer to red in one language [26], whereas in other it can refer other hue of red. Here the colour reflects the colour of flowers, which can vary in different habitats. In the valleys, they are usually purple (dark violet) from the outside and violet-bluish inside, whereas in the mountains they become more reddish-purple.

[26] LAT Helleborus purpurascens, NL nieskruid, PL C. czerwonawy, purpurowy, EN spanzul, purple hellebore, CS čemeřice nachová.

Indirect association with the colour can also be seen in the case of chromatonyms [27]. Red is here associated with the colour of the flower which resembles flame in Latin, Dutch, English and Czech. Only in Polish, the name reflects directly the intensive reddish colour of the flower.

[27] LAT Adonis flammea, NL kooltje-vuur, PL miłek szkarłatny, EN flame adonis, large pheasant’s eye, CS hlaváček plamenný, ohníček plamenný, hlavačkovec p.

The association with blood can be seen in [28] and [29]. In the first one only the Polish name directly refers to the bloody-red colour of the corolla, whereas the other ones reflect the colour of the flesh in their names (‘incarnatus’), what is also used in the parallel name in Polish.

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[28] LAT Trifolium incarnatum, NL inkarnaatklaver, PL koniczyna krwistoczerwona, koniczyna inkarnatka, koniczyna szkarłatna, EN crimson clover, Italian clover, CS jetel inkarnát.

It seems interesting that in [29] only Latin, Polish and Czech specific names refer to ‘blood’ directly, while English one uses only the colour and the Dutch one refers to other feature of the plant. Simultaneously the chromatonyms refer to two elements of phytomorphology, namely, the purple/violet flowers (rather dark) and the leaves.

[29] LAT Digitaria sanguinalis, NL harig vingergras, PL palusznik krwawy, proso krwawe, EN hairy crabgrass, hairy finger-grass, large crabgrass, crab finger grass, purple crabgrass, CS rosička krvavá.

Chromatonyms with ‘red’ can also describe the change in colour during the plant lifetime. In [30] the red turns into blueish, first the corolla is red, after the flowering period it turns blue. What is interesting, English takes into consideration only the first stage, whereas Czech the last stage.

[30] LAT Lithospermum purpurocaeruleum, Aegonychon purpurocaeruleum, NL blauw parelzaad, PL nawrot czerwonobłękitny, EN purple gromwell, CS kamejka modronachová.

Chromatonyms can be also formed on basis of part of the phytomorphological feature as for example in [31] where it is created on basis of the colour of the bottom part of leaves but at the same time the colour of the flowers is also taken into consideration. What seems interesting there is not a full compatibility between the languages, only Polish and English create the specific name with the use of a chromatonym. The other languages use toponyms or taxonyms.

[31] LAT Cyclamen purpurascens, NL alpenviooltje, PL cyklamen purpurowy, cyklamen europejski, EN Alpine, European or purple cyclamen, CS brambořík nachový.

The situation is similar in case of [32] where Latin, Polish and English use chromatonyms, whereas the other ones create it with the use of other lexical means. The name reflects the colour of a one-sided raceme, which is purple red.

[32] LAT Digitalis purpurea, NL (gewoon) vingerhoedskruid, PL naparstnica purpurowa, EN foxglove, common glove, purple foxglove, lady’s glove, CS náprstník vlnatý.

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It is difficult to determine if a certain hue belongs to ‘red’ or not. We can assume in certain languages (and cultures) it can be treated rather as the hue of red, in other as a hue of ‘blue’. Example [33] shows that in Czech it can be treated rather as a hue of ‘blue’ (as the matter of fact it includes a compound specific epithet with blue and violet). In Polish, it seems that it comes closer to bluish, whereas in Dutch and English it can be considered ‘reddish with some blue’. Nevertheless, the name of the phytonym relates to the colour of the qunandrium, which is pale pink in fact.

[33] LAT Epipactis purpurata, NL paarse wespenorchis, PL kruszczyk siny, EN violet helleborine, CS kruštík modrofialový.

The hue of red which is taken into consideration while creating specific names can be very intensive (dark). The hue can be reflected through other elements [34] that are associated with the colour, as for example in Polish it is called ‘rusty’, in Dutch ‘brown’, in English simply ‘dark’, whereas in Czech it has two parallel names with different colour hues, namely ‘dark’ and ‘black’ red.

[34] LAT Epipactis atrorubens, NL bruinrode wespenorchis, PL kruszczyk rdzawoczerwony, EN dark-red helleborine, royal helleborine, CS kruštík tmavočervený, žežhulka černočervená.

There also exist examples of specific names that create their forms with the use of chromatonyms in one language only [35] and additionally, although, they refer to red flowers the colour used in this case is ‘pink’, which can be considered ‘pale red’.

[35] LAT Melampyrum arvense, NL wilde weit, PL pszeniec różowy, EN field cow-wheat, CS Černýš rolní.

And the single hue intensity ‘pale’ is reflected in the Dutch name in [36]. Here the name refers to two elements: pink/pinkish-white shoots ad purple flowers.

[36] LAT Lathraea squamaria, NL bleke schubwortel, PL łuskiewnik różowy, EN common toothwort, CS podbílek šupinatý.


Although, theoretically, green is one of the most common colours in the natural environment, it seems that the specific names created with the use of a chromatonym with ‘green’ are quite uncommon. There has been found only one [37] example of full compliance in all the described languages and the ←22 | 23→chromatonym reflects the colour of the flowers that are light green (or rather yellowish green). On the other hand, there have been some instances found of specific names that only one language forms the name with the use of colour [38]. It refers to the green-pinkish (or pink) calyx sepals and describes the degree of the hue of the colour. Simultaneously, there has been also found an example [39] of the chromatonym with the use of ‘green’ that in two other languages are perceived as ‘blue’/’bluish’. The name refers to the pale bluish-green leaves. In Dutch, it is treated as ‘sea green’, while in two other described languages it takes into consideration the hues of ‘blue’.

[37] LAT Helleborus viridis, NL wrangwortel, PL ciemiernik zielony, EN green hellebore, CS čemeřice zelená.

[38] LAT Allium oleraceum, NL moeslook, PL czosnek zielonawy, EN field Garlic, CS česnek planý.

[39] LAT Carex flacca, glauca, NL zeegroene zegge, PL turzyca sina, EN blue sedge, gray carex, glaucous sedge, carnation-grass, CS ostřice chabá.

There come forth also special interesting examples [40] of chromatonyms with the use of ‘green’ in at least of the languages, which is in Dutch, where the colour is ‘sea green’ but also ‘yellow-red’. The same species creates its name with ‘yellow’ in English, but Polish prefers ‘bluish’ whereas Czech – ‘greyish’.

[40] LAT Setaria pumila, Setaria glauca, NL geelrode naaldaar, zeegroene naaldaar, PL włośnica sina, EN yellow foxtail, yellow bristle-grass, pigeon grass, cattail grass, CS bér sivý.


The other colour that theoretically is very common in the natural environment but appears only in one example in our linguistic material [41]. Additionally, only in the German languages are chromatonyms, while the other use a specific name that refers to a phytomorphological element (the plant is a bulb geophyte).

[41] LAT Lilium bulbiferum, NL roggelelie, oranjelelie, PL lilia bulwkowata, EN orange lily, fire lily, tigerlily, CS lilie cibulkonosná.


As mentioned before, ‘blue’ as a part of chromatonyms can be used as an alternative for other colours. ‘Blue’ as a chromatonym that refers directly to the blue ←23 | 24→flowers (or other elements) are not very common. In [42] it can be seen that only two of the languages (Dutch and English) refer to the colour.

[42] LAT Veronica anagallis-aquatica, V. anagallis, NL blauwe waterereprijs, PL przetaczmik bobownik, EN water speedwell, blue water-speedwell, brook pimpernel, sessile water-speedwell, CS rozrazil drchničkovitý.

Sometimes the colour apart from being a part of a specific epithet is reflected in the genus name as seen in English in example [43]. ‘Blue’ as a specific epithet can be seen in Dutch and in the alternative name in English. What seems interesting Polish specific name is also a chromatonym, but uses ‘black’ in this function. All the specific names of this species refer to the colour of the berry, but to the different element of the stadia thereof. The berry is at the beginning green, then red, it is darkening while maturing and when mature it is black with blue mould.

[43] LAT Vaccinium myrtillus, NL blauwe bosbes, PL borówka czarna, EN European blueberry, common bilberry, blue whortleberry, CS brusnice borůvka.

The following example [44] describes other hues of ‘blue’ and the chromatonym refers to the flower in the form of a spikelet that is turning brownish violet. That is only one of two examples where the Latin specific names use chromatonyms with ‘blue’. The other one [45] reflects the violet anthers of the flowers. Czech is the only language that is directly compliant with the Latin name and is a reflection of the hue of the colour.

[44] LAT Molinia caerulea, NL pijpenstrootje, PL trzęślica modra, jednokolankowa, EN purple moor-grass, CS bezkolenec modrý.

[45] LAT Thlaspi caerulescens, NL zinkboerenkers, PL tobołki alpejskie, EN Alpine penny-cress, CS penízek modravý.


‘Brown’ as a colour used to create chromatonyms is not very popular and as a rule, refers to dark ‘reddish’ or ‘violet’ flowers as seen in examples [46] and [47]. Full compatibility of chromatonyms in colour has not been found in our lexical material.

[46] LAT Verbascum phoeniceum, NL paarse toorts, PL dziewanna fioletowa, EN purple mullein, temptress purple. CS divizna brunátná.

[47] LAT Centaurea jacea, NL (het) knoopkruid, PL chaber łąkowy, EN brown knapweed, brown ray knapweed, CS chrpa luční.

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The following examples [48]-[51] show indirect chromatonyms. [48] is a description of the colours of the flower not showing directly what the colours are. Here the full compatibility between the languages can be seen. [49] shows partial compatibility of the chromatonyms, only the Slavic languages refer to the Latin specific name.

[48] LAT Viola tricolor, NL driekleurig viooltje, PL fiołek trójbarwny, EN three faces in a hood, CS violka trojbarevná, maceška trojbarevná.

[49] LAT Potamogeton coloratus, NL weegbreefonteinkruid, PL rdestnica zabarwiona, EN fen pondweed, CS rdest zbarvený.

[50] exemplifies the use of an indirect chromatonym that takes into consideration the ‘light’ only and reflects the phytomorphological structure of the leaves that are glossy and translucent. All the languages but Czech focus on the specific epithet in the form of the gerund so they indicate the action. Czech on the other hand indicates the state thereof.

[50] LAT Potamogeton lucens, NL glanzig fonteinkruid, PL rdestnica połyskująca, EN shining pondweed, CS rdest světlý.

[51] and [52] show indirectly the result of the use of some colours (“spotted”) without really mentioning the name of the colour.

[51] LAT Gentiana punctata, NL gestippelde gentiaan, PL goryczka kropkowana, EN spotted gentian, CS hořec tečkovaný.

[52] LAT Lamium maculatum, NL gevlekte dovenetel, PL jasnota plamista EN spotted dead-nettle, spotted henbit, purple dragon, CS hluchavka skvrnitá.

The above discussed examples of chromatonyms show the tendency of not full compatibility in the use of colours in the creating the specific names of phytonyms. The biggest compatibility can be seen in the case of ‘white’ and ‘black’. The degree of the use of chromatonyms is also different in all of the analysed languages. The colours mostly appear in the Slavonic languages, rather than in the Germanic ones.←25 | 26→

1 Zemanek, A., Pawłowski, J. (2010). ‘Karol Linneusz (1707–1778) w trzechsetną rocznicę narodzin’. Prace Komisji Historii Nauki PAU, 10, 205–223.

2 Międzynarodowy Kodeks Nomenklatury Botanicznej:, last access: 20.01.2019.

3 Międzynarodowy Kodeks Nomenklatury Roślin Uprawnych:, last access: 20.01.2019.

4, last access: 20.01.2019.

5 Podbielkowski, Z. (1974). Słownik roślin użytkowych. Państwowe Wydawn. Rolnicze i Leśne.

6 Anioł-Kwiatkowska, J. (2003). Wielojęzyczny słownik florystyczny: Acta Universitatis Wratislaviensis.

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Urszula Majdańska-Wachowicz

The Form and Function(s) of Headlines in American Music Journalism

Abstract: The aim of this paper is to indicate the form and function(s) of headlines in popular music journalism. The corpus comprises 26 issues of the American print media magazine Rolling Stone (2015). Specifically, the present study is dedicated to the Reviews section since music reviews are one of the most representative aspects of music journalism. The form and style of the headlines used in music reviews seems to be similar to the conventions of traditional print media headlines. Similar to newspaper headlines, the headlines under study are multifunctional. They perform a semantic function and, more importantly, a pragmatic one. Therefore, the sender employs a variety of stylistic and rhetorical devices to attract the reader’s attention, one of them being wordplay.

Keywords: headlines, music journalism, wordplay, Rolling Stone

1 Aim of the study

The aim of the paper is to investigate some structural and functional features of headlines in American music journalism. The first part of the study focuses on the theoretical aspects of the paper. The second part explicates the data and the corpus used in the study. The third section is the analysis proper, namely, it will examine the formal and functional properties of the headlines in question. The paper concludes with a brief discussion of the most important results.

2 Theoretical framework

The notion of headline is defined as ‘a head of a newspaper story or article usually printed in large type and giving the gist of the story or article that follows’ (MW). The Journalism Glossary points out that a headline is ‘an explanatory title over a newspaper article summarizing the main point for the reader’ (, date of access: 30.04.2019). Leigh (1994, p. 17) states that a headline’s importance in a text is based on its function as a slogan to the text. The importance of headlines is underlined by Pisarek (1967, as in Sadowska, 2007, p. 402) who compares an article to a party, whereas a headline functions as an appetizer. As claimed by Ślawska (2008, p. 118), the term headline may be used interchangeably with the word title. However, The Glossary of Mass Media Terms (Polish: Słownik ←27 | 28→terminologii medialnej) differentiates these two terms, by stating that a title is a meaningful part of any publication situated at its beginning; a headline, on the other hand, is an initial constituent of a journalistic piece which may contain a title, a subtitle, or a surtitle (STM, p. 225, p. 127). Due to the fact that the data are excerpted from a print media magazine and may be composed of headline or subheading, in this paper the term headline will be used as it seems to be a broader category which is media-oriented.

A headline is perceived to be a unique type of text due to its diversity of functions:

It has a range of functions that specifically dictates its shape, content, and structure, and it operates within a range of restrictions that limit the freedom of the writer. For example, the space that the headline will occupy is almost always dictated by the layout of the page, and the size of the typeface will similarly be restricted. The headline will rarely, if ever, be written by the reporter who wrote the news story. It should, in theory, encapsulate the story in a minimum number of words, attract the reader to the story and if it appears on the front page, attract the reader to the paper […] (Reah, 2002, p. 13).

The multifunctionality of headlines determines their form and grammar:

Reah (2002, p. 32) adds that the most common features of headlines are as follows: 1) the use of the active voice, 2) the use of the present tense, 3) the omission of grammatical words, 4) the omission of verbs and auxiliaries, 5) the use of nominalization, 6) changing the standard order of a sentence.

The grammar of headlines has an enormous impact on their lexis. Words used for headlines need to serve as devices to use space economically. Therefore, lexical properties of headlines embrace: polysemy, homonymy, the use of loaded language (Reah, 2002, p. 13) and the use of short words – known as ‘subs’ (Tereszkiewicz, 2012, p. 466).

The grammar of headlines is congruent with their functions. Scholars point out three significant functions of headlines: 1) nominative – to identify a text, 2) descriptive – which provides information about the content in a concise way, ←28 | 29→3) pragmatic – which is aimed at attracting readers’ attention (Gajda, 1987, p. 83, Iarovici, Amel, 1989, pp. 444–445).

Researchers admit that the form and content of headlines depend also on the type of print media they refer to (Pisarek, 1967). In English print media, traditional headlines are classified with reference to soft news and hard news (Tuchman, 1972, pp. 660–679). Hard news topics are defined as factual news stories without opinion that involve political, economic or social issues (Lehman-Wilzig, Seletzky, 2010, p. 39). Soft news topics, on the other hand, include entertainment, gossip, celebrity, and lifestyle stories (Lehman-Wilzig, Seletzky, 2010, p. 39). Lehman-Wilzig and Seletzky (2010, pp. 37–56) also propose an additional, more neutral category called general news that covers recent economic, social or cultural news, which should be published, but not necessarily immediately. The scholars add that these three categories constitute their subcategories (Lehman-Wilzig, Seletzky, 2010, pp. 37–56).

3 Data and the corpus used in the study

The study focuses on the examination of headlines in popular music journalism (criticism). Białas (2010, p. 147) makes a clear distinction between professional criticism (related to musicology and specialist press – aimed at experts and artists) and popular criticism (typical of everyday papers – aimed at random readers). Seemingly, there is a sort of music criticism which is partly specialized and partly simplified such as in specific periodicals aimed at music enthusiasts, including artists. Due to the extremely large choice of material on offer, the author thought it would be wise to choose one of the oldest and most iconic music and popular culture periodicals of this type in the US, i.e., Rolling Stone1. Therefore, the data covers headlines published in this magazine. The material was extracted from all the issues from 2015. Specifically, the material was collected from the Reviews section to provide a comprehensive illustration of headlines typical of a genre performing a significant role in music journalism. The study investigates 200 headlines (including their subheadings). The magazine’s headlines – mostly general news headlines – are in compliance with its content, since they refer to current cultural events such as the release of a new album.

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4 The analysis of the findings

The analysis focuses on headlines in which the pragmatic function seems predominant as they constitute 85% (170 out of 200) of all the headlines found in the Reviews section. It must be underlined, however, that the pragmatic function is in conjunction with the descriptive (semantic) function of the headlines. When it comes to the formal and functional properties of the material under investigation, in this paper some instances of wordplay will be examined.

Wordplay “may be used in news headlines for attracting readers to read the whole article, and ultimately persuading in accepting or rejecting a particular opinion” (Monsefi, Mahadi, 2016, p. 68). According to Delabastita:

Wordplay is the general name indicating the various textual phenomena in which structural features of the language(s) used are exploited in order to bring about a communicatively significant confrontation of two (or more) linguistic structures with more or less similar forms and more or less different meanings (Delabastita, 1996, p. 128)

Żyśko (2011, pp. 91–92) indicates that the notion of wordplay encompasses a multitude of views, that is, scholars perceive wordplay in terms of creativity, cognitive knowledge of the receiver and metalinguistic elements. Jędrzejko (1997, p. 66) adds that wordplay is connected with intertextuality as well as intersemiotic phenomena such as images, symbols, etc. Guz (2001, pp. 19–20) stresses that the act of decoding wordplay by the receiver is the sender’s success, too. It is because they both experience satisfaction: the sender for creating wordplay that is comprehensible, while the receiver for having the ability to interpret it. Therefore, wordplay performs a phatic function, strengthening integration between the sender and the receiver. It seems to be the case when it comes to specific magazines devoted to particular topics.

A taxonomy of wordplay was differentiated by Leigh (1994, pp. 17–33) who examined a significant sample of advertisement headlines. Leigh devised a taxonomy of wordplay consisting of two subcategories: the tropes and the schemes. Broadly-speaking, the tropes are forms of wordplay that centre around sematic elements of a language, whereas the schemes are forms of wordplay that use grammatical and structural elements to achieve their means. He concluded that more than 70% of print advertisements use at least one kind of wordplay in their slogans or headlines. The quantity analysis of the data in this study indicates similar results since the majority of pragmatic headlines excerpted from the Reviews section in Rolling Stone are based on wordplay, classification of which is presented in Fig. 1. The majority of wordplay is in the tropes group. It is caused ←30 | 31→by the fact that the tropes constitute the broadest category as far as stylistic and rhetorical devices are concerned. Nonetheless, the schemes appear to be present in the material as well as additional forms of wordplay (e.g., word order or ellipsis) which complement the tropes.

4.1 The tropes based on proper names

The data reveals that there is a number of wordplay techniques based on the modification of the proper name of an artist (30 out of 170). Such instances can be classified as ‘other types’ of puns since they are the outcome of some formal changes made to the band’s name:

1. “Jack White Is Dead and Loving It, The mercurial star returns to his side band for its raunchiest, most fun album yet” (The Dead Weather, Dodge and Burn, 3,5, Jon Dolan, Oct. 22)2

2.Solo Stroke gets reflective on a warm, cosy LP” (Albert Hammond Jr., Momentary Masters, 3, Jon Dolan, Aug. 13)

3. “The Rock in Florence’s Machine, Art-pop diva Florence Welch returns with a renewed love for loud guitars and soul vocals” (Florence and the Machine, How Big How Blue How Beautiful, 3,5, Will Hermes, June 4)

4. “My Morning Jacket’s Blissful New Morning, The Kentucky band’s seventh album is its happiest ever, with shades of prog and soul”, (My Morning Jacket, The Waterfall, 3,5, Will Hermes, 21 May)

The first example refers to one of the proper name’s constituent: Jack White is Dead and Loving it < The Dead Weather. The pun is based on the juxtaposition of two contrasting concepts dead and loving it. The use of present continuous tense emphasises the emotional content of the utterance. Proper names can also be altered by changing their grammatical category as in: Solo Stroke gets reflective on a warm, cosy LP < The Strokes. The use of the singular form stroke pre-positioned by the lexeme solo indicates one of the members of the band The Strokes. In addition, solo may also refer to a guitar solo as Albert Hammond Jr. is the guitarist of The Strokes.

The instances prove that the modification of proper names can be the result of adding a new lexical unit to the names that governs its grammatical form as in: The Rock in Florence’s Machine < Florence and the Machine. This headline also takes advantage of the polysemic word rock which may relate to a musical genre (rock) as well as to multiple meanings of the word such as ‘a concreted mass of stony material, foundation, support, gem or diamond’ (MW). This ambiguity, aimed at intriguing the receiver, is signified by the use of the definite article (the).

←32 | 33→

A lexical unit forming a proper name becomes a constituent of a descriptive metaphor as in My Morning Jacket’s Blissful New Morning < My Morning Jacket. The repetition of a keyword morning preceded by emotionally loaded adjectives blissful and new, which carry positive connotations, points to a positive evaluation of the album by highlighting its novelty and its good impact on listeners.

4.2 The tropes based on associations

Associations constitute a significant group of the tropes because they embrace an array of stylistic and rhetorical devices. This is why they amount to 130 instances out of 170 in the data. The following analysis will be narrowed to two subcategories.

4.2.1 Allusion (intertextuality)

As claimed by Xie (2018, pp. 1011–1014), intertextuality, understood as interconnection between texts and the way different texts or works influence each other, performs five pragmatic functions in headlines:

1) Reflecting the reliability and authority of the information. This is mostly the case when using direct or indirect speech;

2) Terse forms, but rich connotation which is related to the principles of ABC (accurate, brief, clear). Such kind of intertextuality is usually based on well-known proverbs, easily identified by the audience;

3) Attracting the attention of readers by means of humour, etc.;

4) Producing specific rhetorical effects by means of puns, e.g. irony;

5) Closing the distance with readers and creating a relaxing atmosphere by means of a common language for the sender and the receiver or the reader.

Thus, intertextuality can increase the information content of headlines, enrich the content, and make headlines more appealing. It is illustrated by the following instances:

1.Rage Against the War Machine, Muse Get back to the fiery rock that they do best, laced with new passion and principle” (Muse, Drones, 4, David Fricke, June 18),

2. “Disco’s Wizard of Oz shows he’s still got some of his old magic” (Giorgio Moroder, Déjà Vu, 3, Kory Grow, July 16–30),

3.The Force Is Strong With Wilco, The rockers’ first LP since 2011 recaptures the wild freedom that makes them great” (Wilco, Star Wars, 4,5, Jon Dolan, Aug. 13),

4. “Welcome to Adele’s Brave New World, The pop superstar makes a case for greatness on her most self-assured LP yet” (Adele, 25, 5, Jon Dolan, Dec. 17).

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The examples are inspired by: another artist’s name as in: Rage Against the War Machine < Rage Against the Machine, 2) books and films: Wizard of Oz (by L. Frank Baum), 3) quotes: The Force Is Strong With Wilco < The Force Is Strong With This One (Star Wars), books Adele’s Brave New World < Brave New World (by Aldous Huxley). The instances are examples of a palimpsest defined as new text referring to the formal and semantic properties of an old text, ‘something having usually diverse layers or aspects apparent beneath the surface’ (MW). Kacprzak (2012, p. 74) states that a palimpsest is based on the emotional content of an old text. The process of decoding validates the receiver whose knowledge is appreciated by the sender – the scholar concludes. Recognising a palimpsest is intellectually challenging, yet rewarding. When analysing music, it usually implies musical, stereotypical, cognitive or aesthetic similarities between an album and the original concept.

4.2.2 Contextual associations (metaphors, metonymy and periphrases)

In this paper, figures of speech will be classified in accordance with their semantic domains. In this respect, this study will embrace two domains that influence each other: 1) power and success, 2) musical genres:

1. “Lana Del Rey Falls Back Into the Pop Dream, The enigmatic star’s third album gets catchier without breaking her dark, sexy spell” (Lana Del Rey, Honeymoon, 4, Brittany Spanos, Oct. 8),

2. “Meet Pop’s New King of Sadness, The Weeknd mixes flashy Michael Jackson moves in with his druggy R&B downers” (The Weeknd, Beauty Behind the Madness, 3,5, Jon Dolan, Sep. 24),

3. “All Hail the Goth Lord’s Return, Marylin Manson hones his dark magic for his best, most twisted alt-rock party in years” (Marylin Manson, The Pale Emperor, 3,5, Jon Dolan, Jan. 29),

4.A Cosmic Soul Queen Finds Her Sound, Prince collaborator Lianne La Havas’ bass-heavy grooves recall vintage Aretha Franklin” (Lianne La Havas, Blood, 3,5, Joe Levy, July 16–30),

5. “Nicki Minaj’s Biggest, Realest Album Ever, The rap royal puts together a grand statement full of hard verses, shiny pop and personal detail” (Nicki Minaj, The Pinkprint, 4, Jon Dolan, Jan. 15),

6. “British metal gods keep raising hell on a wild double album” (Iron Maiden, The Book of Souls, 3,5, Kory Grow, Sep. 10).

The examples prove that metaphoric or periphrastic expressions indicate power, stardom, success, royalty, and even divinity. They are conventional and rooted in popular culture discourse. Bańko (2002, p. 4) underlines that periphrases, being roundabout expressions, are used for decorative purposes. Hence, they create a ←34 | 35→positive image of artists and become a source of persuasion. At the same time, they convey critical information about the artists’ music, e.g., The rap royal, Goth Lord’s Return, A Cosmic Soul Queen, Pop’s New King of Sadness, etc. To make utterances more expressive, imperative forms are used as in All Hail or loaded words are employed which carry negative connotations in a large number of languages, but are equipped with a positive association because of the specific context: British metal gods keep raising hell.

5 Conclusion

The present paper highlighted some chosen examples of wordplay found in headlines dedicated to popular music journalism. The data reveal that the headlines in this study are multifunctional: they carry information, evaluate the content, and persuade the reader. They need to attract readers’ attention and, more importantly, connect the sender with the receiver. In order to achieve these purposes, a variety of linguistic devices are employed, one of them being wordplay. Wordplay is of a vital importance in different kinds of headlines. However, in music journalism there is a specific platform of reference, namely, popular music and culture. In order to decode the message successfully, the receiver and sender must share similar interests and cognitive knowledge. This is why the communicative situation is elite as the receiver is selected for the magazine’s profile. By means of mostly music-oriented wordplay applied to the headlines, the sender manifests a mutual understanding which may be the key in getting readers’ attention, interest and desire read the content of the article.


Bańko, M. (2002). Peryfrazy w naszym życiu. Poradnik Językowy, 9, 3–23.

Białas, M. (2010). Pomiędzy fachową a popularną krytyką muzyczną. Annales Universitatis Mariae Curie-Sklodowska Lublin-Polonia, Vol. VIII, 1, 133–153.

Delabastita, D. (1996). Wordplay and Translation. Manchester: St Jerome Publishing.

Guz, B. (2001). Język wchodzi w grę – o grach językowych na przykładzie sloganów reklamowych, nagłówków prasowych i tekstów graffiti, Poradnik Językowy, 10, 9–20.

Iarovici, E., Amel, R. (1989). The Strategy of the Headline. Semiotica 77 (4), 441–459.

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Jędrzejko, E. (1997). Strategia tekstotwórcza a gry językowe w literackich nazwach własnych. In E. Jędrzejko, U. Żydek-Bednarczuk (Eds.), Gry w języku, literaturze i kulturze (65–76), Warszawa: Energeia.

Kacprzak, A. (2012). Palimpsesty słowne w języku mediów. In M. Kita, I. Loewe (Eds.), Język w mediach. Antologia (74–81), Katowice: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Śląskiego.

Lehman-Wilzig, S.N., Seletzky, M. (2010). Hard News, Soft News, ‘General’ News: The Necessity and Utility of an Intermediate Classification. Journalism, 11(1), 37–56.

Leigh, J.H. (1994). The Use of Figures of Speech in Print Ad Headlines. The Journal of Advertising [online] 23 (2), 17–33.

Monsefi, R., Mahadi, T.S.T. (2016). Wordplay in English Online News Headlines. Advances in Language and Literary Studies, Vol. 7, No. 2, 68–75.

Pisarek, W. (1967). Poznać prasę po nagłówkach! Nagłówek wypowiedzi prasowej w oświetleniu lingwistycznym. Kraków 1967: Ośrodek Badań Prasoznawczych.

Reah, D. (2002). The Language of Newspapers (2nd edition). London, New York: Routledge.

Sadowska, A. (2007). Tytuły prasowe – ich budowa i funkcja. Acta Universitatis Lodziensis. Folia Litteraria Polonica 9, 401–413.

Ślawska, M. (2008). Tytuł – najmniejszy tekst prasowy. Rocznik Prasoznawczy II, 117–126.

Tereszkiewicz, A. (2012). Headlines in British and German Online Newspapers. Kwartalnik Filologiczny LIX, 4, 465–480.

Tuchman, G. (1972). Objectivity as a Strategic Ritual: An Examination of Newsmen’s Notions of Objectivity, American Journal of Sociology, 77, 660–679.

Xie, Q. (2018). Analysis of Intertextuality in English News Headlines. Theory and Practice in Language Studies, Vol. 8, No. 8, 1010–1014.

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STM – Pisarek, W. (Ed.) (2006). Słownik terminologii medialnej. Kraków: Universitas.

MW – Merriam Webster:

CDO – Cambridge Dictionary Online:

1 Read more (date of access: 29.05.2019).

2 Bold font was added by the author. The information in the brackets includes: the name of the artist, album title, score, the name and surname of the reviewer and issue date. The instances comprise headlines or headlines with subheadings which are indicated by a comma.

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Paweł Matoga

The SPACETIME IS A FLEXIBLE MATERIAL Metaphor in Popular Science Texts on the Internet

Abstract: This paper deals with metaphors in science-related texts. Its purpose is to prove that the metaphors are present in the texts and play a significant role even if the style is highly abstract. My research material includes articles on astrophysics published on the Internet, in which different variants of the SPACETIME IS A FLEXIBLE MATERIAL metaphor were used. I used the conceptual metaphor theory by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, but I also intend to go further and complement it with the analysis of ways of introducing metaphors. The results of the study will allow us to understand how the exegetic function of metaphors is manifested in popular science texts and will extend the paradigm formed by Lakoff and Johnson to include new elements which are crucial for understanding metaphorization processes.

Keywords: conceptual metaphor, science, popular science style, Lakoff and Johnson

1 Introduction

The aim of my work is to discuss how spacetime is presented in texts published on the Internet. I strive to describe the process of metaphorization in detail, which is why I shall refer to the metaphor interpreting method presented by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson in their book Metaphors we live by. The most important part of this analysis is defining semantic elements of lexemes activating conceptual domains which are put together in a metaphor.

The basic thesis put forward by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson was that a metaphor is a natural thought mechanism, which is not limited to evoking rhetorical effects only. “We shall argue that, on the contrary, human thought processes are largely metaphorical. This is what we mean when we say that the human conceptual system is metaphorically structured and defined” (Lakoff, Johnson 1980: 6)1. Therefore, it does not come as a surprise that the language ←37 | 38→of popular science also benefits from the opportunities offered by this linguistic and conceptual procedure. It is both because we simply think in a metaphorical way and because metaphors allow us to explain complex science theories in a more intelligible way.

The remaining question is what the process of metaphorization looks like. Here is how the researchers answer this question: „The essence of metaphor is understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another” (Lakoff, Johnson 1980: 5). This sentence assumes that linguists postulate the existence of two domains in a metaphor: source and target. The source domain is usually cognitively simpler and closer to everyday experiences of human beings. It allows us to describe typically more abstract and therefore less-known phenomena which make up the target domain.

I believe that there are four additional aspects which should be taken into account when describing metaphors: 1) manners of signalising the presence of metaphors in a text, 2) genre and functional style of the researched texts, 3) the influence of a metaphor on the lexis grouped around it, 4) metaphorical implications, that is associations connected with the source domain, which in the consciousness of the receiver may turn into a representation of what makes up the target domain and what the author of the text did not anticipate.

It is important to include the first aspect, as defining the degree of conventionalisation of specific metaphors depends on it. The second aspect helps us verify the conclusions drawn from the analysis of indexes of metaphoricalness. The third one indicates whether the analysed metaphor has the potential to create metaphorical images. Finally, the fourth one will allow me to define any undesirable representations evoked by the metaphor.

The research material includes fifteen texts from the domain of astrophysics published on the Internet. They represent different genres – notes, summaries, meeting announcements and some are typical popular science articles. Defining the name for the first part of the metaphor was not problematic. In the texts which I browsed only spacetime was described as a flexible material. I included the word material in the chosen name because it is a superior category for the names of objects present in the examples2. The following lexemes were mentioned ←38 | 39→in the texts: fabric (ten out of fifteen instances3), canvas (three instances), sheet of paper (one instance) and trampoline (one instance). The word material is neutral in its meaning, it is why I decided to further define it with the adjective flexible, which conveys the nature of the most frequently mentioned materials very well and explains the way spacetime functions.

2 Manners of introducing metaphors. Genre of texts

Twelve occurrences out of fifteen included complex indexes of introducing a metaphor, although I would like to point out that in two fragments of texts from the research material the presence of metaphors was not indicated, but this is due to the nature of the text in which they were used. I will discuss one debatable quote.

It comes from the note on the discovery of gravitation waves:

It is for the first time in history that the scientists noticed wrinkles on the spacetime fabric – they are called “gravitation waves” and reached Earth as a result of a catastrophe far in the Space4.

This note is informative and brief and therefore different from the rest of the texts, which mostly describe a given phenomenon separately from the current scientific research. Consequently, not indicating a metaphor may result from specific features of this genre.

Twelve examples contained unequivocal indexes of metaphoricalness of given parts of the text. They correspond with the linguistic structures mentioned by Magdalena Zawisławska:

In a popular science text, the author who uses a metaphor most often wants their reader to know it and this is why they indicate it in different ways. Authors use such expressions as: as, like, just like, as if, we can compare to, metaphor, analogy, comparison, let us imagine that, and so on (Zawisławska 2011: 147).

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They all indicate the existence of two domains and suggest a link between them. Among other similar expressions which I found in the researched material there are: can be illustrated, slightly similar to, close to, using the example of, the idea is that we have, it is kind of, as well as let’s just put it in simplified terms.

I included two text realizations of the spacetime is a flexible material metaphor in the group where metaphoricalness was heavily emphasised, even though these examples differ from the rest. It is because indicating a metaphor in them does not include using a specific structure, but metaphoricalness of the entire fragment, it also includes using lexemes referring to the flexible material source domain. It can be observed in the following quote:

Specific form of this example is manifested in reification of space and introduction of a dark energy is an invisible agent metaphor. The way of discussing astrophysics in this extract pushes the reader to interpret it more carefully and to be more aware of the metaphor. What also influences the metaphoricalness of the space fabric expression is the author using the verb expand, which updates the physical meaning of the fabric lexeme (just like fabric, e.g. clothes can expand if a certain force is applied to them, spacetime can also change its physical properties).

2.1 Detailed spacetime is a fabric metaphor

In the context of articles on spacetime it is crucial to notice that it is usually described in a specific state which enhances its qualities, that is when we deal with big clusters of matter. Thanks to showing the spacetime in such configuration we can speak about its structure – metaphors enable us to do it.

The question about the properties of fabric is answered in the Inny słownik języka polskiego dictionary (further on referred to as ISJP): “It is a material which we get from weaving cotton, wool, silk or synthetic yarn. Fabrics are used to make items such as clothes, curtains and bedsheets”. This short definition discusses how this material is made, obviously, but it does not include the key element from the point of view of the analysed texts. However, this element can be found ←40 | 41→in the electronic version of the PWN Słownik języka polskiego dictionary: “Textile product made of threads in the process of weaving”. This definition includes the threads lexeme which will prove to be an important element of pictures of metaphorical spacetime created by authors.

Analysis of the material indicates that there are two features from the source domain which are mostly used – “flexibility” and “fabric or canvas being made up of interwoven threads”. I will start with the first semantic component. In the following example we can see a picture of fabric expanding under the impact of big balls:

According to Einstein, planets and stars distort spacetime – just like a big ball placed on flexible fabric expands it7. A ball moving on a concave fabric will be attracted to a bigger ball, as it is the case with Earth and Sun, but will not bump into it, as long as it moves with sufficient speed8.

To interpret this quote, it is important to know that it deals with specific problems connected with spacetime – interaction of massive objects (such as planets and Sun) on its structure. It is therefore the specificity of the subject which decides on the choice of semantic features of the fabric lexeme. In this case, the main element projected from the source domain onto the target domain is “flexibility”.

Perceiving spacetime as fabric which is deforming can be also observed in the article summarising the discovery of gravitation waves:


2021 (Juni)
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2021. 168 S., 1 s/w Abb.

Biographische Angaben

Beata Ptaszyńska (Band-Herausgeber) Paulina Stanik (Band-Herausgeber) Stanisław Świtlik (Band-Herausgeber)


Titel: Inter- / Trans- / Unidisciplinary Methods – Techniques – Structures