Edited By Javier E. Díaz Vera and Rosario Caballero
JAVIER E. DÍAZ-VERA
Analysing the Diffusion of Scientific Metaphors through a Corpus of Middle English Medical Texts 1. Introduction Creating metaphors is a very useful process for designating the new concepts that are constantly emerging in medicine, due to technical and scientific progress. Metaphorical conceptualization has in fact been widely recognized as a widespread phenomenon in medicine and other specialized fields, contributing to theory building and to the development of scientific thought. In the present paper, and taking the cognitive theory of metaphor (as described, among many others by Lakoff & Johnson 1980, 1999; Lakoff 1987; Johnson 1987 and Lakoff 1993), as my departure point, I am going to analyze a set of metaphors used in Middle English medical texts. This chapter aims to describe the origins, usage and diffusion of these medical metaphors. In order to do this, I have analysed the texts contained in the Middle English Medical Texts (MEMT) corpus. This corpus, which includes 86 texts and 495,322 words from three different traditions of medical writing (surgical treatises, specialized texts, and remedy books) from 1375 to 1500, has proven to be adequate for the study of historical English, as shown by the studies carried out by Taavitsainen (2006). My intention is twofold. On the one hand, I will identify and describe some of the metaphors recorded in Middle English texts from the different medical traditions and fields. On the other hand, I will try to show that many of the metaphors related to medicine in use in contemporary medical texts...
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