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Scenario Negotiation in Online Debates about the European Union

Analysing Metaphor in Communication


Stefanie Vogelbacher

For decades, the focus of Metaphor Studies laid on Conceptual Metaphor and its role in the human conceptual system. This study, however, focuses on metaphor in communication. Its aim is to shed light on how commenters in online debates discuss EU-related topics via Scenario Negotiation, expressing and negotiating their points of view via Metaphorical Scenarios. The study offers a review of current metaphor theory and practical approaches and proposes an Integrated Model of Scenario Negotiation. The results are based on context-sensitive, qualitative analysis of data which stem from a corpus of online debates from the Guardian’s Comment is free section. The discussion illustrates the genre-specific conceptual-communicative functions of Scenario Negotiation in naturally occurring discourse.

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1 Introduction


The present study focuses on metaphor in naturally occurring discourse, more precisely in the public discourse about the European Union, as it takes place in the Guardian comment and debate section Comment is free. Political discourse, which manifests itself in parliamentary debates, speeches or newspaper comments about political topics, is generally known to be a productive environment for metaphor. The discourse about the EU, however, is even notorious for its constitutive metaphors. Examples are the metaphor of the common european house or the european family, which are referred to as Discourse Metaphors. They usually help to conceptualise relatively abstract topics in terms of more concrete, often body-related experiences. Discourse Metaphors originate in utterances of individual language users – as is the case for the metaphor of the common european house. First used by Mikhail Gorbachev during a visit in Paris in October 1985, this Discourse Metaphor soon turned into a key framing device for the future relationships between the nations in the European Community. In meetings between representatives of the East and the West, the metaphor provided a common ground for debating international relations, by providing a shared set of presuppositions (Chilton & Ilyin 1993: 17). However, there were differences in the way this metaphor was understood: speakers constructed different Metaphorical Scenarios, which was due to culture-specific concepts of “house” vs. the Russian equivalent “dom”. These differences led not only to different analogical conclusions, but also provided legitimation for different political actions1. From political dialogue, the metaphor of the...

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