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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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2 Theories of metaphor


[A];s is well known, metaphor is one of the most difficult and intransigent problems in language. Indeed, even defining metaphor is by no means an easy task. (Murphy 1996: 175)

Metaphor is quite an elusive phenomenon2. Attempts to deal with it in different academic disciplines have naturally yielded a variety of conceptions, depending on the respective context and focus of research. This accounts for the ever-growing interest in and the large number of publications on metaphor – and may serve as an excuse for the length of this chapter. Characterised by a plurality of views and approaches, Metaphor Studies have turned into a thriving interdisciplinary field of research, with ongoing debates about what metaphor is and how it can or should be studied. While metaphor has attracted scholarly interest since the times of Aristotle, the following account focuses on the late 20th century. This period has seen (at least) three distinct views of metaphor in various language-related disciplines and research schools, among them Literary Studies and Stylistics, more recently Cognitive Linguistics, Cognitive Psychology and Psycholinguistics, various forms of Discourse Analysis, particularly Critical Discourse Analysis, and Applied Linguistics3. Academic interest in metaphor is paralleled by a certain fascination among non-experts in domains ranging from politics to science to literature. Metaphor attracts the attention of the ordinary ←23 | 24→language user and – in some cases – provokes controversial reactions. Is the metaphor adequate or misleading? Legitimate or biased? Fitting or Scandalous? At the same time, everyday language is full...

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