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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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6 Data, discussion, and results


The discussion focuses on three samples of Scenario Negotiation in BTL commenting (see Tab. 16)249 and illustrates types of Scenario Negotiation in terms of conceptual-communicative patterns, which are worked out at the macro-, meso- and micro-levels of analysis according to the Integrated Model. The first sample consists of BTL comments on a journey-speed scenario in which Britain is framed as securing a place in the slow lane. This Metaphorical Scenario was chosen for discussion because it is linked to a tradition of journey metaphors in the public discourse about the EU: it illustrates the socio-cultural embeddedness of Scenario Negotiation as a discourse activity. In contrast, the second sample consists of BTL comments in response to a person scenario that frames the EU as a troubled adolescent. In comparison to the first sample, this Metaphorical Scenario was extensively elaborated by the author in the ATL comment, and provides a conceptually rich basis for Scenario Negotiation. In comparison to the relatively static, abstract journey-speed scenario in the first sample, it triggered a high number of BTL comments. The third sample consists of a series of BTL comments in response to a Metaphorical Scenario from the conceptual domain experiment, which was elaborated by a BTL commenter. It was chosen for the discussion because it illustrates how commenters develop a shared perspective via Scenario Negotiation.

Tab. 16: Overview data samples



Discourse metaphor

ATL codings

BTL comments

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