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Genre and Metaphor 1

Genre and Metaphor

Eduard C. Hanganu
B.A., M.A., Linguistics
Lecturer in English, UE

Draft 3
Revised November 24, 2014

Genre and Metaphor 2

This paper investigates four theoretical perspectives on the metaphor with their descriptions, and
definitions of the linguistic device: (1) the traditional model, in which the metaphor is defined as
a grammatical device, or figure of speech, and its role is limited to a decorative function, (2) the
interactive model, in which metaphor is a thought processthe result of a mental interaction that
occurs between the reader and the text, (3) the domain mapping model, in which the metaphor is
perceived as a lexical device, and the rhetorical effect comes from the mapping of lexical devices
which expand the meaning of words and expressions, and (4) the pragmatic model, which claims
that the metaphor is an implicature, and its meaning results from its propositional content and the
context of situation. Research data collected in the past four decades has narrowed the difference
between literal and non-literal in language, and has provided evidence which contradicts the idea
that the literal language is the norm while the non-literal language is the exception. Studies show
that the common spoken and written language is metaphorical, and only a small part is literal and
can be defined as non-figurative. Metaphors are not irregular and abnormal phenomena in human
communication, but the norm, and their functions are not limited to figures of speech, but expand
into multiple areas. Metaphors are language in action which provides ideational, intertextual, and
interpersonal contexts for discourse, generate new knowledge, and provide textual coherence and
cohesion through its grammatical structure within various genres, and contributing in this fashion
to the rhetorical effects of the discourse as intended by the writer and perceived by the reader.

Key words: language, text, context, form, structure, genre, metaphor, definition.

Genre and Metaphor 3

Genre and Metaphor

The traditional description of genre as a device used in the classification of texts included
the distinction between literal, and non-literal, or figurative language. Spoken or written words
and expressions thought to express their lexical or common meaning were considered literal,
while words and expressions thought to indicate a figurative sense were deemed to be non-literal,
and understood to have meanings which had to be discovered through textual interpretation. The
common perspective was also that literal language was the norm, while the figurative language
was the exception. Research performed in the past four decades on the literal and non-literal
aspects of the human language has collected data which shows that such a perspective does not
reflect language in use. While the traditional distinction between literal and non-literal language
has been confirmed to be still valid and useful, there is also ample evidence that the use of
figurative language is not rare, or uncommon, but the norm. Examination of various spoken and
written texts shows that figurative phenomena which occur during actual written or spoken
language use (Caballero, 2003, p. 146) indicate a rhetorical potential which becomes evident
within different genres, and reflects language in action. This paper examines definitions of the
metaphor based on four theoretical perspectives, explores the relationship between genre and
metaphor, and describes the rhetorical contribution which metaphors make to language within
different genres of written and spoken discourse.
Language and Metaphor
In his article, More about Metaphor, Black (1977) notes that a large number of scholars
are still considering metaphor an enigmatic phenomenon in human language. He states: "One
writer, who might be speaking for many, says 'Among the mysteries of human speech, metaphor
has remained one of the most baffling (Boyle, 257)" (p.434), and is quite surprised that such a

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situation could continue to exist given the powerful evidence of the common and frequent
occurrence of metaphor in human language. In fact, metaphor use is so prevalent in the spoken
and written texts that its occurrence can be compared with the incidence of two of the most
mundane human activities, singing and dancing. None of these two activities could be deemed
obscure or deviant, and neither could metaphor (1977, p. 434).
The notion that metaphors are accidental, deviant, or improper phenomena in the human
language is an erroneous opinion based on two assumptions: (1) the standard use of language is
literal, and, (2) metaphorical language is unusual and problematic (Black, 1977, p. 435). On the
basis of these two assumptions about the occurrence of the literal and non-literal in language,
some scholars come to formulate simplistic or reductionist theories of language among which is
the Aristotelian perspective that metaphors do not introduce original meaning to discourse, and
therefore they could be replaced with literal translations (Black, 1977, p. 435).
Language research shows that metaphors are not simple rhetorical devices, but a central
area of the human mental processes. In fact, metaphors seem the common way in which the mind
formulates concepts and propositions because "metaphorical thought is one of our primary
modes of cognition, with complex conceptual metaphors organizing much of our knowledge and
guiding our behavior" (Blasko & Merski, 1998, p. 40). This knowledge of the works of the mind
is in disagreement with the traditional perspective on language, and its questionable assumptions
that thought and language are literal in essence, and that while literal language is understood
through a direct mental process, metaphorical language must go through two processing stages
until it is understood. This two-stage processing of the metaphorical expressions is required
because literal language is context-independent, and can be understood as it is, while non-literal
language is context-dependent, and needs to be interpreted through reference to co-text and

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context of situation (Blasko & Merski, 1998, p. 40). Research in cognitive linguistics has shown
that the above assumptions are not true, and that in fact metaphorical language is as context
independent as literal language.
Traditional and non-traditional definitions of metaphor have been based on the four most
important theories of metaphor: (1) the substitution theory, with its special form, the comparison
view (Black, 1962, pp. 31, 35); (2) the interaction view of metaphor (Black, 1962, p. 38), (3) the
contemporary theory of metaphor (Lakoff, 2002, p. 257), and the pragmatic concept of metaphor
(Levinson, 1995, pl 147).
The substitution view is founded on the traditional distinction between the literal and the
non-literal in language (Black, 1962, p. 35), and within this paradigm the metaphor is defined as
"the word or expression having a distinctively metaphorical use within a literal frame," while its
function is to replace plain propositional content with figurative language (Black, 1962, p. 32).
The inference is that because "a metaphorical expression has a meaning that is some transform
[sic!] of its normal literal meaning" (p. 31), metaphors are words and expressions of a non-literal
nature which are intended to reformulate literal language (p. 31). Natural word order, inversion,
and semantic changes should therefore be understood as transformations of the source, literal
meaning of a word or expression, derivations of the default, or sense (p. 35) The comparison
view on metaphor, which is a subgroup of the substitution perspective, adds to the concept the
notion that such substitution occurs as a comparison, that is, as an expression of the similarities
between the literal and figurative terms of the comparison (Black, 1962, p. 35).
Common English language dictionaries define metaphor from the traditional substitution
perspective. For instance, The Random House Websters Unabridged Dictionary (1999), states
that the metaphor is "a figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied to something to

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which it is not literally applicable in order to suggest a resemblance," while The Oxford English
Dictionary (1992), refers to the term as "the figure of speech in which a name or descriptive term
is transferred to some object different from, but analogous to, that to which it is properly
applicable." The Oxford English Dictionary (1992), therefore, seems to include metaphors
among figures of speech, or morpho-syntactic devices, as "any of the various forms of
expression, deviating from the normal arrangement or use of words, which are adopted in order
to give beauty, variety, or force to a composition."
The second theoretical perspective on metaphor, known as the interaction view, comes
from the research that Black (1962) himself has performed and published on the topic (p. 38). In
his perspective, the main trouble with the traditional view on metaphor is the fact that metaphors
are seen as morpho-syntactic devices which perform their functions through grammatical forms
and syntactic structures (p. 28). The failure of the conventional model to present evidence about
how metaphors work is identifiable when one examines a sentence such as "The poor are the
negroes of Europe" with the traditional tools, as (1) the substitution view shows that an indirect
statement has been made about the poor, but it is not clear what that statement means, and (2) the
comparison view shows a parallel between the poor and the negroes, but the relation between the
terms appears to be missing again (Black, 1962, p. 38).
The solution to the dilemma seems to be somewhere else, and Black (1962) proposes that
Richards (1936) has found it in the idea that metaphors are not grammatical, but thought devices,
and occur in the mind of the language user. Richard believes that the two terms of the metaphor
interact with each other through an active cognitive process, and the metaphorical meaning is the
result of that thought interaction. This metaphorical meaning is not a simple conversion from the

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literal source meaning to a figurative form and content, but a unique, richer meaning, that cannot
be a simple derivative of the basic, literal sense of the old words or expressions (pp. 38-39)
In his book, The Philosophy of Rhetoric, Richards (1936) abandons the false assumption
that the metaphor is a grammatical instrument, and defines it as a thought process, "a borrowing
between and intercourse of thoughts, a transaction between contexts" (p. 94) which occurs at the
junction of two ideas "which co-operate [sic!] in an inclusive meaning" (p. 119). Concerning the
manner in which metaphors work, Richards also affirms that a simple explanation of the thought
process that produces metaphor is "two thoughts of different things active together and supported
by a single word, or phrase, whose meaning is a resultant of their interaction" (cited in Black,
1962, p. 38).
Black (1962) continues Richards' (1936) persuasive argument, and comments that when
a sentence is categorized as "a case of metaphor," the implication is that "at least one word (here
the word "plowed") is being used metaphorically in the sentence" (p.27), and at the same time "at
least one of the remaining words is being used literally" (p. 28). Such literal-to-figurative bridges
provide the connection between the first term that is "the focus of the metaphor," and the second
term, "the remainder of the sentence in which that word occurs, the frame" (p. 28).From this new
theoretical perspective, then, metaphors are no more seen as grammatical structures, but rather as
semantic devices:
To call a sentence an instance of metaphor is to say something about its meaning, not
about its orthography, its phonetic pattern, or its grammatical form.1 (To use a wellknown distinction, "metaphor" must be classified as a term belonging to "semantics" and
not to "syntax"or to any physical inquiry about language.). (Black, 1962, p. 28)

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Black (1962) condenses his interaction view on metaphor as a seven-point claim in the
chapter entitled "Metaphor" of his book, Models and Metaphors. The points are: (1) metaphors
include two terms; (2) the terms are structures, not things; (3) metaphorical effects occur as
association implications from the second to the first term; (4) these inferences are affirmations
made concerning the second term; (5) the metaphors select, emphasize, suppress, and organize
the basic characteristics of the first term through implications that define the other term; 6) the
implication switch produces a meaning shift in the words which have a meaning related to the
metaphorical expression; (7) sometimes meaning shifts fail to generate metaphorical effects
(Black, 1962, pp. 44-45)
The past four decades of research on metaphor have produced data for a new theoretical
perspective which is based on an article entitled The Conduit Metaphor that was published for
the first time by Michael Reddy in the initial edition of the book Metaphor and Thought (1979),
and republished in 1990 in the second version of the same book (Lakoff, 2002, p. 257).The new
theoretical model, called "domain mapping," seems to have a lot in common with Black's (1962)
interactional model on metaphor, and it also contains some aspects the traditional model on the
Both Black's (1962) and Lakoff's (2002) theories reject the old separation between literal
and figurative language which was based on the erroneous idea that in metaphorical expressions
words are not used in their standard lexical sense, and that metaphorical language is a translation
of the literal text, and affirm the notion that metaphor is thought process and not a grammatical
device. Lakoff (2002) add to the argument the fact that these false ideas were not "merely taken
to be true, but came to be taken as definitional" (p. 260). The past decades of research provide

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evidence that contradicts those traditional assumptions, and shows that language is, to a greater
degree than the researchers have expected, metaphorical in nature (Lakoff, 2002, p. 260).
In Lakoff's (2002) perspective, besides the notion that metaphors are "generalizations
governing poetic metaphorical expressions" that are part of the cognitive processes of the mind,
such phenomena are understood as "general mappings across conceptual domains" (Lakoff,
2002, p. 270). From an interpretation of metaphor that claimed that "the locus of metaphor" was
in the grammatical structure of the figure of speech, the conclusion was changed to affirm that
"the locus of metaphor is not in language at all, but in the way we conceptualize one mental
domain in terms of another" (Lakoff, 2002, p. 271). This domain mapping is found to be the
main mode of expression in language, and the most common concepts, such as causation, time,
change, and states are seen to be articulated in metaphorical expressions (2002, p. 273).
Lakoff (2002) emphasizes again the difference between the domain mapping model and
the traditional perspectives on metaphor about the distinction between literal and figurative, and
rejects the notion that arriving at a metaphorical expression requires the intermediate step of the
literal language, and that the conversion would require the application of some mathematical
decoder. He accepts that this might occur in certain situations, but maintains that "this is not in
general how metaphor works" (pp. 263-264).
Such an understanding of language and metaphor contradicts what had been accepted as
factual evidence about how language works. Lakoff (2002) mentions a few notions which have
been questioned and rejected in the past decades, and the first one is the traditional separation
between literal and non-literal which considered the metaphor "as a kind of figurative language"
(Lakoff, 2002, p. 276). Five other traditional false assumptions which described language
interaction among people are: (1) common language is literal, never figurative; (2) there is no

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need for metaphor in language, as all subjects can be understood from literal formulations of our
thoughts; (3) true and false concepts can be applied only to literal language; (4) all lexical
definitions are literal; (5) grammar rules and concepts are all literal, and never figurative (Lakoff,
2002, p. 280)
But the traditional distinction between "literal" and "figurative" should not be discarded,
even though its theoretical basis had been established on wrong assumptions, because there are
notions that are not processed as metaphorical expressions in the mind, and Lakoff (2002) states
that "those concepts that are not comprehended via conceptual metaphor might be called literal"
(p. 259). There is also linguistic evidence of "an extensive range of nonmetaphorical concepts,"
affirms Lakoff, and the example he mentions is the sentence "The balloon went up" (2002, p.
Recognition that the language we use in our normal discourse is seldom literal, and most
of the time metaphorical, and that we observe the world from a figurative perspective, becomes
also the basis for the surprising awareness that "our everyday behavior reflects our metaphorical
understanding of experience," and the basic distinction between literal and non-literal language
disappears (Lakoff, 2002, p. 275). From this viewpoint "the word metaphor has come to mean a
cross-domain mapping," and "metaphorical expression refers to a linguistic expression (a word,
phrase, or sentence that is the surface realization of such a cross-domain mapping" (2002, p.
Concerning the propositional content of metaphor, Davidson (1978) had remarked that
"metaphors mean what the words, in their most literal interpretation mean, and nothing more
(pp. 29-30). He had fought the idea that metaphors encode more meaning "in addition to [their]
literal sense or meaning," though he "agree[s] with the view that metaphors cannot paraphrased"

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(p. 30), but he thinks that the reason for the failure to paraphrase metaphors is because "there is
nothing there to paraphrase (p. 30). He denies the perspective that "in metaphor certain words
take on new or what are often called "extended meanings" (p. 32).
Black (1977), though, believes that metaphors are "realized in discourse, embodied in the
given 'text,' and need not be treated as a riddle" (p. 436), but that in such given context the focus
of the metaphor "obtains a new meaning, which is not quite its meaning in literal uses, not quite
the meaning which any literal substitute would have"(1962, p. 39). This happens because the
frame of the metaphor, or its second term, expands the meaning of the first term through lexical
addition of semantic features. The metaphorical effect on the reader is obtained when both the
old and the new meanings of the word are associated through a meaning switch (1962, p. 39).
Black (1962) compares the metaphor with a filter which sorts through the language user's
lexical information, and draws from there "not the standard dictionary meaning," but the "system
of associated commonplaces," in order to cause the metaphorical effect or "its intended meaning"
(p. 40). Lakoff (2002) uses similar language to describe the manner in which metaphors produce
their linguistic effects, and mentions a process of lexical "mapping." He notes that in the process
of meaning charting "metaphor involves understanding one domain of experiencein terms of a
very different domain of experience," and sees this mapping process in a mathematical sense, as
a transfer from the source domain (first term) to a target domain (second term) through lexical
links which he defines as "ontological correspondences" (p. 260).
Though Black (1962, 1977) does not use the same terms to explain how metaphors work,
there is a clear parallel between his perspective on the thought processes that cause the rhetorical
effects of the metaphor and Lakoffs (2002) understanding of the same process. Black (1962)
refers to the focus of the metaphor to describe the first term in the structure (p. 28), while Lakoff

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uses the phrase source domain (p.260) for the same term. Likewise, Black (1962) describes the
second term, or the literal, element in the same metaphor as the frame (p. 28) while Lakoff uses
the term target domain (p 260).The two different pairs of terms are used to describe the same
linguistic pattern, the thought process in which metaphorical meanings are "mapped" onto literal
meanings through a cerebral change in the direction of the thought during an associative incident
in a system of associated commonplaces (Black, 1962, p. 40), or, in a comparable expression,
across conceptual domains (Lakoff, 2002, p.257).
Levinson (1995) approaches metaphors from a pragmatic perspective, as an "exploitation
or flouting of the [Grice's] maxims" (p. 147). He introduces the matter with a comment on the
metaphor's historical background, remarks that the topic has been debated in language circles
since Aristotle wrote his Rhetoric, and then mentions the central nature of metaphor in literature
(poetry), and "indeed to a very large proportion of ordinary language usage, but also to realms as
diverse as the interpretation of dreams and the nature of models in scientific thought" (p. 147).
Levinson (1995) also remarks that the research on "metaphor or the tropes in general, is
plagued by divergent classifications and terminologies (see e.g. Levin, 1977: 89ff)" (p. 148), and
that, in fact, "semantic approaches fail to yield adequate accounts of the phenomena" (p. 148).
One of the theoretical perspectives that he examines is a version of the interaction model, which
has been advanced by Katz and Fodor (1963) using "the framework of semantic features" (1995,
p. 148). Their theoretical perspective is that lexical terms derive their meanings from clusters of
specific features, and from complex semantic networks (Levinson, 1995, pp. 148-149)
The essential nature of these theoretical models, comments Levinson, is that they will
"map features from one lexical item on to another" (p. 149), but their problems are that (1) the
limited feature-mapping processes do not express the illocutionary force of the metaphorical

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expressions (p. 150); (2) the metaphorical force does not derive from the semantic features of the
metaphor, but is due to the referents of the metaphorical focus (p. 150); (3) some metaphors do
not indicate their "semantic anomaly within the sentence required to trigger the 'construal rules'
(rules for feature-transfer)" (p. 151).
Levinson (1995) then proceeds to examine the standard comparison model of metaphors
and notes that "the essential claim is that metaphors are derived from explicit similes" (p. 151).
He also remarks that Miller's (1984) personal position on metaphor is a variation on the standard
theoretical perspective because Miller separates metaphors into three groups: (1) nominal or
"comparison[s] between propositions" (Levinson, 1995, p. 152); (2) predicative, in which "the
interpreter has to reconstruct another predicate and another entity" and assemble two other
propositions which will be compared with each other, and (3) sentential, or that group "identified
by being irrelevant to the surrounding discourse when literally construed" (p. 153). These groups
of metaphors, according to Miller, cannot be decoded unless they are "converted into a complex
simile-like form complex," according to rules written for each group (Levinson, 1995, p. 152)
The multiple problems which have plagued all the theories of metaphor examined before
have encouraged Levinson to propose that a pragmatic approach to metaphor definition might be
the most acceptable for the following reasons: (1) it will not be based on a semantic breakdown
of the metaphors; (2) semantics will bring in just the lexical sense or features of the metaphorical
expressions in use (1995, p. 156); (3) metaphor meaning will be derived from the propositional
content of the expressions, to which will be added the contextual features (Levinson, 1995, p.
In answer to the critics who have claimed that such an approach will revive a separation
between literal and figurative usages of linguistic expressions, and that the outcome might be

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that some literary genres will "find themselves treated as somehow bizarre or different from the
rest of language usage, " Levinson states that what he suggests is nothing more than a "division
of labor" between the semantic and pragmatic functions of a word or expression, something
which is not at all out of common, because as part of language the metaphor has a lexical sense,
and a pragmatic use, something which provides the metaphorical expressions with the rhetorical
force needed to perform as language in action (Levinson, 1995, p. 156).
Interpretation of metaphors as implicature proposes a "partial criterion for the recognition
of metaphor" (Levinson, 1995, p. 157), but does not provide an explanation for the progress from
"the recognition to the interpretation," so that a complete understanding of how metaphors work
would require insight into "(i) how metaphors are distinguished from other tropes, and crucially
(ii) how, once recognized, they are interpreted" (1995, p. 158). Such evidence is missing, though,
and therefore Levinson is compelled to acknowledge that "more concrete suggestions for a
pragmatic theory of metaphor simply do not, at the time of writing, exist" (p. 158), which leaves
the researcher with the confidence that for the time being the most adequate metaphor model for
the present remains still Lakoff's (2002) domain mapping interpretation (Levinson, 1995, p. 158;
Lakoff, 2002, p. 260). Levinson states, alluding to the above-mentioned model:
There is much in the existing literature on metaphor that could be drawn upon to give an
account of metaphor. Crucial, for example, seems to be the way in which what is
involved in metaphor is the mapping of one whole cognitive domain into another,
allowing the tracing out of multiple correspondence. For example, as Lakoff & Johnson
(1980) have pointed out, two domains of conceptual fields like politics and war, once put
into correspondence, productively produce all those familiar metaphors, dead and alive,
of the sort. (Levinson, 1995, p. 159)

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More research is needed in order to make possible the construction of a theoretical model
on the metaphors which would provide an inclusive and believable account of the way metaphors
work. Such a theoretical model will also permit the formulation of a definition of metaphor that
will meet most, if not all, linguistic criteria. The results of the research performed so far, based
on the theoretical models available, make possible only an incomplete definition of the linguistic
phenomenon. Such a definition would have to include both what metaphors are not, and what
metaphors are or could be.
There is ample evidence to support the perspective that metaphors are not grammatical
devices, or morpho-syntactic language tools. As Black (1962, 1977) and Levinson (1995) have
stated, the substitution or comparison definitions of metaphors present severe difficulties. Black's
interaction view seems to come closer to the truth, and there is factual evidence that supports the
understanding that metaphors are not random and deviant language phenomena, but comprise the
most common and recurrent tools used in human language, much more so than the literal written
or spoken text.
Pragmatics has failed to present a credible account of metaphor as implicature, Levinson
(1995) has stated, due to the fact that it cannot explain the progress from metaphor recognition to
its interpretation, but has added evidence to the notion that metaphors are thought processes, and
that in the context of the discourse metaphorical language does acquire new, extended semantic
features, outside of the literal sense of the words in the expression, and impossible to "convert"
to a non-figurative, propositional text (Black, 1962, 1977), in opposition to Davidson's (1978)
argument that the meaning of metaphors is nothing more and nothing less than the literal version
of the semantic fragments' content.

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The most acceptable account of the metaphorical phenomenon at the present seems to be
the perspective proposed by Lakoff and Johnson (1980), which is known as the domain mapping
theoretical model. This perspective is similar to Black's interactive model on metaphor, but uses
advanced linguistic concepts for a definition of metaphor and for an explanation of the cognitive
processes which produce the metaphorical effects in the mind of the language user. Both models
introduce the notion of domains, and distinguish between the literal and the figurative terms
of a metaphor. Black names the first term of a metaphor focus, and the second term frame, while
Lakoff names the first metaphor term source domain, and the second term target domain. Black
(1962) and Lakoff (2002) concur that the metaphorical phenomenon takes place in the mind as a
transaction between two different language contexts (Richards, 1936; Black 1962), or a process
of domain mapping (Lakoff, 2002)a lexical sense transfer that extends the meaning of the first
metaphor term into the figurative meaning of the second term, producing the metaphorical effect.
Metaphor Functions and Genre
In his discussion concerning the creative functions of the metaphors, Black (1977) makes
what he terms an "implausible contention," the claim that in discourse "a metaphorical statement
can sometimes generate new knowledge and insight, by changing relationships between the
things designated" (p. 451). He also adds that certain metaphors can "reveal connections without
making them" (p. 451). The aptitude of metaphors to produce "new knowledge and insight" is
shown in their effect on people's perception of the real world. In this sense Black (1977) thinks
that "some metaphors enable us to see aspects of reality that the metaphor's production helps to
constitute" (p. 454). Because humans perceive their world through their language filter, some
metaphors can produce a certain perspective of the world. Individuals then adopt the modified
perspective, and regard it as their real, factual world (Black, 1977, p. 454).

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Black's (1977) remarks about the effects that metaphors have on our perceptions of the
real world are not a repetition of Whorf's (1940) long-abandoned viewpoint that "human beings
do not live in the objective world alonebut at the mercy of the particular language which has
become the medium of expression for their society" (as cited in Fasold, 1993, p. 50). Metaphors
do influence our perception of the world through their rhetorical effects on our imagination, and
introduce us to new knowledge through insights about our social context. The rhetorical effects
produced by metaphors are due to their active interaction with the reader. Davidson (1979) sees
metaphor as language in action, as an active agent, and affirms that the metaphorical effects are
the consequence of linguistic action because "metaphor belongs exclusively to language in use"
(p. 31). Booth (1978) adds to Davidson's perspective the notion that understanding metaphorical
communication cannot be done without a complete understanding of the context of discourse,
and that the cultural values of a society are determined by the qualities of its metaphors and the
critical abilities of those who examine and evaluate metaphorical language (p. 64).
In the research work on metaphors and their textual functions the scholar must be aware
that a limited and narrow definition of metaphor which would produce certain expectations about
morpho-syntactic forms or semantic content might be misleading. Blasko and Merski (1998)
performed research on haiku, and were amazed to learn that an unqualified rule in haiku writing
is to avoid figurative language such as adjectives and adverbs, and that the use of metaphor is
prohibited because "as Yasuda (1957) clearly stated: 'Metaphor is always an interference for the
haiku poet'" (p. 50). The perception of the haiku masters is that instead of enriching the content
and the artistic value of the poem, metaphors will instead damage the poem through a reduction
of its message and poetical qualities (Blasko & Merski, 1998, p. 40).

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Given such restrictions imposed on haiku composition one might think that haiku should
be written as literal text. Some other instructions, though, teach that "in a good haiku, one sees
the juxtaposition of two dissimilar elements or images that should lead the reader to a new, vivid
insight or experience," and "this [juxtaposition] seems remarkably like a definition of metaphor,
and many haiku seem to have a clear metaphorical quality" (Blasko & Merski, 1998, p. 40). The
conclusion seems to be obvious: because metaphor is not a grammatical process or phenomenon,
but a thought process, standard morpho-syntactic forms are not required in order to produce the
metaphorical effect. The effect is obtained through the "juxtaposition of two dissimilar elements
or images," or what Lakoff (2002) would call a cross-domain concept mapping of concepts and
The changed perspective on the functions of metaphors in language and literature means
that metaphors are no more seen as plain figures of speech that produce artistic effects (Blasko &
Merski, 1998, p. 41), but as language in action whose functions spread out into multiple domains
of human cognition, such as "arousal of insight, imagination, and emotion in literature, art, and
film" (pp. 41-42). The current emphasis on the mechanics of the metaphors needs to be replaced
with an effort to understand their rhetorical contributions to the texts. In his article, Metaphor as
Hermeneutic, Johnson-Sheehan (1999) affirms that the new approach requires also new methods
of interpretations, and mentions "a new direction based on hermeneutics," which is the art of text
interpretation (p.48). The purpose of his article is to demonstrate that metaphors can help create
narratives (Johnson-Sheehan, 1999, p. 48).
The narrative, as a genre, includes both structure and content, and Johnson-Sheehan sees
a direct relation between the generic structure, or genre, of a text, and its content, that is realized
through the use of propositional data embedded in the metaphors (1999, p. 48). The narrative as

Genre and Metaphor 19

genre contains a cluster of features, among which are: (1) development of a plot, characters, and
setting; (2) description of significant, interconnected events; (3) event occurrence (chronological,
flash-back or flash-forward); (4) use of description and dialogue for the construal of settings and
characters; (5) event staging through the active, vivid, and accurate verbal phrases; and (6) a
logical succession of events that moves to a conclusion ( (Pharr & Buscemi, 2005, pp. 174-176).
These generic features are defined through metaphorical expressions which achieve their
rhetorical aim, the recounting of a past or present event, and the inducing of recollections.
The effects which metaphorical expressions embedded in a certain generic structure have
on the rhetorical force of a text become evident when one perceives that a metaphor is a device
that causes someone to see something through an analogical process with something else, and to
look at things from unusual angles, that is, "to conceptualize something through an alternate lens,
from a different point of view" (Johnson-Sheehan, 1999, p. 48). Remarks Johnson-Sheehan:
As a master tropea word that means "turn" in ancient Greeka metaphor is a
rhetorical device for altering one's perspective. It is used to "turn" the way people think
and talk about some aspects of their lives. For example, Richard Rorty writes that a
metaphor "is a call to change one's language and one's life, rather than a proposal about
how to systematize either" (13). (1999, p. 48)
The above paragraph describes "metaphor in action," embedded in the social context, and
initiating substantive changes in the lives of people. The reevaluation of metaphor from a natural
figure of speech, which has the purpose to "decorate" language, to an agent of change means also
a change of theoretical perspective from an understanding of metaphor as a passive language tool
to an active social factor. Here metaphor and genre intersect, as both are described in comparable
terms. Black (1977) states that metaphors in context can produce knowledge and insight (p. 451),

Genre and Metaphor 20

change relationship between things (p. 451), produce a certain filtered "reality" in people's minds
(p. 454), and shape their perspectives. Davidson (1978) comments that metaphor value is a mark
of the quality of a certain culture (p. 62), while Blasko and Merski (1998) argue that metaphors
affect human cognition, and induce "insight, imagination, and emotion in literature, art, and film"
(pp. 41-42).
Miller (1984) approaches the same issues in her article titled Genre as Social Action. She
restates Davidson's (1978) point of view that a proper definition of metaphor should not focus on
propositional content or on grammatical form, but on the action it performs (p. 151), terms genre
a "typified rhetorical action" (p. 151), and affirms that generic structures "must involve [both]
situation and motive, because human action, whether symbolic or otherwise, is interpretable only
against a context of situation and through the attributing of motives" (p. 152). Research indicates
that, in a favorable context of situation, genres develop into structure language complexes which
produce explicit rhetorical effects; reorganize readers' knowledge, and restructure the perception
of the world (p. 153). Miller's (1984) conclusion is that,
What we learn when we learn a genre is not just a pattern of forms or even a method of
achieving our own ends. We learn, more importantly [sic!], what ends we may have: we
learn that we may eulogize, apologize, recommend one person to another, instruct
customers on behalf of a manufacturer, take on an official role, account for progress in
achieving goals. (p. 165)
The above paragraph shows how the two concepts, metaphor, and genre are described in
rather parallel terms as performing almost alike actions, though they are distinct linguistic items.
Their intersection and overlap area is in the rhetoric of discourse seen from the semiotic position,
because a theoretical perspective based in semiotics provides those principles needed to perform

Genre and Metaphor 21

discourse classification based on some prevalent factor such as "rhetorical substance (semantics),
forms (syntactics), or the rhetorical action the discourse performs (pragmatics)" (Miller, 1984, p.
152). In this context, rhetorical action, "which encompasses both substance and form," produces
rhetorical effects through the propositional content or substance of the metaphor, and the generic
structure, or form, of the discourse (Miller, 1984, p. 152). This blend between form and content
which produces action through the propositional content of the metaphor and the generic format
of the text occurs because the rhetorical structures which are foundational for genres incorporate
both the creative devices and the ideational content that must be incorporated within the context
of situation (Miller, 1984, p. 152). The consequence is that under these circumstances genre
becomes more than a formal grammatical devicea pragmatic, rhetorical, point of intersection
between intention and effect, an aspect of social action (Miller, 1984, p. 153).
The overlap between metaphor and a specific generic structure cannot happen at random,
Miller (1984) also affirms, because "a particular kind of fusion of substance and form is essential
to symbolic meaning" for two reasons: (1) form is the direct expression of the substance, and (2)
form supplies the "meta-information," which guides the reader's journey from one perception to
another, and gives rise to new knowledge (p. 159). Caballero (2003) identifies examples of such
language guidance process through genre and metaphor in the examination of building reviews,
and his conclusions are presented in the article entitled Metaphor and Genre: The Presence and
Role of Metaphor in the Building Review. The goal of his research is to examine the metaphors
used in building reviews with their grammatical instantiations, their loci in the generic structure
of the discourse, and the rhetorical functions which these metaphors were performing in the text
(2003, p. 145).

Genre and Metaphor 22

The main concepts which inform Caballeros (2003) methodological approach are that
(1) metaphor is a fundamental factor in our perception of the world, and the understanding of our
own experience, and (2) metaphor is the environment of the most transactions and interactions
which occur in the human language (p. 145). During the past four decades, research had been
focused on understanding metaphor's purpose as a figure of speech in literature, but few studies
have been done on the importance of metaphor in the context of discourse (p. 145). Caballero
attempted to reduce that information gap, and to find data about "the cultural contexts in which
conceptual metaphors arise and support particular uses of languages" (2003, p. 146). In his
collection of lexical and grammatical data, Caballero's purpose was (1) to show "the rhetorical
potential of metaphor framing it within such a purposeful and typified activity as genre," and (2)
"to restore as the centre of attention the linguistic and textual aspect of metaphor as an
instrument of both cognition and communication" (2003, p. 146).
Data assembled on "the discourse management function of metaphor" demonstrates that
metaphors are essential in the "introducing, changing, or closing the topic discussed in a text,"
and "create lexical cohesion networks throughout text," producing linguistic structures for the
development of the discourse, and converting human experience into language code (Caballero,
2003, p. 147). The means through which the metaphor performs discourse structuring and
generates meaning are grammar (morpho-syntactic forms), placement in the syntactic strings,
and frequency of incidence. Such textual features create the rhetorical effect of language in
action. This process accounts for the perception of some researchers that metaphors filter our
view of the social context in which we live, and that in fact what we exist in a world designed
through language (Caballero, 2003, pp. 147-148).

Genre and Metaphor 23

Within this expanded theoretical framework, genre, while still a taxonomic mechanism,
becomes much more than that. Caballero (2003) cites Devitt's definition of genre which affirms
that "genre is patterns of relationships" of a syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic nature which are
recognized by writers in similar writing structures, and that have recognition and classification
functions in writing, and that "genre is truly, therefore, a maker of meaning (Devitt 1993: 580)
(as cited in Caballero, 2003, p. 148). The conclusion is that there is a sure connection between
genre and metaphor, as both can be depicted as language in action, as discourse shapers, and as
producers of textual meaning. The complex functions which metaphors assume place structural
and substantive limitations on them, and metaphors become context-dependent, objective, and
predictable (Caballero, 2003, p. 148)
The purpose of Caballero's (2003) research was to ascertain "the function of metaphor in
the [building review] genre," and to obtain statistical data which would show "whether metaphor
occurrence was influenced by and/or illustrated the rhetorical goals of the building review (p.
154). Data collection approaches used in his research comprised "spotting metaphorical instances
within the rhetorical structure of the texts in the corpus," and then categorization of their
functions "in terms of the aforementioned descriptive or evaluative goals of the genre" (p.
154).In the examined text, "expressions were tagged as metaphorical when they illustrated any
domain incongruity in reference or attribution" (p.149). For a precise data collection, Caballero
classified all metaphors into "conceptual" and "image" (p. 149), and searched for functional
distinctions among them "in order to analyse [sic!] how metaphor may contribute to
accomplishing generic goals" within the context of the building review genre (2003, p. 154).
Data appraisal provides evidence that metaphors are fundamental elements of genre, and
that their roles as rhetorical agents are numerous. High numbers of metaphors "tend to cluster in

Genre and Metaphor 24

certain textual stretches, some of which are both concerned with introducing and summarizing a
topic, and closely related to the descriptive and evaluative purposes of the genre" (Caballero,
2003, p. 158). Furthermore, "image and conceptual metaphors fulfill an informational function
in the genre," while the "conceptual metaphors also fulfill an ideational (informational) function
in the reviews, usually providing the lexical means to refer to certain building elements"
(Caballero, 2003, p. 159). These metaphorical functions are in direct relation to the functions of
the generic structures of different texts, and contribute to the rhetorical force of the discourse.
Caballero also concludes that "image and conceptual metaphors also fulfill the evaluative
rhetorical goal of the genre" (2003, p. 160).
His comments about the roles of metaphors as language in action are similar to Halliday's
(1985, pp. 11-12) discussion of the genre roles in human communication and interaction. There
is agreement among the two scholars that metaphors cover "ideational, textual, and interpersonal
needsaccording to the specific demands of the discourse context under analysis," and also that
"referential and attributive needs are variously covered by metaphorically motivated jargon, and
by the diverse grammatical forms in which conceptual and image metaphors are instantiated." In
reference to the internal structure of the discourse, metaphors "also contribute to creating textual
cohesion through a number of patterns and frames created as the text unfolds" (Caballero, 2003,
p. 164).
Halliday (1985) has remarked that text and context must be seen as semiotic phenomena
which produce a complex socio-linguistic interconnection through which the reader obtains the
knowledge needed to "get from the situation to the text," or "make predictions about the kinds of
meanings that are being exchanged" (p. 12). He has also shown that a reader's knowledge comes
from the investigation of the "three features of the context of situation," as "these concepts serve

Genre and Metaphor 25

to interpret the social context of a text, the environment in which meanings are being exchanged"
(p. 12). The textual features described by Halliday are: (a) "the field of discourse," which "refers
to what is happening, to the nature of the social action that is taking place"; (b) "the tenor of
discourse," or the facts concerning "who is taking part, to the nature of the participants," and (c)
"the mode of discourse" or the characteristic which "refers to what part the language is playing,
what it is that the participants are expecting the language to do for them in that situation" (1985,
p. 12). He described language function as "a fundamental principle of language," and provided
evidence that the interaction between the language user and the language occurs on four levels,
(1) experiential, (2), interpersonal, (3) logical, and (4) textual (pp. 16-23), and declared that "all
these featuresthe semantic and grammatical balance between the lines, the thematic structure,
the rhythm and information focus, and the metric structure" contributed to textual meaning and
to the propositional and rhetorical message of the discourse (Halliday, 1985, p. 23).
In his research on metaphor use, Caballero (2003) confirms Halliday's (1985) conclusion
that language is functional, and provides evidence for the concept that metaphors are meaningful,
functional language devices, and that their content and grammatical structure are "covering the
ideational, textual, and interpersonal needs of the architects" who performed the reviews (p. 164)
because the metaphors provided the data about the context of situation and the transition process
from theoretical representations to material structures (p.151). The collected data has shown that
"the corpus yields numerous examples portraying buildings as malleable solids susceptible to
adopting different forms according to the architects' interventions upon them" (2003, p. 151).
Some lexical corpus examples offer a "vivid description of a spatial arrangement through
verbs nevertheless focusing on the architect's actions to achieve it" (Caballero, 2003, p.152).
Grammatical devices that achieve discourse coherence and cohesion through generic structures

Genre and Metaphor 26

are also used in figurative, metaphoric expressions, to obtain similar effects on the text, and the
result is language in social and rhetorical action, which is rendered through the socio-rhetorical
force of the text and its context (Caballero, 2003, p. 152).
Genre provides writers with "the freedom of constraints"the limitations which produce
certain structures and contents identifiable in comparable texts, and make possible categorization
into various kinds of literature (Swales, 1990, p. 37). Genres are also the devices through which
meaning is transmitted during the process of social action performed through language (Halliday,
1985, p. 10), or "how things get done when language is used to accomplish them" (Martin, 1985,
p. 250 cited in Swales, 1990, p. 40). All these socio-linguistic actions executed through language
are accomplished in the complex figurative context that is produced by metaphorical expressions
which are an essential part of the content of the spoken and written language, and which mediate
the transmission of meaning in the complex process of language transaction and interaction. The
irreducible communication complex which includes the generic structures of language in use and
the propositional content of metaphors in action is what produces the rhetorical force of language
as a social forcethe agent that has the power to "change one's language and one's life," to form
and change our understanding of the world in which we live (Sheehan-Johnson, 1999, p.48), and
to color our lives through the introduction of "insight, imagination, and emotion" into the context
of our existence ( Blasko & Merski, 1998, pp. 41-42).
Metaphors have been regarded for centuries as figures of speech or tropes, and their basic
role has been considered to be esthetic. Though this metaphorical function cannot be ignored, the
research in the past decades has provided evidence which contradicts the idea that metaphors are

Genre and Metaphor 27

mere figures of speech or substitutions of literal text. There is abundant evidence that indicates
that the distinction between literal and non-literal is not as clear as it was thought. Most of the
spoken and written language is figurative or metaphorical in nature. Metaphors are not just
passive morpho-syntactic appliances with mere grammatical functions in discourse, but cognitive
devices which produce their rhetorical effects through domain mapping. Metaphors are language
in action that work, within various generic structures to generate the propositional content, and
the rhetorical effects which define the message encoded in discourse. The generic features in the
discourse overlap those of metaphors, and the two linguistic machines work together to produce
various rhetorical effects, such as different new perceptions, and various emotions on the reader.
Metaphors are fundamental contributors to the rhetorical effects of a text, and their functions as
agents of textual and social change should be recognized and exploited.

Genre and Metaphor 28

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