Glossary: metaphor

Explanation

A word or phrase that is used to describe one thing in terms of another, where the literal ("dictionary-definition") meaning is not expressed. For example, when Shakespeare writes Juliet is the Sun, he does not mean that she actually is the sun! He means that she has some of the same qualities as the sun. The opposite of metaphorical is literal.

Metaphor is, however, pervasive in everyday language and can operate to shape our way of seeing things. Thus, 'argument' is regularly expressed in terms of to 'war' (we defend a point, attack an idea, marshall facts); we live by metaphors of time analogised as if it were a commodity - thus we spend and waste time. Such metaphors are 'dead metaphors' or sufficiently 'frozen' for them to be not really noticed, though they reveal much about how individuals and cultures shape meanings.

Metaphor

Understanding and analysing metaphor

Goals

  • Understand the concept of metaphor and how they are formed
  • Analyse the use of metaphor in a real text

Lesson Plan

  • Using the information and examples below, explain that metaphor is an everyday part of human communication
  • Use the examples of metaphor to explain how they are formed: by something abstract being understood in terms of something concrete
  • At this point, students could discuss any other examples of metaphor they can think of
  • Next, mo

Metaphor: Activity

Analysing metaphor in political discourse

Attached to this page are some extracts of a 2016 speech delivered by David Cameron after the UK voted to leave the European Union. For each extract, you will be asked to do two things:

1) Work out what metaphor is being used. What is being understood in terms of what?

2) Comment on why you think that metaphor is used. What purpose does it serve? What kind of meaning does it carry, in the wider context of the political situation in which the speech took place?

You will see on the handout that one example has been done for you.

Metaphor: Introduction

What is a metaphor? Introduction for the classroom activity

Metaphor is often thought of as something that is confined to literary texts, but as we shall see, this really isn't the case.

Everyday language is full of metaphor, and it is actually quite difficult to use language without it!

Let's look at an example - the metaphor of LIFE IS A JOURNEY. (In linguistics, the standard way to show metaphor is by using capital letters). In this metaphor, the abstract concept of 'life' is understood as a concrete, physical 'journey'.

This generates sentences such as:

Metaphors of language

Exploring the way we think and talk about language

This project asks students to explore metaphors of the English language. If you need a quick refresher, it might be useful to revisit some of the introductory pages on metaphor here before completing the project work.

Metaphor is a highly pervasive feature of any language, not only reflecting the way that we understand the world, but constituting and shaping it. In linguistics, we use the X IS Y formula to indicate a metaphor - for example:

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