A phenomenological and empirical-constructivist approach to metaphors – or how to pull oneself up by one’s own bootstraps
Part 2 by Helle Dam
Our study on metaphors comprises eight areas which we have
grouped into the three main areas already mentioned. They are grouped in the
I shall start out with commenting on the area of old
experience. Our findings show that when we communicate about hunting,
we tend to use the areas of ‘people’ and ‘cars’ as source domains. In
the first example, we attribute the human property of being retired to a
hunting dog, in the second example, game is provided with a buffet
–people, not animals are provided with buffets. And in the third example,
a dog is called a Ferrari.
Next, within the area of fishing, we have found
that we use ‘hunting’ and ‘animals’ as source domains. In the first
and second examples, fish are assigned the human property of talking. In the
third example, fish are referred to as game.
In the area of animals, the majority of data uses
‘people’ and ‘cars’ as source domains. In the first example,
crabs and frogs are treated as humans, whereas in the third example,
ponies are said to have gears, like cars.
Within the second main area, I shall comment on cars
first. We have found that we use ‘animals’ and ‘people’ as source
domains in the area of cars. In the first example, a car is talked about
as a cat. In the second example, valves are referred to as muscles, and
in the third example, a Nissan is said to have genes.
The next area is sport. The data shows that we use quite a
variety of other areas as source domains. However, a lot of examples use
‘cars’ as source domain. In example 1, a Danish team is assigned the
property of having gear, in the second example, athletes are talked about
as if they had spare parts, and in the third example elite athletes are compared
The last main area is technology. In the area of computers,
we have found a tendency to use ‘people’ as source domain. In the first
example, a Lotus is giving birth, in the second example, computers
rule, and in the third example, Dos-applications are said to behave
themselves –all human properties.
In the area of economics, ‘cars’ and
‘animals’ are used as source domains. In the first example, the East
Asia is compared with a tiger. In the second example, Germany is assigned
the property of having wings. The third example is an advertisement from a bank
offering a loan. They compare themselves with a motorway, expressing both by a
picture of a motorway and by way of the expression”express loan” that they
will be able to provide a loan with ‘express speed’.
The last area is science. The tendency here is to
use people as source domain. In the first example, current is untiring,
in the second example, someone has to disturb electrons, and in the third
example, a particle is getting kicked. These are all human properties.
The results of our study are schematised as follows in a
sort of network illustrating the interconnections between the different areas. The
conclusion of our study is that the source domains we use for making such
connections are in fact related. This study only comprises a few areas, but we
predict from this study that more interconnected areas will show up.
It seems that the area of ‘people’ is used frequently
as a source domain. This, however, does not provide evidence for considering it
to be a basic area. Rather, we shall say that it forms an area rich in
complexity which makes it apt for forming a source domain for other areas of