18. The evaluative properties of metaphors

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It has been asserted by a number of writers from a range of disciplines that metaphors have evaluative and persuasive properties. In the Conceptual Metaphor Theory literature, it is widely agreed that metaphor is evaluative, persuasive and therefore potentially ideological. Outside the cognitive literature, metaphor’s persuasive qualities have been studied by researchers in fields from Critical Discourse Analysis to consumer research. This chapter reviews the mechanisms through which evaluation seems to be carried out, discussing a number of studies. Four themes are identified: metaphors as stories, with entailments, metaphors which map evaluative connotations from source to target domain, the deliberate choice of a source domain which resonates with particular groups of language users, and the use of metaphorical scenarios. I investigate these mechanisms in a small number of metaphorical expressions, using corpus techniques, with a focus on detailed analysis of form as well as meaning. I find that the evaluations conveyed by the expressions that I investigate seem most consistent with Musolff’s scenarios model (2006). However the evaluative meaning expressed is often even more specific, contextually and pragmatically, than his theory would predict. I also argue that the characteristic form of evaluative metaphorical expressions raises challenges for our current categories of linguistic description.


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