Studying metaphor with the BNC


Małgorzata Fabiszak

Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań


The ubiquity of metaphor is a common claim in cognitive linguistics. It has always been my concern if there is any empirical way in which this claim could be verified. Of course 'ubiquity" is not a term that could easily be translated into numbers, but I thought if this claim is to find any measurable evidence it is corpora where we should look for the answer. Hence I set off to systematically investigate two verb phrases: to FIGHT war and to DECLARE war, and two nouns: BATTLEFIELD and BATTLEGROUND from the domain of 'war', which is often viewed as a very productive source of metaphors. The data for the analysis comes from the British National Corpus, which is a 100 million word collection of samples of written and spoken language from a wide range of sources, designed to represent a wide cross-section of current British English, both spoken and written. Frequencies of figurative and non-figurative occurrences of the VPs and N in question are compared and tentative suggestions about 'metaphor ubiquity' are proposed. Ranking of collocates are also investigated in an attempt to further corroborate the frequency results. They also serve as a basis to construct semantic frames or meaning elements for the lexical items in question. The presentation is an exercise in corpus driven metaphor research.


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