The social and psychological work of metaphor: a corpus linguistic investigation

Dilkes, Jane ORCID: 0000-0003-3307-3161 (2022). The social and psychological work of metaphor: a corpus linguistic investigation. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

This is the latest version of this item.

Text - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

Download (10MB) | Preview


This thesis investigates the triangular relationship between metaphor use, community, and state of mind, to ask the question: what social and psychological work does metaphor do, in the computer-mediated discourse setting of an online forum. The thesis goes beyond the finding and grouping of metaphors for analysis to consider the pattern of metaphor use over time in terms of (i) surrounding language style; (ii) density of use; and (iii) use by different participant groups. In achieving its aim the thesis provides insights into (i) the effect of metaphor use in terms of state of mind; (ii) the role of metaphor in the characterisation of a community; and (iii) methods for considering linguistic metaphor in naturally occurring discourse in terms of its psychological effect, which also creates insights into metaphor theory.
The primary novel contribution of the thesis is to combine an analysis of metaphor use with an analysis of the language style that surrounds it, using established research relating language style to state of mind to consider the social and psychological work that metaphor does. The primary prediction of the investigation is that where metaphor is used to characterise a concept, the surrounding language will be of a style that has been found to be associated with better mental health. This is related to and supported by the second novel contribution of the thesis, which is to consider the role of metaphor in the formation and evolution of a community over time, by considering change in density of metaphor and other key variables in the data as a whole, and for comparative participant groups. The third novel contribution of the thesis is that, alongside more established corpus linguistic techniques, new techniques from the fast-evolving areas of data science and natural language processing are explored and evaluated in terms of (i) finding metaphors in the corpora; (ii) analysing language style; and (iii) diachronic analysis.
It is shown that use of the identified dominant metaphor themes in each community co-occurs with specific language styles associated with mental health, and that this work of metaphor evolves over time as a consensus which becomes normative within the group for a period, such that it shapes community members as well as being shaped by them, while the flexibility of metaphor still leaves that work open to further evolution. The adaptation and prominence of particular metaphor themes over time to do particular work in each forum also underpins the characterisation of it as a particular community.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of English, Drama and Creative Studies, Department of English Language and Linguistics
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics

Available Versions of this Item

  • The social and psychological work of metaphor: a corpus linguistic investigation. (deposited 06 Jan 2022 11:04) [Currently Displayed]


Request a Correction Request a Correction
View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year