Counting Metaphors: What Does this Reveal about Language and Thought?

In: Cognitive Semantics
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  • 1 University of California

Counting metaphors has become quite fashionable in metaphor research. There are numerous attempts to reliably identify metaphors in discourse and count their frequencies. These studies aim to accurately assess the prominence of metaphor in language, but also provide insights into active metaphorical thinking. My evaluation of this research suggests that there may be rough correspondences between the frequency of metaphor and the richness of metaphorical thought. At the same time, even a single verbal metaphor can fundamentally structure an entire discourse, illustrating the power of metaphor to shape how we think about many abstract ideas and events. I also describe instances in which nonmetaphorical language can also enhance metaphorical thinking, and suggest the need for new ways of measuring metaphoricity in language and thought.

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