Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1946/7389
Dead or Alive? Conventionality of Metaphors in Business English
A metaphor is a way to understand an abstract concept in terms of a more concrete one. Metaphors are an important part of our conceptual system, and are present in everyday discourse. They can have different characteristics, and are generally classified according to four criteria: cognitive function, nature, level of generality and level of conventionality. A metaphor can become conventionalized to the point that it has lost its figurative value. While some scholars, such as Zoltán Kövecses, maintain that this is a “dead metaphor,” others are less prepared to acknowledge the concept. George Lakoff and Mark Johnson claim that these metaphors are even more alive than others. However, Lakoff seems to regard this as a problem of terminology. Steven Pinker provides an interesting compromise, noting that words can have metaphorical origins that are no longer discernable to the general speaker.
The prevalence of metaphors within specific domains, such as business, is an interesting topic of research. In this essay, parts of two business-related articles were metaphorically analyzed. The material was studied with the point of view of identifying metaphorical usage, and etymological research was conducted to determine whether or not the words had metaphorical origins that were no longer evident. Once established, the metaphors were analyzed using the four criteria mentioned above. Although the main outcome of this study is that a wider variety of material must be analyzed in order to be able to make concrete conclusions regarding the prevalence of conventionalized metaphors in business language, the analysis revealed some interesting aspects of metaphorical usage. For example, it was evident that a metaphor could have several layers. Ultimately, the existence of “dead metaphors” cannot be denied, although it is possible that the term is unsuitable, as the metaphors described as “dead” still continue to inspire new metaphorical creations.