A corpus-based study of metaphor signaling variations in three genres

Hanna Skorczynska*, Kathleen AHRENS

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


This study examines the use of words and phrases that signal metaphors in three genres in order to further examine the corpus-based evidence for signaling variation mentioned in previous research. While previous studies have focused on pragmatic functions, discourse functions, and the level of conventionalization, this study demonstrates that the communicative goals within each genre underlie the reasons for the metaphor signaling. Three corpora of approximately 600,000 words were created for this research, and they were made up of US presidential addresses, popular science articles, and business periodical articles. The corpora were electronically queried for the use of sixteen previously identified metaphor signals in order to obtain comparable quantitative data. The study was complemented by a qualitative analysis of the identified instances of signaled metaphors. We found that three metaphor signal categories - copular similes, verbal processes, and modals/conditionals - accounted for the large majority of the signals analyzed in the genres. Furthermore, we found that while copular similes and verbal processes signals were used for different rhetorical purposes, depending on the communicative goals of each genre, the conditional signal was always used to foreshadow metaphorically expressed possibilities, regardless of the genre in which it was used.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)359-381
Number of pages23
JournalText and Talk
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2015

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication
  • Philosophy
  • Linguistics and Language

User-Defined Keywords

  • Communication
  • Corpora
  • Genre
  • Metaphor
  • Signaling


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