Visualisation in Discourse-based Metaphor Studies: A Case Study of Visualising Metaphor Patterning in Popular Science Discourse

Sum Wong

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference paperpeer-review


Moving away from the tendency inherited from classic Conceptual Metaphor Theory (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980) to prioritise conceptual metaphor in thought, Metaphor Research has increasingly recognised the need to investigate the different forms and functions of metaphor in language and discourse. According to Semino and Demjén (2016), one of the most noticeable developments in Metaphor Research has been the focus on analysing large amounts of authentic data on metaphor in language (p. 4). Consequently, this has imposed a
heavier burden on researchers to represent the comprehensiveness and complexity of the data than before. However, so far, the strategies for presenting data are somewhat limited. On the one hand, traditional Metaphor Research has primarily relied on non-visualisation methods such as infographics, frequency tables and quotations extraction. On the other hand, even when visualisation methods are used, researchers usually resort
to conventional and quantitative methods such as bar and line graphs. With this in mind, this paper explores different visualisation tools for representing qualitative language data of metaphor in discourse and how using more revealing visualisation methods may benefit Metaphor Research.
Taking textual patterning of metaphor, a typology of how metaphors co-occur and interrelate with one another within a text and across texts (Semino, 2008; Dorst, 2016), as the focus and several Scientific American articles as the source data, this paper experiments with inbuilt visualisation tools in corpus software (e.g.,
Sketch Engine, AntConc), qualitative data analysis software (e.g., MAXQDA), and visualisation software (e.g., Gephi) to represent individual metaphor pattern, such as ‘repetition’ of lemma, ‘recurrence’ of the source domain, and ‘extension’ of mapping, and also social network visualising of metaphor patterns of these articles. Preliminary results show that while KWIC concordance displays in Sketch Engine and barcode dispersion plots in AntConc are effective ways of visualising patterns of smaller scale, the network graph in Gephi is capable of visualising an entire metaphor structure in an article. The paper then discusses the potential benefits of these visualisation methods for Metaphor Research, e.g., investigating the structuring of figurative language in discourse and the extent to which it is used to frame and shape public discourse (Burgers et al., 2016).
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jun 2023
Event16th Researching and Applying Metaphor Conference, RaAM16 2023: Metaphor in Public Discourse - University of Alcalá, Alcalá de Henares, Spain
Duration: 28 Jun 202330 Jun 2023


Conference16th Researching and Applying Metaphor Conference, RaAM16 2023
CityAlcalá de Henares
Internet address

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)

User-Defined Keywords

  • visualisation
  • metaphor
  • popular science
  • textual patterning


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