Metaphors We May Not Live By


  • David Lowell Hoover New York University



Conceptual metaphor, Cognitive Linguistics, Lakoff and Johnson


Metaphors We Live By created an immediate stir in 1980, and it continues to spur interest in cognitive linguistics, cognitive stylistics, and metaphor theory. This article uses both collocations and random samples of words used in conceptual metaphors to search for corpus evidence of the pervasiveness of conceptual metaphor that was unavailable to Lakoff and Johnson. Some metaphors, such as TIME IS MONEY, are pervasive in giant natural language corpora. Others, such as MORE IS UP, are frequent in clearly and consciously metaphorical forms, but relatively rare in the basic forms that would clearly show that we use metaphor to understand more abstract concepts in terms of concrete ones. Some, including ARGUMENT IS WAR, that Lakoff and Johnson discuss throughout their book, are poorly represented. Some gaps in evidence probably result from multiple ways of expressing a complex conceptual metaphors, but others suggest that intuitive plausibility is an insecure basis for argument.

Author Biography

David Lowell Hoover, New York University


Department of English