Participant reports

holloway_cutBy Joseph Holloway,  Birminham University, UK

In this conducive environment Gerard Steen and his eminent colleagues Alan Cienki and Tina Krennmayr managed to cram a month’s worth of teaching into just one week. The layout complimented our learning wonderfully, prompting discussion and exploration. Each brought to the fore-front a vast range of interdisciplinary approaches, from discourse analysis to philosophy of language. This complimented and informed our understanding of the nature of metaphors, as assumptions were challenged and what we previously thought as common practice was brought into fresh consideration. All involved shared a real passion for metaphor and gesture studies and the applications that it has.

The experience was of huge importance to our academic development, and without exaggeration I can confidently say that it was one of the most important weeks in my life. We got the chance to network with top academics in our chosen discipline and gained great insights into the heart of metaphor and gesture studies. We were taught significant cutting-edge methodologies for future research and analysis, learning how to reliably code multi-modal data for metaphors and how to transparently formulate our interpretation from lexical metaphor to conceptual metaphor.

In addition to the top academics that were leading the Metaphor Lab we got the chance to connect with promising Ph.D. students in metaphor studies from around the world. South Africa, Australia, Russia, Canada and Turkey are just a few areas of the globe represented. We are all maintaining contact through a variety of social mediums, converging where our research interests coincide. We are already assisting each other through drawing attention to particular articles of interest, providing feedback for work in progress and ensuring that we are sticking to what is of current value in our research.

The Winter School has been an amazing experience, and I am extremely pleased that I was able to participate.

bellavia_cutBy Andrea Bellavia, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain 

Among my objectives for 2011/2012, I had included the possibility to attend a winter school dealing with practical applications of cognitive approaches to linguistics. The VU Metaphor Lab Winter School came out at the perfect timing and exceeded my already high expectations in terms of training, personal relations and fun. During the week from 23 to 27 January, I attended Gerard Steen’s course “From Linguistics to Conceptual Metaphor in Five Steps” and Alan Cienki’s “Metaphor in
Gesture with Speech: Identification and Interpretation.” Both courses followed a similar structure: after a first introduction to the main topics, the lessons addressed more specific issues and included more practical activities as the school went on.

In more detail, Gerard, starting from an overview of the sensitive issues on Conceptual Metaphor Theory, provided us with an elegant step-by-step formalism to go from metaphor in language to metaphor in thought and, accordingly, transposing linguistic forms into conceptual structures. I very much appreciated the application of the five-step procedure to the analysis of complex metaphorical networks involved in idiomatic constructions, my own area of research.

Alan, initially, focused on the identification of the main functions and modes of representation of (manual) gestures as discrete units carrying out image-schematic meaning. We, then, took into examination specific case studies and, through group activities, analyzed the single gesture forms and their potential meaning according to discourse grammar and multimodality of metaphor and metonymy in spoken words. Language as a matter of thought and communication has been the most exciting thing to have ever happened to linguistics. Metaphor analysis captures a great deal of the embodied nature of our experience no matter if we, as linguists or discourse analysts, investigate source-to-target mappings by looking at linguistic or gesture units.

The wide range of relevant applications of metaphor research is a major strong point of the work carried out at the Metaphor Lab and this week of intensive study (and intensive fun!) has been a good opportunity to enhance my background knowledge and to discuss my ideas in a high-level environment.

cuccio_cutBy Valentina Cuccio, University of Palermo, Italy

The metaphor lab winter school at VU University, with its three courses on linguistic metaphors, conceptual metaphors and metaphors in gestures, offered to metaphor researchers a complete survey of this topic of study. Metaphors were studied in the dimensions of language, thought and communication. Peculiar to this school was the development of the study of metaphors in two different lines of research. While the first one goes from language to thought, the second one goes from communication to thought.

The five steps methods introduced by Prof. Gerard Steen offered the theoretic framework that allowed metaphor analysts to go back and forth into these two lines of research. Indeed, the analysis carried out trough the five step method focused on the linguistic, conceptual and contextual levels of metaphor’s usages in the dimensions of language, thought and communication.  Thus, we can say that Prof. Steen course provided students with the complete tools of analysis of metaphors in all these three dimensions; while Prof. Krennmayr and Prof. Cienki looked more in depth at specific aspects of these dimensions.

In particular, Prof. Krennmayr deepened the passage from language to thought through the MIPVU procedure. This procedure of metaphors identification provides to text analysts an objective methodology to identify metaphors in oral and written texts and enables them to go from language to concepts and thought.

On the other hand, Prof. Cienki provided tools to identify and classify metaphorical gestures during conversations. In this course, the analysis of metaphors starts from the communication level and go to concepts and thought.

The distinction between deliberate and non-deliberate metaphors presented by Gerard Steen was another fundamental tool to understand the relation between language, thought and communication in metaphors. We can have metaphors in language that do not imply a mapping from one domain to another. This paradox, as Steen calls it, can be explained by saying that usually with very conventional metaphors we do not access the source meaning. We go straight to the target. Thus, again, a metaphor analyst should analyse very carefully all the dimensions involved in metaphors: that is metaphors in language, thought and communication.

SAMSUNGBy Sam Browse,  University of Sheffield, UK

The 2012 Metaphor Lab Winter School has been a really thought provoking, enthusing and useful event, particularly Prof. Gerard Steen’s course, ‘From linguistic to conceptual metaphor in five steps’. The course details a five step method in which metaphor analysts can move from an analysis of metaphor in language to metaphor in thought. In doing so, it raises a series of important issues and questions for metaphor research. Importantly, it also attempts to answer them.

Some of the biggest challenges facing metaphor analysts are methodological. The conceptual metaphors analyzed in actual discourse often seem to be pulled out of a hat, with no clear explanation of how a certain mapping between two different conceptual domains is discovered. Refreshingly, the course offers a transparent, rigorous way of explaining the magic trick.

Discourses are separated into manageable chunks (usually independent clauses), and – using methods from discourse psychology – turned into propositions. Propositions reflect the conceptual content of the clause. The next steps in the method then use this bank of propositions to create analogical comparisons between the metaphorically used concepts in the text and spell out the metaphorical mappings present.

The course provoked lively discussion on questions ranging from the differences between conception and cognition, linguistic metaphor and conceptual metaphor, and socio-cognitive and pragmatic approaches to metaphor. The general feeling seemed to be that participants on the course were really contributing to a discussion on the cutting edge of metaphor research. The course has certainly been useful and inspiring to my own research!