Mapping Metaphor with the Historical Thesaurus
'Mapping Metaphor with the Historical Thesaurus' is funded by the AHRC (grant reference AH/I02266X/1), and is running for three years from January 2012 to December 2014.
We are giving a talk, 'Mapping Metaphor', at Glasgow's West End Festival, on Saturday 15 June, 2pm, in Room 1, 12 University Gardens. All welcome.
Principal Investigator: Dr Wendy Anderson
Co-Investigators: Dr Marc Alexander, Professor Carole Hough, Professor Christian Kay
Research Assistant: Dr Ellen Bramwell
Project Technician: Flora Edmonds
PhD Student and Project Assistant: Rachael Hamilton
Project Assistants: Dr Fraser Dallachy, Dr Johanna Green, Daria Izdebska, Cerwyss O'Hare, Dr Judith Paterson
School Digital Humanities Research Officer: Brian Aitken
We would also like to thank our student volunteers: Reema Bennekaa, Naomi Berry, Hannah Edgar, George Hardwick, Beth Ralston, Heather Valentine
Details of our Network of Scholars and a photograph of the project team can be found via this link.
The project team can be contacted at email@example.com
Our Twitter feed is @MappingMetaphor and our blog can be found here.
Over the past 30 years, it has become clear that metaphor is not simply a literary phenomenon; metaphorical thinking underlies the way we make sense of the world conceptually. When we talk about ‘a healthy economy’ or ‘a clear argument’ we are using expressions that imply the mapping of one domain of experience (e.g. medicine, sight) onto another (e.g. finance, perception). When we describe an argument in terms of warfare or destruction (‘he demolished my case’), we may be saying something about the society we live in. The study of metaphor is therefore of vital interest to scholars in many fields, including linguists and psychologists, as well as to scholars of literature.
Key questions about metaphor remain to be answered; for example, how did metaphors arise? Which domains of experience are most prominent in metaphorical expressions? How have the metaphors available in English developed over the centuries in response to social changes? With the completion of the Historical Thesaurus, published as the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary by OUP (Kay, Roberts, Samuels, Wotherspoon eds, 2009), we can begin to address these questions comprehensively and in detail for the first time. We now have the opportunity to track how metaphorical ways of thinking and expressing ourselves have changed over more than a millennium.
Almost half a century in the making, the Historical Thesaurus is the first source in the world to offer a comprehensive semantic classification of the words forming the written record of a language. In the case of English, this record covers thirteen centuries of change and development, in metaphor as in other areas. We will use the Historical Thesaurus evidence base to investigate how the language of one domain of experience (e.g. medicine) contributes to others (e.g. finance). As we proceed, we will be able to see innovations in metaphorical thinking at particular periods or in particular areas of experience, such as the Renaissance, the scientific revolution, and the early days of psychoanalysis.
To achieve our goals, we will devise tools for the analysis of metaphor historically, beginning with a systematic identification of instances where words extend their meanings from one domain into another. An annotated ‘Metaphor Map’, which will be freely available online, will allow us to demonstrate when and how significant shifts in meaning took place. On the basis of this evidence, the team will produce series of case studies and a book examining key domains of metaphorical meaning.
Details of conference papers given as part of the project can be found by following this link.
A visualisation, produced by the project team, of the metaphorical links from Light and Darkness to other semantic categories can be accessed via this link.