Mapping Metaphor with the Historical Thesaurus
Mapping Metaphor with the Historical Thesaurus
The Mapping Metaphor with the Historical Thesaurus project carried out research into changes in metaphorical thought and expression in the history of English. It was funded by the AHRC (grant reference AH/I02266X/1), was based in English Language and Linguistics, and ran from January 2012 to March 2015. From April 2015 to June 2016, we ran a follow-on project, also funded by the AHRC, Metaphor in the Curriculum. Working with partners in education, this project used the Mapping Metaphor research to create materials for schools based around metaphor.
The online, freely-available Metaphor Map of English is available here.
The Metaphor Map of English won the award for 'Best DH Data Visualization' in the Digital Humanities Awards 2015: http://dhawards.org/dhawards2015/results/
Please explore the sections below for more information about Mapping Metaphor, the background to the project, the project team, and research outputs. The project team can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Principal Investigator: Dr Wendy Anderson
Research Associate: Dr Ellen Bramwell
Website and Visualisation Developer: Brian Aitken
Project Technician: Flora Edmonds
PhD Student and Project Assistant: Dr Rachael Hamilton
Project Assistants: Dr Fraser Dallachy, Iain Edmonds, Dr Johanna Green, George Hardwick, Daria Izdebska, Ross McLachlan, Cerwyss O'Hare, Dr Judith Paterson, Beth Ralston, Heather Valentine
We would also like to thank the student volunteers who helped us in spring 2013: Reema Bennekaa, Naomi Berry, Hannah Edgar, George Hardwick, Beth Ralston, Heather Valentine
Network of Scholars
Mapping Metaphor with the Historical Thesaurus is supported by our network of distinguished scholars, whose role is to provide advice on our research.
Dr Kathryn Allan (University College London)
Jean Anderson (University of Glasgow)
Dr Kenneth Austin (University of Bristol)
Dr Carole Biggam (University of Glasgow)
Professor John Corbett (University of Macau)
Dr Philip Durkin (University of Oxford, Oxford English Dictionary)
Professor Antonette Healey (University of Toronto)
Professor Jim McGonigal (University of Glasgow)
Professor Andrew Prescott (King’s College London, now University of Glasgow)
Professor Jane Roberts (University of London)
Professor Jeremy Smith (University of Glasgow)
Professor Irma Taavitsainen (University of Helsinki)
Dr Alison Wiggins (University of Glasgow)
Irené Wotherspoon (University of Glasgow)
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 have used 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 further, 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 have devised tools for the analysis of metaphor historically, beginning with a systematic identification of instances where words extend their meanings from one domain into another. The 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.
Anderson, W., Bramwell, E. and Hough, C. (2016) Mapping English Metaphor Through Time, OUP. (an edited volume of case studies of metaphor in particular semantic areas, stemming from the Mapping Metaphor colloquium which took place in March 2014 at the University of Glasgow)
Hamilton, R. (2016) 'Colour in English: from metonymy to metaphor'. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow
Articles, chapters, conference proceedings, reports
Anderson, W. (2017) 'Metaphor and diachronic variation'. In E. Semino and Z. Demjén (eds). The Routledge Handbook of Metaphor and Language. Routledge
Anderson, W. and Hough, C. (2016) 'Engaging users of Scottish online language resources'. In K.P. Corrigan and A. Mearns (eds). Creating and Digitizing Language Corpora. Volume 3: Databases for Public Engagement. Palgrave, 69-97
Hamilton, R., Bramwell, E. and Hough, C. (2016) 'Mapping Metaphor with the Historical Thesaurus: a new resource for investigating metaphor in names'. In Names and Their Environment: Proceedings fo the 25th International Congress of Onomastic Sciences Glasgow, 25-29 August 2014, Vol. 4. Theory and Methodology. Socio-onomastics, edited by C. Hough and D. Izdebska, Glasgow, University of Glasgow, 33-40
Bramwell, E. (2016) 'The Metaphor Map of English: a new online resource'. Scottish Place-Name News 40, 10-11
Anderson, W. and Bramwell, E. (2014) 'A metaphorical spectrum: surveying colour terms in English'. In W. Anderson, C.P. Biggam, C. Hough and C. Kay (eds). Colour Studies: A Broad Spectrum. John Benjamins, 140-152
Hamilton, R. (2014) 'Exploring the metaphorical use of colour with the Historical Thesaurus of English'. In W. Anderson, C.P. Biggam, C. Hough and C. Kay (eds). Colour Studies: A Broad Spectrum. John Benjamins, 153-166
Hough, C. (2014) 'The green belt and beyond: metaphor in the landscape'. Scottish Place-Name News 37, 6-8
Anderson, W. and Bramwell, E. (2014) 'Of anoraks and oysters: metaphors of social communication in the Historical Thesaurus. In B. O'Rourke, N. Bermingham and S. Brennan (eds). Opening New Lines of Communication in Applied Linguistics (proceedings of BAAL conference, Heriot-Watt, September 2013), 41-51.
Alexander, M. and Bramwell, E. (2014) 'Mapping metaphors of wealth and want: a digital approach'. Studies in the Digital Humanities 1
Alexander. M. and Anderson, W. (2014) '"Civilization arranged in chronological strata": a digital approach to the English semantic space'. In Digital Humanities 2014, 7-12 July 2014, Lausanne, Switzerland
Hough, C. and Kay, C. (2013) 'Mapping metaphor with the Historical Thesaurus: 2013 report'. Old English Newsletter 44(1)
Our blog has short articles and news items on different aspects of the project.
Conferences, talks and reports
Selected conference papers, talks and reports
Since the beginning of the project in January 2012, members of the Mapping Metaphor with the Historical Thesaurus project team have given a number of conference papers and talks, and a selection of some of the most recent papers is given below. Please note that authors are normally listed in alphabetical order within papers.
For reasons of space, the list below only contains selected recent papers - for a complete record including titles, authors and abstracts (where available), please follow this link.
The Mapping Metaphor Colloquium took place on Friday 28th March 2014 at the University of Glasgow, with contributions from our Network of Scholars and project team. All papers were based on Mapping Metaphor project data. Please follow this link for a full programme. An edited volume stemming from the Colloquium, Mapping English Metaphor Through Time, was published by OUP in 2016.
Anderson, W. 'Warp and weft: following lexical threads in diachronic corpora'. Paper presented at Corpus Linguistics in Scotland network event, Angus McIntosh Centre for Historical Linguistics, Edinburgh, 2 December 2016
Using a selection of examples from the semantic field of textiles, this talk will explore the place of metaphorical lexis in corpora of English, Scottish English and Scots, covering the period from 1700 to the present, drawing also on the Historical Thesaurus of English, the Oxford English Dictionary, and the Metaphor Map of English (http://mappingmetaphor.arts.gla.ac.uk/). It will focus on the ways in which metaphors create meaning by reflecting the social and cultural contexts in which they are used, and will demonstrate how the various resources can be used to establish a picture of the lexical and metaphorical options open to speakers at particular times. It will also address the knotty issue of ‘dead metaphor’ (i.e. metaphorical connections that are no longer cognitively ‘live’ for speakers) and suggests ways in which corpus analysis can help us to determine the status of metaphors.
Anderson, W. 'Perception metaphor: a bird's-eye view'. Paper presented at Perception Metaphor Workshop, Centre for Language Studies, Radboud University & Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen, 12-13 October 2016
This paper offers a perspective on perception metaphors based on the evidence of the recorded language history of English. It draws on the analysis carried out by the ‘Mapping Metaphor with the Historical Thesaurus’ project at the University of Glasgow. The project data combine the complete evidence of the Oxford English Dictionary (second edition) and A Thesaurus of Old English (Roberts and Kay 1995) to represent the English language over a period of 1300 years. While not a corpus project in the usual sense, contextualised and authentic language is therefore the ultimate source of the project data, and I argue that this approach can provide a useful complement to the more fine-grained analyses that corpus and experimental work offer.
Using a combination of computational and manual analysis, the Mapping Metaphor project exploits the principle that metaphor can be discerned in the shared lexis in different semantic fields. For example, the word forms grope, feel, touch and grasp all appear in the Historical Thesaurus categories of both Touch and Understanding, and instantiate the conceptual metaphor traditionally expressed as understanding is grasping. Further, the direction of semantic change can be broadly established from the date evidence for the relevant senses in the OED and Historical Thesaurus.
Here, I will look at metaphors with either a source or a target in each of the five perception categories. This shows the richness – and long history – of perception metaphors in English, not only associated with the major senses of Sight and Hearing but also with Touch, Taste and Smell. Touch and Smell are shown to be strongly, though not exclusively, source domains, whereas for Sight, Hearing and Taste the picture is more mixed. I will also outline some of the difficulties encountered in the project’s analysis, concentrating on those that may shed some light on much debated issues in the study of metaphor.
Kay, C. and C. Hough. 'A new perspective on Old English metaphors'. Talk at ISAS 2015, Glasgow, 3-7 August 2015
'Mapping Metaphor with the Historical Thesaurus’ will offer a new perspective on the English language when completed in March 2015. The main purpose of the project is to trace the development of systematic metaphors in English throughout its recorded history. There is, for example, a strong metaphorical connexion between intense thinking and physical violence in English, recorded from the sixteenth century in expressions such as beat, break, cudgel, hammer or rack one’s brains. Other recurrent metaphors can be traced back to Old English, for example the use of darkness as a metaphor for evil in words such as deorcful, dierne, dimm, mirce in OE, sweart/swart, recorded until 1594, and the still current deorc/dark. Some metaphors are motivated by cultural or scientific developments; others reflect changes in world-view.
Mapping Metaphor uses data from the ‘Historical Thesaurus of English’. The database contains most of the contents of the ‘Oxford English Dictionary’ (OED) second edition, hierarchically organised into conceptual domains such as Food or Thought. In the first stages, automatic routines enabled links between categories to be identified and quantified through tracking of recurrent word forms. Human coders then eliminated the uninteresting ‘noise’ generated by factors such as polysemy and homonymy, thus isolating expressions deemed genuinely metaphorical. The results are presented visually in an interactive online ‘Metaphor Map’; the OE version will be launched during the talk, giving ISAS participants an early opportunity to assess its potential.
Because the OED omits OE words which did not survive beyond about 1150, materials from A Thesaurus of Old English were added to the database, which already contained OE words that survived into later periods. The OE and comprehensive datasets were then analysed separately, giving a thematically-organised snapshot of metaphor in OE as well as the broader picture. Research conducted so far suggests that overall, although many common metaphors are found in OE, the number of OE metaphorical expressions is comparatively small. The main part of the paper will examine this phenomenon and attempt to account for it. There are many possible reasons: the nature of the surviving evidence, cultural and stylistic factors, or lexical factors such as the preference for compounding as a method of word-formation. A compound such as heofonfyr ‘lightning’ or swanrad ‘sea’, for example, is clearly metaphorical as a totality and possibly in its second element, but will not be picked up by our programs because there is no identifiable link between the figurative compound and a single literal source. We argue that this is not just a programming issue but one which should be considered within metaphor theory.
Bramwell, E. and C. Kay. 'Giants among men: the real and the unreal in diachronic metaphor analysis'. Talk at ICLC13, Northumbria University, Newcastle, 21 July 2015
Cross-linguistic analysis of metaphor raises interesting questions about representations of world-views in language. This is equally true of synchronic analysis of different languages and varieties, and of diachronic analysis of the development of metaphors over a period of time. The Metaphor Map of English, developed using data from the Historical Thesaurus of English, provides us for the first time with a comprehensive, systematic overview of the lexical basis of metaphor in English from Old English to the present-day. Using its data enables us to investigate linguistic and metaphorical change alongside changes in the beliefs and understanding of speakers during the 1300-year recorded history of the English language, and to suggest ways of representing these changes.
The Metaphor Map as a whole contains 418 separate conceptual categories with thousands of metaphorical links between them. Our focus will be on the category ‘Supernatural’, which contains general terms for the concept alongside more specific sub-categories for areas such as magic and mythical creatures. The Metaphor Map shows that the category as a whole links metaphorically to 119 other conceptual areas in English. There are 32 strong category-level links (e.g. between the Supernatural and Emotion) which, we will argue, show evidence of systematic metaphor, and 87 weaker links which demonstrate a lesser degree of metaphorical connection. The strong links cluster around categories in the physical and mental worlds, with far fewer linking to concepts dealing with social organisation. The paper will look at evidence from some of these systematic links, including target domains such as Morality, Appearance and Disease.
Our choice of the Supernatural as a focus will enable us to examine linguistic evidence for conceptions of the real and the unreal at different periods in history. Understanding of supernatural beings and practices has changed considerably during the period covered by the Metaphor Map. Creatures such as demons, giants and ghosts, now generally consigned to the realm of the imaginary, are considered to be inhabitants of the physical universe in the world-views of previous generations, with consequent effects on human behaviour and conditions such as illness. These are sometimes positive, more often malign. Divergent world-views raise questions about how we interpret apparently metaphorical links, such as pathways from concrete object to abstract concept. Giants, for example, are mythical creatures without material existence, yet the term is later applied to large people and objects and then again to the more abstract concepts of size and importance. Similar pathways can be traced for terms denoting other mythical creatures and locations, such as the link between heaven as the sky, and the physical abode of real gods in the belief system of many centuries, and the metaphorical use of the term for the condition of supreme happiness. Tracing such links allows us to reflect on changing world-views and consequent changes in linguistic expression, and to pinpoint when such changes occurred. In doing so, the paper will investigate whether theoretical positions adopted in approaches such as linguistic relativity, conceptual blending and possible worlds can help to clarify our understanding of metaphor and historical change.
Anderson, W. and C. Hough. 'Through the mists of time: new perspectives on English metaphor'. Talk at ICLC13, Northumbria University, Newcastle, 21 July 2015
In addition to presenting research into changing metaphorical patterns across the history of English, this paper serves as an introduction to the theme session ‘The lexicon and beyond: new routes from the Historical Thesaurus of English’. The session brings together a number of projects, all of which take a highly data-driven approach to theoretical issues surrounding the study of the lexicon of English, and all of which exploit the unique dataset of the Historical Thesaurus of English (HT).
This paper will set out the aims, methodology and theoretical underpinnings of the first of these projects, ‘Mapping Metaphor with the Historical Thesaurus’ (2012-2015). The Mapping Metaphor project has established a near-comprehensive picture of the place of metaphor in English over a period of some thirteen centuries, from the Anglo-Saxon period to the present day. Taking as its starting point that metaphor – a form of systematic connection between semantic domains – can be identified through patterns of lexical overlap between the semantic categories contained in a thesaurus like the HT, the project draws on a combination of computational and manual analysis to pinpoint all of the significant metaphors in the recorded vocabulary of English.
We will briefly demonstrate the ‘Metaphor Map’ resource which forms the major public-facing output of the project. The Metaphor Map features a dynamic, web-based interface that enables users to view and explore metaphors at different levels of specificity through a radial convergence visualisation. A top-level view shows metaphorical connections between 37 superordinate level categories (such as The world, Mental capacity, and Communication), while a drill-down view shows those between around 400 basic-level semantic categories (such as Body of water, Foolishness, and Correspondence and telecommunications). Users can also click on individual connections to go to ‘Metaphor cards’ which summarise the metaphor, giving example words which instantiate the connection, and information about direction and dates of metaphorical transfer.
The final part of the paper will take the semantic category of ‘Atmosphere and weather’ to illustrate the functionality of the Metaphor Map and highlight patterns of changing metaphorical connections over time. Weather is a particularly productive source category for metaphor, with connections to over one third of the other semantic categories, including Age (hoar, frosty), Behaviour (frostily), Excitement (gusty, torrential) and Sexual relations (sultry). Less commonly, Weather is a target category, while some connections are bi-directional, as with Food (slobber, bite) and Ill-health (breathless, foggy). A number of the connections can be traced back to the Old English period, through lexical items such as wind, storm and mist. Many other metaphors are much more recent, however, and overall a much weaker presence of metaphor is visible in our Old English data. We argue that this is not primarily attributable to the relative paucity of data, but that it reflects the changing world-views that are also highlighted elsewhere by our results.
Anderson, W. 'Star-dust and Scotch mist: English Metaphors across Time'. Public lunchtime masterclass talk for the Centre for Open Studies, University of Glasgow, 27 February 2015
The ‘Mapping Metaphor with the Historical Thesaurus’ project in English Language, University of Glasgow, is in the final stages of creating a ‘Metaphor Map’ online resource which will show all of the metaphorical connections between domains of meaning that have been made by speakers and writers of English from the Anglo-Saxon period to the present day. This talk will introduce the project and, through a case study of the semantic area of ‘Imagination’, will illustrate the extent of metaphorical language that we use in talking about abstract concepts and changing patterns of metaphor over time.
Alexander, M. and E. Bramwell. 'Visualising metaphor in English'. Paper presented at Digital Humanities Congress, Sheffield, 4-6 September 2014
Mapping Metaphor with the Historical Thesaurus is a linguistics and digital humanities collaboration which provides a data-driven picture of the extent and development of metaphor across the history of English. It uses a combination of database techniques and expert linguistic analysis to provide full details of the metaphorical links which speakers of English have used to understand the world around them for the past thousand years.
One of the project's main outcomes is a database of tens of thousands of links between conceptual categories, such as imagination and biology (father, conceive, fertile) or beauty and light (shine, radiant, lustre), alongside date information and sample words. While there are a range of other outputs arising from this data, the online resource for exploring the links database - called the Metaphor Map - is a key output of the project. In addition to providing search and browse pathways through the data, there is also a need to provide a high-level visual overview for users. However, while such data is of huge relevance to scholars in a range of fields, including the study of language, literature, culture, and psychology, the size and complexity of the database provides a significant challenge with regard to displaying these connections to users in a way which makes their relevance clear.
This paper therefore discusses the means through which the Metaphor Map has been visualized by the team, including radial arc techniques, network diagrams, and treemap structures. We will demonstrate the importance of such visualizations to guide research on the database, and provide information from our feedback sessions on the understandability of such complex data. In so doing, we also aim to demonstrate the widespread, systematic and far-reaching impact of metaphor on English.
Hamilton, R., C. Hough and E. Bramwell. 'A new resource for investigating metaphor in names'. Poster presented at ICOS, Glasgow, 25-29 August 2014
Mapping Metaphor with the Historical Thesaurus is an AHRC-funded research project at Glasgow University (2012–2014; PI Anderson), investigating the nature and extent of metaphor in English through comprehensive analysis of lexical overlap between semantic domains. The analysis is diachronic and data-driven, using the database underlying the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary (2009). The results will be freely available online in an interactive ‘Metaphor Map’. This poster outlines the project, displays visualisations of the interactive resource, and presents two case studies illustrating the potential for onomastic research.
1. The well-known metaphor LANDSCAPE IS A BODY is represented in many languages. Its manifestations in place-names include terms for the internal and external body, human and animal (e.g. brain, nose, tail, veins). Our results suggest that references to clothing (e.g. belt) and textiles (e.g. ribbon) in place-names are further extensions of the metaphor.
2. The project has identified previously unrecognised metaphors, including (in Old English only) links between the domains of light and warfare (e.g. hildetorht ‘battle-bright’, sigebeorht ‘victory-bright’, wigblac ‘battle-shining’). The domain of warfare is strongly represented in Germanic anthroponomy, so we suggest that this may account for terms such as beorht in Anglo-Saxon personal names (e.g. Beorhtric, Hunbeorht).
Anderson, W. and E. Bramwell. 'Metaphor, directionality and domains: a data-driven perspective'. Paper presented at UKCLC, Lancaster, 29-31 July 2014
The 'Mapping Metaphor with the Historical Thesaurus' project, currently being undertaken at the University of Glasgow, is creating an interactive 'Metaphor Map' for English, which will show the metaphorical connections between semantic domains made by speakers and writers of English from the Old English period to the present day. This data provides an excellent background from which to explore the long-standing questions of semantic domains and the directionality of metaphor, the focus of this paper.
Our source data is the Historical Thesaurus of English (HT, published as Kay et al. 2009), itself based on the data of the second edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, and supplemented by A Thesaurus of Old English (Roberts and Kay 2000) for the earlier period. The complex hierarchical semantic structure of the HT has been adapted and simplified for Mapping Metaphor to produce 411 semantically coherent categories (e.g. 'Atmosphere, Weather', 'Ill-health', 'Memory', 'Politics', 'Faith'). The lexical content of each of these categories in turn is then compared automatically with the lexical content of every other category, to produce a database of lexical overlap between categories. Detailed manual analysis is then undertaken for each pair of categories, to identify the overlap which is a result of systematic metaphorical connections, and discard the significantly larger amount of overlap which is due to homonymy and to polysemy resulting from mechanisms other than metaphor. This methodology offers us a new perspective from which to clarify the nature of a semantic domain and a new, more comprehensive, framework within which to investigate examples of apparent bi-directionality of metaphorical connections between domains, such as that between the domains of 'Textiles' and 'Imagination' (cf. fustian and spin, with their sources in 'Textiles' and target in 'Imagination', and illusion which has its source in 'Imagination' and target in 'Textiles').
Alexander, M. and C. Kay. 'Heaven and Earth: Some Metaphorical Connexions'. Paper presented at ICEHL18, Leuven, 14-18 July 2014
Completion of the Historical Thesaurus of English project (HT) has opened up new possibilities for the study of the English lexicon. It is now available in print as the Historical Thesaurus of the OED (Kay et al. 2009), as a searchable online resource (www.glasgow.ac.uk/historicalthesaurus/), and, for subscribers, as a component of the online Oxford English Dictionary (www.oed.com/). Users of the latter should note (a) that it is under revision and therefore not an exact match for the other versions, which are based on the second edition of the OED, and (b) that it does not contain Old English words unrecorded after 1150. These are included in the print and Glasgow online versions, using material from A Thesaurus of Old English (Roberts and Kay 2000).
The HT database contains some 793,742 word forms arranged in 225,131 semantic categories, linked vertically by relationships such as hyponymy and meronymy and horizontally by synonymy and, to a lesser extent, antonymy. Automatic routines enable links between categories in this hierarchy to be identified and quantified through tracking of recurrent word forms. In a current project, Mapping Metaphor with the Historical Thesaurus (www.glasgow.ac.uk/metaphor, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council from January 2012 to December 2014), researchers are examining these links with a view to creating a 'metaphor map' showing the development of systematic metaphors throughout the history of English. This paper will describe these procedures and the problems involved in applying them, such as the elimination of homonymy and unmotivated polysemy. It will focus particularly on issues for historical linguists in identifying metaphors, such as semantic change, both within English and in source languages, and shifting world-views. Discussion will centre on a case study of metaphorical links evidenced in categories of Supernatural Phenomena, including Deity, Angel, Devil, Heaven and Hell. It is hypothesized that these categories will link to concepts in the physical, emotional and moral universes, and that decisions about metaphor will need to take account of prevailing world-views, such as belief or otherwise in the 'reality' of the supernatural. In conclusion, the paper will introduce another new project: SAMUELS (Semantic Annotation and Mark Up for Enhancing Lexical Searches, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council from January 2014 to March 2015), which is exploring the contribution HT can make to disambiguating polysemous word forms in texts, including those from earlier periods.
Bramwell, E. 'Mapping metaphors through time with the Historical Thesaurus'. Paper presented at ICHLL7, Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, 9-11 July 2014
In 2009 the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary (Kay et al. 2009) was published after over forty years of research and preparation at the University of Glasgow. The resource is the first comprehensive historical thesaurus for any language, and was produced using data from the Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition and supplementary Old English materials as its basis.
This talk introduces a progeny of the Historical Thesaurus:the AHRC-funded 'Mapping Metaphor' project which investigates the nature and extent of metaphor in the language system of English, from Old English to the present day. The analysis is data-driven and uses the database underlying the Historical Thesaurus, reusing and repurposing the lexicographical material to discover conceptual links through a comprehensive identification and analysis of the lexical overlap between semantic domains. The results will be available online, as a 'Metaphor Map' of the whole of English, showing where and when these links have occurred.
The Mapping Metaphor project will be discussed through a case-study of the domain of Imagination, a highly abstract area which links metaphorically to domains such as Sight, Movement, Textiles, Shape and Air. Visualisations will be used to graphically illustrate these links, alongside a beta-version of the online 'Metaphor Map'.
Anderson, W., B. Aitken and R. Hamilton. 'A Digital Metaphor Map for English'. Poster presented at DH2014, Lausanne, 8-12 July 2014
In this poster, we demonstrate a major new digital resource, the 'Metaphor Map' of English, which is opening up empirical research into linguistic and conceptual metaphor on a scale never before possible. We will also discuss our source data, the Historical Thesaurus of English , the new methodology which underpins our research, and our results from the semantic domain of Colour. Finally, we will outline the significance of the resource for Digital Humanities and for research and teaching in metaphor studies.
Alexander, M. and W. Anderson. '"Civilization arranged in chronological strata": A digital approach to the English semantic space'. Paper presented at DH2014, Lausanne, 8-12 July 2014
This paper focuses on the history of the English lexicon, and on a new approach to this history through the database of the Historical Thesaurus of English (Kay et al. 2009). It does so by reference to the semantic space of English, following Lehrer’s statement that ‘the words of a language can be classified into sets which […] divide up the semantic space or the semantic domain in certain ways’. This space is described in this paper as the total accumulation of the various individual semantic fields which make up the language, as represented in the Historical Thesaurus' database. The paper therefore analyses the size of the English lexicon in these semantic clusters over time, including its metaphorical links, and aims to give a digital analysis of the history of English in ways which were previously not possible.
Anderson, W. 'Patterns of Metaphor in English'. Paper at Researching and Applying Metaphor (RaAM) conference, Cagliari, Sardinia, 20-23 June 2014
This paper will focus on metaphor in the language system of English, and will provide an overview of the metaphorical connections which have been available to speakers and writers of the language since the Old English period. This research is part of the ‘Mapping Metaphor with the Historical Thesaurus’ project, currently being undertaken at the University of Glasgow. The project’s source data is the Historical Thesaurus of English (HT, published as Kay et al. 2009), itself based on the data of the second edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, andsupplemented by A Thesaurus of Old English (Roberts and Kay 2000) for the earlier period. The project is creating an interactive ‘Metaphor Map’ for English, which will show the metaphorical connections between semantic domains made by speakers and writers of English from the Old English period to the present day. A beta-version of the Map will be presented.
The complex hierarchical semantic structure of the HT has been adapted and simplified within the context of Mapping Metaphor to produce three hierarchical levels, with 411 semantically coherent categories at the lowest level (e.g. ‘Fear’, ‘Intelligence’, ‘Birds’, ‘Social Event’). The lexical content of each of these categories in turn has then been compared automatically with the lexical content of every other category, to produce a database of lexical overlap between categories. Detailed manual analysis has subsequently been undertaken for each pair of categories, to identify the overlap which is a result of systematic metaphorical connections, and discard the significantly larger amount of overlap which is due to homonymy and to polysemy resulting from mechanisms other than metaphor.
At higher levels, the 411 Mapping Metaphor categories are grouped to map onto the HT’s 26 Level 2 categories (superordinate categories such as ‘Emotion’, ‘Mental capacity’, ‘Life’ and ‘Leisure’), and these further grouped to map onto the HT’s 3 Level 1 categories (‘The External World’, ‘The Mental World’, ‘The Social World’). The resulting shallow hierarchical system enables us to identify patterns of metaphorical transfer between semantic categories at different levels of abstraction. At the highest levels, expected patterns of metaphorical transfer between concrete and abstract types of category are visible, while at lower levels, there is ample empirical evidence of more and less well studied conceptual metaphors, such as emotion is heat and imagination is textiles.
Kay, Christian, Jane Roberts, Michael Samuels, and Irené Wotherspoon (eds). 2009. Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Roberts, J. and Kay, C. with Grundy, L. (2000). A Thesaurus of Old English, 2 vols. 2nd edn. Amsterdam: Rodopi