Metaphor is not the sole preserve of literary scholarship, but forms the basis of human thought and communication. An ambitious study undertaken by researchers at Glasgow University aims to map the use of metaphor across the history of English language, making use of some 4m pieces of lexical data to create an online Metaphor Map, which contains more than 14,000 metaphorical connections to uncover revealing linguistic clusters.
The trends demonstrate a ubiquitous nuance within the English language, as the study highlights the tendency to describe social structures in terms of textiles, for example. We talk about the ‘fabric’ of society, whilst social networks are ‘woven’ or ‘spun’. Textiles even influence the way we describe imagination: we ‘spin a yarn’, or ‘embroider our thoughts’.
And yet, metaphor can take on subtler forms. Describing a ‘healthy economy’ or a ‘clear argument’ are both examples of mapping concepts from a comparatively concrete domain, such as medicine, onto a more abstract domain, such as the strength of an argument.
The study provides food for thought in various fields. Whilst an English student could reflect upon the purpose of metaphor in expression, and an HSPS student could explore the role of language as a reflection of culture, a Languages student may note that these phenomena are in some cases limited to English: the Spanish refer simply to ‘la estructura social’ rather than the ‘fabric of society’. . Linguistics students, however, may even explore questions beyond the study: although it may be useful to identify such trends, perhaps it is more important to ask how they come about? Whatever the reflection, it is clear that big data brings with it insights beyond our current scope of knowledge.
- Your free E-book… “So You Want To Go To Oxbridge? Tell me about a banana…” If you are applying to Oxford or Cambridge, there are... Read more >
- Pooling: Fast Facts You may have heard people talk about “pooling”, or maybe... Read more >
- TSA overview A huge range of subjects at both Oxford and Cambridge... Read more >
- The Great Collection of Past Oxbridge Interview Questions The great thing about an Oxbridge interview is that it... Read more >
- Law: answer like a pro Law is a notoriously competitive subject; this, along with the... Read more >
- Are my grades good enough for Oxbridge? Grades are an area of much misunderstanding when it comes... Read more >
- January’s Top News Stories Read more about some of the biggest news stories to... Read more >
- July’s Top News Stories Read more about some of the biggest news stories to... Read more >
- Personal statement: our tips in the Independent Here are 3 quick tips every hopeful should consider before... Read more >
- HAT mini mock paper The History Aptitude Test or ‘HAT’ must be sat by... Read more >
- Cambridge’s Supplementary Application Questionnaire After you have submitted your UCAS application to apply to... Read more >
- The Most Competitive Subjects At Oxbridge (And How To Choose Wisely) Oxford and Cambridge are two of the best universities in the... Read more >
- HAT overview If you’re applying for History, or its joint schools, you... Read more >
- The OA School’s Magazine: Issue 1 Last year, Oxbridge Applications launched its first ever Schools’ Magazine,... Read more >
- What makes a good interview? The notion of an academic interview with prominent Oxbridge academics is a major... Read more >
- UCAS: A How To Guide The process of applying to university through UCAS can seem... Read more >
- Interactive Interview Exercise Manual ‘What should I expect at my Oxbridge interview?’ ‘How will... Read more >
- How is the BMAT marked? The BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) is marked significantly differently from... Read more >
- Classics and Arch & Anth Reading Lists If you’re applying for Classics, or for Archaeology and Anthropology,... Read more >
- Is a “Religious Morality” rational? One of our Oxbridge graduate tutors, Emma, looks into the... Read more >
- PAT overview If you’re applying for Physics, Materials or a relevant joint... Read more >
- Choosing a course From Arch and Anth to Veterinary Medicine, the range of... Read more >
- Your Open Day Guide Open Days can be an extremely useful way of finding... Read more >
- PAT mini mock paper & answers The Physics Aptitude Test or PAT is required by Oxford... Read more >