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Metaphors and their Making: Bodily, conventionally and contextually motivated metaphors in inter- and intra-generational conversations

  • Björn Torstensson
Publishing year: 2019
Language: English
Document type: Student publication for Master's degree (two years)


This thesis examines and compares spontaneous metaphor usage in conversations within and between generations. It investigates to what extent they can be seen as motivated by bodily, conventional and situated factors with the help of the Motivation and Sedimentation Model (MSM), which operates with these three levels of meaning. The model combines and integrates earlier accounts of metaphor motivation, conventionalization and emergence, as shown through a theoretical discussion.
The thesis proposes and employs a detailed MSM-based procedure for linguistic metaphor identification in transcripts from moderated dyadic conversations between participants, thus contributing to MSM specifically with both methodology and new data. The identification procedure was based on the Metaphor Identification Procedure (MIP), elaborated through elements from the Discourse Dynamics Approach (DDA). It was further aided by MSM’s definition of metaphor based on the notions of iconicity and semantic tension, the latter understood in the present context as polysemy (as opposed to semantic vagueness/generality).
Rather surprisingly, the analysis showed no major quantitative differences in metaphor motivation between inter- and intragenerational conversations among strangers. Conventionality, and in particular strongly sedimented norms, appeared to be the foremost driving factor in metaphor production, both within and between generations, while the younger generation had a slight preference for weakly sedimented metaphors.
In sum, the thesis contributes to metaphor studies theoretically and methodologically and calls for better inter-study comparability through higher methodological transparency and conceptual clarity.


  • Languages and Literatures
  • cognitive semiotics
  • iconicity
  • Motivation and Sedimentation Model
  • conventionality
  • embodiment
  • metaphor identification
  • signs
  • polysemy


  • Jordan Zlatev (Docent)