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All You Need Is LOVE: Applying Conceptual Metaphor Theory to the Beatles' Song Lyrics - A Comparative Study


  • Simon Christensson

Summary, in English

This essay analyses conceptual metaphors in the Beatles’ song lyrics and observes how Lennon and McCartney’s use of metaphorical concepts evolved in the 1960’s. The study has an empirical and qualitative approach with quantitative elements, and employs the framework of Conceptual Metaphor Theory (CMT). Three specific RQs are studied in this thesis: (a) how the metaphors in Lennon and McCartney’s lyrics became more diverse in later songs, (b) what differences and similarities there are in their use of metaphorical concepts, and (c) if metaphors of LOVE became less prominent between 1968-1970. Other studies within Cognitive Linguistics have employed CMT in their analyses of song lyrics previously, but the comparative aspects of this thesis have seemingly not been performed by any researcher hitherto. This essay thus provides new information about the Beatles’ lyrics and how they developed, which can be useful for future studies on metaphorical concepts in music within the field of Cognitive Linguistics.

The data have been extracted from a newly constructed corpus, consisting of lyrics from 103 songs by the Beatles from the early and late stage of their career. The comparative analysis between the composers is based on a collection of target domains from 36 of McCartney’s songs, and 44 of Lennon’s, within the time period 1962-1964 and 1968-1970. A total amount of 475 target domains have been found within these time periods, out of which 236 have been identified in McCartney’s songs, and 239 in Lennon’s. The discoveries demonstrate that the main differences illustrating the polarization between the composers can be found in the less frequent metaphors, but also in metaphors of LOVE and TIME in the Beatles’ later songs. Furthermore, LOVE was still the most common concept in their lyrics between 1968 and 1970, and the instances of love metaphors also represent the main similarities between the composers’ use of metaphorical concepts, accompanied by metaphors of THE MIND. The findings signify that, by examining metaphorical concepts through CMT in the group’s lyrics, it is possible to validate the shifts that occurred in each composer’s writing techniques between early and later songs, and that the writers’ utilization of LOVE metaphors may have been a contributing factor to their prominence.


Publishing year




Document type

Student publication for Bachelor's degree


  • Languages and Literatures


  • CMT
  • Conceptual Metaphor Theory
  • Cognitive Linguistics
  • semantics
  • metaphors
  • metaphorical concepts
  • conduit metaphors
  • orientational metaphors
  • ontological metaphors
  • The Beatles
  • Lennon
  • McCartney
  • song lyrics
  • love
  • the mind


  • Vasiliki Simaki