Workshop: New perspectives on metaphor and metonymy

Thomas Wiben Jensen, University of Southern Denmark

Marlene Johansson Falck, Department of Language Studies, Umeå University

The classical view on the nature of metaphor vs. metonymy often refers back to Jakobson’s distinction between metaphor as based on similarity and metonymy as structured in terms of contiguity or closeness (Jakobson 2002). However, within Cognitive Linguistics and related fields, research has emphasized the complex and intertwined relationship between metaphor and metonymy in pointing to the many ways in which metaphor and metonymy interact (Barcelona 2000, Croft 2002, Panther 2006, Littlemore 2015, Ruiz de Mendoza Ibáñez 2017).

Traditionally, metaphors are analyzed and understood in terms of cross-domain mapping between different domains, whereas metonymic expressions are better understood in terms of domain highlighting in which one well-understood or easily perceived aspect of something is used to represent or stand for something else within the same domain. In this way, the cognitive motivation for metonymy is not to “understand and experience one thing in terms of another” (as in metaphor), but rather to provide mental access to another part of the same domain. However, much research has shown that the two notions are often not that easily distinguishable. Thus, the term “metaphtonymy” (Grossens 1990) has been used to describe the interaction between metaphor and metonymy in a variety of ways, including metaphor within metonymy and metonymy within metaphor. Likewise, it has been shown that primary metaphors often have a metonymic basis which is projected onto abstract domains (Kövecses 2013). This aspect has also been investigated by gesture studies investigating the metonymic bases of gestural manifestations of primary metaphors (Mittelberg & Waugh 2009). Furthermore, recent studies have investigated the role of multimodal metonymy and multimodal metonymic chains in visual advertising (Sobrino 2018), the role of environmental and social features in the creation of embodied metonymy in different genres, including fiction (Littlemore 2017), as well as the indexical affordances of metonymy in relation to metaphors of morality (Jensen in press). More recently, it has been suggested that conventional metaphors within CMT can be better explained by metonymically driven categorization processes than by cross-domain mapping principles (Gibbs 2017, Gibbs in press).

In this theme session, we invite papers with new perspectives on the intertwined nature between metaphor and metonymy in areas such as written or spoken discourse, multimodal communication, or gesture.


Hypallage is a rare bird. Not.

Klaus-Uwe Panther, University of Hamburg

Linda L. Thornburg, University of Hamburg

We take a Cognitive Pragmatic approach to hypallage to show that this “marginal trope” can be elucidated in terms of conceptual metaphor, conceptual metonymy, and pragmatic inferencing. Hypallage is defined as ‘a combination of seemingly incompatible features’ and has been exploited artistically and creatively since antiquity in poetic and narrative discourse. A classic example of hypallage is the 2,000-year-old phrase “angry crowns of kings” (Odes of Horace). The hypallactic incompatibility in “angry crowns” arises from the position of angry as a prenominal modifier of crowns; but anger is an emotional attribute of humans, in this case kings. This incompatibility motivates an imaginative transposition of the adjective angry to kings, which resolves the semantic anomaly. Likewise, the hypallactic expression rare bird in the title of our talk denotes a literal or (more often) figurative bird or entity that is rarely encountered by people. The “bird” does not per se have the property of being rare. As the “Not.” in the title of our talk indicates, we deny that hypallage itself is a rare phenomenon restricted to belles-lettres; rather hypallage is a highly entrenched figure in ordinary language, as illustrated by such examples as healthy diet, unhappy marriage, Merry Christmas, Happy Birthday, foreign correspondent, drunken brawl and many others.

Hypallactic expressions constitute a violation of the Iconic Proximity Principle (Givón 2001). In hypallage, iconic motivation competes with figurative motivation and, significantly, the latter prevails. Interestingly, structural parallelisms exist between hypallactic transpositions and, for example, the shift of not in ‘negtransportation’, and the figurative transposition of ‘Not.’ in our talk title, a discourse construction we term ‘focal negation’. In conclusion, we surmise that such anti-iconic constructions are not isolated lexicogrammatical phenomena and that the prioritizing of figurative motivation at the expense of iconicity is a more general cognitive mechanism ripe for further research.



Givón, T. (2001). Syntax: An introduction. Vol. 2. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: Benjamins. 


“We have such a stain on us”: The metonymic affordances of the stain metaphor

Thomas Wiben Jensen, University of Southern Denmark

Within Conceptual Metaphor Theory (CMT) the metaphoric use of “stain” has traditionally been accounted for in terms of the conceptual metaphors GOOD IS CLEAN, BAD IS DIRTY as part of a larger framework on embodied moral reasoning (Johnson 1994, Lakoff and Johnson 1999, Gibbs 2017). This conceptualization involves the claim that we understand and experience unmoral or socially unacceptable behaviors in terms of (interaction with) dirty or filthy objects. However, based on discourse data from psychotherapy I claim that this traditional account only addresses one dimension of stains, that is, their tendency to be perceived as dirt, and thereby misses their status as traces (or signs). In the analyses of psychotherapy data, it is demonstrated that the source domain of the stain metaphor also entails a metonymic dimension based on a relation of contiguity between the stain and the actions leading to the stain. Within this EFFECT FOR CAUSE metonymy (Radden and Kövecses 1999, Littlemore 2015) “stain” can be seen as an effect of the actions that has caused it. Thus, the use of this metaphor points to a conceptualization involving a causal correspondence between 1) our experience of physical contact with filthy objects or entities leading to stains and spots constituting the structure of the source domain; 2) social experiences in which problematic actions or unmoral behavior may lead to an impaired social reputation constituting the structure of the target domain. This also means that 3) the temporal dimensions of stains are mapped onto the severity of an impaired social reputation. A stain is like a mark, it does not go away. This aspect of permanency contributes to the highly negative connotation of “stain” in the sense that the difficulties in removing stains and spots in the physical realm are akin to the challenge of repairing a damaged social reputation – and the other way round as well, the irreversibility of certain actions as similar to unremovable stains.

Thus, the inherent metonymic (or indexical) structure in the source domain of the stain metaphor affords an easy and direct understanding of connections between actions/incidents in the past and their present consequences. In a single expression the metaphor constrains our attention by offering a simple causality in relation to the social effects of past actions.



Gibbs, R. W. (2017). Metaphor Wars. Cambridge University Press.

Johnson, M. (1994). Moral Imagination: Implications of Cognitive Science for Ethics: University of Chicago Press.

Lakoff, G., & Johnson, M. (1999). Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and Its Challenge to Western Thought. Basic Books.

Littlemore, J. (2015). Metonymy: Hidden Shortcuts in Language, Thought and Communication. Cambridge University Press.

Radden, G. and Kövesces, Z. (1999). Towards a Theory of Metonymy. In K.-U. Panther and G. Radden (eds.) Metonymy in Language and Thought, John Benjamins, 17-59


Plastic hearts: The emotional impact of multimodal metaphor about the ocean plastic crisis and perceptions of how to address it

Niamh Anna O’Dowd, University of Oslo

A recent corpus study shows that multimodal metaphtonymy is a frequent pattern of conceptual interaction found in non-commercial environmental awareness campaigns and primarily serves to highlight the negative effects of issues such as climate change and plastic pollution (Hidalgo-Downing & O’Dowd, 2021). In the data, the authors found that visual and multimodal metonymies depicting threatening entities (e.g. weapons, traps) and dangerous events (e.g. nuclear explosions, natural disasters) provide conceptual access to broader metaphorical messages which compare, for example, plastic pollution to a trap, or climate change to war. These metaphtonymies effectively encapsulate the rhetorical messages underpinning the campaigns by evoking complex arguments in concise and relatable ways for the audience. In research on metaphorical framing effects, studies have traditionally focused on linguistic metaphors in verbal contexts and excluded multimodal contexts (Flusberg et al., 2017; Steen et al., 2014; Thibodeau & Boroditsky, 2011, 2013). Although some recent framing studies have integrated a multimodal element (Flusberg et al., 2020; Hart, 2018), none have investigated the framing effects of metaphor in contexts which exploit language-image relations in creative ways, or which involve creative patterns of conceptual interaction such as metaphtonymy. Similarly, recent research on multimodal advertising and audience responses tends to concentrate on commercial advertising, which generally highlights the positive values of products and evokes pleasant emotions in the audience (Pérez Sobrino et al., 2021; Pérez-Sobrino & Littlemore, 2020). By contrast, this paper asks what role does multimodal metaphtonymy play in the activation of negative emotions towards the issue of plastic pollution in non-commercial ads? How are these emotions characterised? How do they compare between two different multimodal contexts frequently found in the genre, namely a) PLASTIC POLLUTION IS WAR ON NATURE and b) plastic as having conflated with nature? And do these figurative operations also engender a framing effect, as seen in previous studies on linguistic metaphor? The study design follows (Hendricks et al., 2018) and consists of a two-part experimental survey. The first section quantitatively tests for metaphor framing effects; the second consists of free-text response questions designed to gather qualitative data of emotional responses. The study aims to contribute to understanding how individuals emotionally engage with the plastic crisis and to probe the relationship between conceptual construal, reasoning, and emotional response for multimodal, environmental crisis discourse.



Flusberg, S. J., Lauria, M., Balko, S., & Thibodeau, P. H. (2020). Effects of Communication Modality and Speaker Identity on Metaphor Framing. Metaphor and Symbol, 35(2), 136–152.

Flusberg, S. J., Matlock, T., & Thibodeau, P. H. (2017). Metaphors for the War (or Race) against Climate Change. Environmental Communication, 11(6), 769–783.

Hart, C. (2018). ‘Riots engulfed the city’: An experimental study investigating the legitimating effects of fire metaphors in discourses of disorder. Discourse & Society, 29(3), 279–298.

Hendricks, R. K., Demjén, Z., Semino, E., & Boroditsky, L. (2018). Emotional Implications of Metaphor: Consequences of Metaphor Framing for Mindset about Cancer. Metaphor and Symbol, 33(4), 267–279.

Hidalgo-Downing, L., & O’Dowd, N. A. (2021). Code red for humanity: Multimodal metaphtonymy in non-commercial advertisements on environmental awareness and activism [Manuscript Submitted for Publication]. Departamento de Filología Inglesa, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid.

Pérez Sobrino, P., Littlemore, J., & Ford, S. (2021). Unpacking Creativity: The Power of Figurative Communication in Advertising (1st ed.). Cambridge University Press.

Pérez-Sobrino, P., & Littlemore, J. (2020). Chapter 6. What makes an advert go viral?: The role of figurative operations in the success of Internet videos. In L. Hidalgo-Downing & B. Kraljevic Mujic (Eds.), Figurative Thought and Language (Vol. 7, pp. 119–152). John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Steen, G. J., Reijnierse, W. G., & Burgers, C. (2014). When Do Natural Language Metaphors Influence Reasoning? A Follow-Up Study to Thibodeau and Boroditsky (2013). PLoS ONE, 9(12), e113536.

Thibodeau, P. H., & Boroditsky, L. (2011). Metaphors We Think With: The Role of Metaphor in Reasoning. PLoS ONE, 6(2), e16782.

Thibodeau, P. H., & Boroditsky, L. (2013). Natural Language Metaphors Covertly Influence Reasoning. PLoS ONE, 8(1), e52961.


The cognitive grounding of metaphorical amalgams and metaphor-like figures of speech in the EFFECT FOR CAUSE metonymy

Francisco José Ruiz de Mendoza Ibáñez, University of La Rioja

María Sandra Peña Cervel, University of La Rioja

The EFFECT FOR CAUSE metonymy has been observed to underlie some cases of hypallage or transferred epithet (Ruiz de Mendoza, 2020: 29). For example, a slow road is one whose conditions cause traffic to be slow (Koveces and Radden, 1998: 56). A special case of this metonymy is RESULT FOR ACTION (Panther and Thornburg, 2000), which motivates constructions requiring some implicit action (e.g., How to be rich in a week ‘How to act to become rich in a week’).

In this presentation we argue that EFFECT FOR CAUSE can also play a supportive role in other analytically more complex situations involving metaphorical amalgams and metaphor-like figurative language (e.g., synesthesia). For example, the metaphor Death is a thief, which personifies death, results from building LIFE IS A POSSESSION into (CAUSING) THE END OF A STATE IS (CAUSING) A LOSS. This amalgam is possible through the activity of the EFFECT FOR CAUSE metonymy, which allows us to see death as both an effect and an agentive cause (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1. Death is a thief

In another analytical situation, the expression My boss is a pig (‘oppressive’) results from combining the self-standing metaphors PEOPLE ARE PIGS and IMMORALITY IS FILTH (Ruiz de Mendoza and Galera 2014: 97). Filthiness and immorality can raise feelings of disgust in us; such feelings can stand for their underlying causes, enabling an analogical relationship whereby a pig’s filthiness can map onto a boss’s abusiveness. This time the metonymy acts on both the metaphoric source and target domains since the causes are in principle unrelated and can only be brought together through their shared effects (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2. My boss is a pig

This analytical pattern is quite close to the one found in synesthesia, where one sense is described in terms of another, as in dull color. Strik Lievers (2017) has argued that such examples are metaphorical. They are, since they involve mapping intensity between different sensory domains. However, there is nothing intrinsic to sound that allows us to map it onto color. The synesthesia is only possible thanks to its grounding in the EFFECT FOR CAUSE metonymy in a way similar to that of transferred epithets. Thus, the cross-sensory mapping is workable since the similarity of effects allows us to map the underlying causes: a dull color causes little impact in terms of brightness, just as a dull noise does in terms of loudness.

Fig. 3. Dull color

Other patterns are similarly examined. The analysis supports the contention that the EFFECT FOR CAUSE metonymy plays an important role in figurative language. This is possibly the result of cognitive saliency (cf. Langacker, 1993) since effects are usually easier to identify perceptually than their corresponding causes (Littlemore, 2015: 41). The resulting picture is one where this metonymy can not only motivate grammar but also act as a pre-requisite to build conceptually complex figurative expressions.



Kövecses, Z., & Radden, G. (1998). Metonymy: Developing a cognitive linguistic view. Cognitive Linguistics, 9(1), 37–77.

Langacker, R. W. (1993). Reference-point constructions. Cognitive Linguistics, 4(1), 1-38.

Littlemore, J. (2015). Metonymy. Hidden shortcuts in language, thought, and communication. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Panther, K., & Thornburg, L. (2000). The EFFECT FOR CAUSE metonymy in English grammar. In A. Barcelona (Ed.), Metaphor and metonymy at the crossroads (pp. 215-232). Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

Ruiz de Mendoza, F. J. (2020). Understanding figures of speech: Dependency relations and organizational patterns. Language & Communication, 71, 16–38.

Ruiz de Mendoza, F. J., & Galera, A. (2014). Cognitive modeling. A linguistic perspective. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Strik Lievers, F. (2017). Figures and the senses. Towards a definition of synaesthesia. Review of Cognitive Linguistics, 15(1), 83–101.


Metaphor within metonymy

Helga Mannsåker, University of Bergen

In his 1990 article «Metaphtonymy» Louis Goossens described four types of interaction between metaphor and metonymy found in a corpus-based dictionary: 1) metaphor from metonymy, 2) metonymy within metaphor, 3) metaphor within metonymy, 4) demetonymisation in a metaphorical context. He found 1) to be frequent and 2) to be «quite current» in his material, while 3) was «extremely rare» and 4) possibly found in only one instance. Based on investigations of corpus data Deignan (2005) reports that Goossens’ category 1) is frequent, but 2) is rare. 3) and 4) are not discussed in Deignan (2005) at all.

I have however identified a type of linguistic expressions which I interpret as 3) metaphor within metonymy in medical nomenclature, i.e., in the names of diseases. Whereas anatomical terms are easily defined ostensively, diseases are not objects at which you can point, but abstract phenomena whose delineation are frequently debated and changed (Wulff 2003). Moreover, the conceptual domain of diseases could be said to consist of the following elements or aspects: CAUSE(S), ONSET, SYMPTOM(S), COURSE, OUTCOME, PATIENT.  Metonymy is often involved in the naming of diseases, enabling one salient and/or directly observable aspect of the disease to refer to the whole disease (or the patient, cf. Langacker’s (1999:199) example “The {vasectomy/herniated disk} in room 304 needs a sleeping pill. [one nurse to another in a hospital]”). This applies to somatic as well as psychiatric diseases, for example yellow fever, which is a viral disease that can cause fever and jaundice (yellow discolouring of the skin), diabetes mellitus (literally ‘excessive discharge of sweet urine’), which is a disease that causes frequent urination and high levels of sugar in the blood and urine, and multiple sclerosis, which is a disease that causes multiple sclerosis (scar tissue) in the central nervous system. Some of these PART FOR WHOLE-metonymies contain metaphors, for example compounds containing cancer ‘crab’, which is an image metaphor and delirium ‘deviate from the furrow’, which is a STATE IS LOCATION-metaphor. It could be that Goossens’ type 3) is not so “extremely rare” after all, at least not in terminologies.



Deignan, A. (2005). A corpus linguistic perspective on the relationship between metonymy and metaphor. Style, 39(1), 72-91,101,105. Retrieved from

Goossens, L. (1990). Metaphtonymy: the interaction of metaphor and metonymy in expressions for linguistic action. In Cognitive Linguistics (includes Cognitive Linguistic Bibliography) (Vol. 1, pp. 323).

Langacker, Ronald W. (1999): Grammar and conceptualization, Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Wulff, H. R. (2003). Lægevidenskabens sprog: fra Hippokrates til vor tid. København: Munksgaard.


From concrete to abstract and back again

Marlene Johansson Falck, Umeå University

Lacey Okonski, Umeå University

Cognitive linguists have long argued that our understanding of abstract concepts is grounded in metaphoric or metonymic mappings from more concrete or familiar domains of experience (Lakoff and Johnson 1980/2008, Lakoff and Johnson 1999). The relation between the abstract concepts of reality and insanity in sentence 1 is a case in point. It is understood as a line that blurs into another abstract concept, that is, into nothingness (i.e., into ‘the quality or state of being nothing’).

1. … the line between reality and insanity blurs into nothin,gness. (COCA, our emphasis)

Uses such as these are in line with understanding abstract concepts (a relation) as concrete ones (a line), MOTION as CHANGE, and abstract concepts (nothingness) as bounded entities that something can develop into.  In 2, however, nothingness is not used in reference to an abstract concept, but to a space that a flashlight drops into:

2. Her feet dangled in the air over the dark emptiness below, her flashlight dropping into nothingness. (COCA, our emphasis)

Sentences such as this one show that abstract concepts may also be used as sources in metaphorical or metonymic conceptualizations. Here the abstract concept of nothingness provides information on the quality of the space that the flashlight drops into. This use is structured in line with a PERCEIVED QUALITY OF SPACE FOR SPACE metonymy. But when are abstract concepts targets and when are they sources of conceptual mappings? And which mapping is used when?

This paper deals with a semantic analysis of the usage patterns of abstract nouns that collocate with the preposition into. It is based on data from the Corpus of Contemporary American English (Davies 2008) (COCA, Davies, 2008) and a previous study of the 100 most frequent nouns that collocate with into. The aim is to map out the metaphoric and metonymic mappings that structure into + abstract noun constructions and to gain a better understanding of the mappings structuring these uses. Results suggest that CONCRETE TO ABSTRACT mappings tend to be metaphoric and that ABSTRACT to CONCRETE mappings tend to be metonymic PROPERTY, STATE OR QUALITY FOR PLACE metonymies.



Davies, M. (2008). COCA. Corpus of Contemporary American English.

Lakoff, G. and M. Johnson (1980/2008). Metaphors we live by. Chicago, Univeristy of Chicago Press.

Lakoff, G. and M. Johnson (1999). Philosophy in the flesh: The embodied mind and its challenge to western thought, Basic books.

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