Centrum för kognitiv semiotik (CCS)

Humanistiska och teologiska fakulteterna | Lunds universitet


Multimodal Metaphor in Commercials and Film: Agendas for Research

Charles Forceville


The cognitive metaphor theory (CMT) paradigm, primarily associated with Lakoff and Johnson’s Metaphors We Live By (1980), has spawned a wealth of conferences, books, and papers and is still very much alive today (see Gibbs, ed., The Handbook of Metaphor and Thought, 2008). But a lot has happened since the publication of Lakoff and Johnson’s book. One important development is a growing interest in multimodal metaphors, that is, metaphors whose target and source are entirely or partly rendered in different modes/modalities. For the purposes of the present talk, these modes are: language, visuals, music, and sound.

While the investigation of verbal metaphor is now progressively more corpus-governed (e.g., Deignan 2005, Charteris-Black 2006, Caballero 2006), multimodal metaphor scholars are still in the stage of combining theory with detailed case studies. In this presentation I will outline what research questions in this young branch of metaphor studies await scholarly answers, drawing on examples from the genres of advertising and fiction film. This requires adaptation and expansion of the model developed in Forceville (1996), which discussed static representations from a single genre: print advertising. Issues that will be addressed include: what is the function of particular modes in the identification and interpretation of metaphors? Are modes equally distributed over a metaphor’s targets and source? How do decisions to what genre a text belongs affect the processing of metaphors occurring in it? Several of these issues are addressed in the volume edited by Forceville and Urios-Aparisi (2009).

Systematically studying multimodal metaphor is a vast scholarly project that urgently requires further work from linguists knowledgeable about audiovisual mass-culture, and from media students knowledgeable about cognitive linguistics, and will benefit both metaphor studies, the theorization of multimodal discourse, and eventually even cognition studies.

Some fragments and clips will be shown to serve as case studies.