Themed panels


The conference will also include two themed panels specifically dedicated to metaphor in science:


– Metaphor in Human Sciences, directed by Liliana Albertazzi (University of Trento, Italy).
Invited speakers:
Susanne Niemeier (University of Koblenz-Landau, Germany)
Zoltán Kövecses (Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary)
Tony Veale (University College Dublin, Ireland)


Metaphor in Natural Sciences, directed by Elena Gagliasso (University of Rome “La Sapienza”, Italy) and Giulia Frezza (University of Rome “La Sapienza”, Italy).
Invited speakers:
Carmela Morabito (University of Rome “Tor Vergata”, Italy)
Andrea Grignolio (University of Rome “La Sapienza”, Italy)
Luca Guzzardi (University of Pavia, Italy)



Metaphor in Human Sciences

Susanne Niemeier, University Koblenz-Landau, Campus Koblenz (Germany)

Teaching (in) Metaphors

Although metaphors are ubiquitous and pervasive in language and thus represent an important linguistic feature also for the foreign language classroom, teaching (in) metaphors is not frequently practiced, at least in German EFL classrooms. The traditional teaching and learning of idiomatic expressions may already have involved and still involve dealing with the underlying motivation behind such expressions to a certain extent, nevertheless, even this is far from being the standard procedure. In fact, students’ English text books – if at all – elaborate on idioms by humorous visualizations that may influence the learners emotionally, but only occasionally do they give background information on the experiential grounding or embodied nature of figurative language.

If learners are made aware of meaning extension processes and especially of metaphorical processes they can understand texts better, can detect manipulation better and can extend their stored vocabulary in novel ways. Indeed, in foreign language teaching the term novel metaphor seems to gain a new quality as L2 learners are very likely to encounter most metaphors as novel and consequently process them as such. Therefore, it is not so much the degree of conventionality but rather the degree of compositionality and opaqueness that is important in the context of teaching figurative language.

As a number of scholars (e.g., Boers 2004, Littlemore 2011, Littlemore & Low 2006, MacArthur 2010, Skoufaki 2008) have already highlighted the importance of metaphor in the foreign language classroom, the presentation will start with an overview of some studies on metaphor in EFL teaching from various perspectives, such as recognition of metaphors, production of metaphors, vocabulary extension, learner-relatedness and methods how to introduce metaphor into the foreign language classroom. What seems to be important for the majority of these studies is “‘fine-tuning’ the student’s brain for acquiring conceptual competence” (Danesi 2003: 72ff.).

The overview is followed by a detailed example of how to deal with metaphor in the foreign language classroom, which discusses a case study in which medium-advanced German learners of English were confronted with English colour expressions. The colours blue, red, green

and yellow were selected for this purpose as they yield many examples of figurative expressions, as for example blue blood, red tape, green thumb or yellow-belly. The competences aimed for being intercultural awareness and conceptual competence, the lesson sequence focussed on establishing a radial network of meaning by tracing certain colour expressions’ extension strategies from quasi-universal meanings to culture-specific meanings.


Boers, Frank, 2004, “Expanding learners’ vocabulary through metaphor awareness: what expansion, what learners, what vocabulary?” In Michel Achard & Susanne Niemeier (eds.), Cognitive Lin-guistics, Second Language Acquisition, and Foreign Language Teaching. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 211-232.
Danesi, Marcel, 2003, Second Language Teaching – A View from the Right Side of the Brain. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Littlemore, Jeannette & Graham Low, 2006, “Metaphoric competence, second language learning, and communicative language ability.” Applied Linguistics 27.2, 268-294.
Littlemore, Jeannette, 2011, Applying Cognitive Linguistics to Second Language Learning and Teach-ing. Basingstoke/New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
MacArthur, Fiona, 2010, “Metaphorical competence in EFL”. In Jeannette Littlemore & Constanze Juchem-Grundmann (eds.), Applied Cognitive Linguistics in Second Language Learning and Teach-ing. AILA Review 23. Amsterdam: Benjamins, 155-173.
Skoufaki, Sofia, 2008, “Conceptual metaphoric meaning clues in two L2 idiom presentation methods”. In Frank Boers & Seth Lindstromberg (eds.), Cognitive Linguistic Approaches to Teaching Vocabu-lary. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 101-132.



Zoltán Kövecses, EötvösLorándUniversity, Budapest (Hungary)

Metaphor and Metonymy in Folk and Expert Theories of Emotion

In my presentation, my goal is to explore the role of metaphor and metonymy in the folk (everyday) understanding of emotion, as opposed to its expert (scientific) understanding. (On the folk-expert theory distinction, see Holland and Quinn, 1987.) Since folk and expert understandings constantly interact in a given culture (and also globally), I wish to explore the issue of HOW the two different types of theories (or models) interact with each other. A further specific issue that I plan to examine is whether the metaphors and metonymies play a different (or the same) role in the folk theories of emotion versus the corresponding expert theories (Kövecses, 1990, 2000).


Holland, Dorothy and Naomi Quinn, eds. 1987. Cultural Models in Language and Thought. New York: CambridgeUniversity Press.
Kövecses, Zoltán. 1990. Emotion Concepts. New York: Springer-Verlag.
Kövecses, Zoltán. 2000. Metaphor and Emotion. New York: Cambridge University Press.



Tony Veale, School of Computer Science and Informatics, University College Dublin (Ireland).

Metaphor as a Conceptual Resource and a Computational Service 

Picasso famously claimed that “art is a lie that tells the truth.” Fittingly, this artful contradiction suggests a compelling reason for why speakers are so wont to use artfully suggestive forms of creative language – such as metaphor and irony – when less ambiguous and more direct forms are available. Whereas literal language commits a speaker to a tightly fixed meaning, and offers little scope for the listener to contribute to the joint construction of meaning, creative language suggests a looser but potentially richer meaning that is open to collaborative elaboration by each conversational partner.

In effect, a metaphor X is Y establishes a conceptual pact between speaker and listener (Brennan and Clark, 1996), one that says “let us agree to speak of X using the concepts and norms of Y”.  In the words of Veale (2008,2012), the metaphor suggests conversational talking points for X. Suppose a speaker asserts that “X is a snake”. This metaphor conveys an affective viewpoint – the speaker views X negatively, like a snake – and suggests a range of talking points, such as that X is charming and cunning but also dangerous perhaps, and is not to be trusted. A listener may respond by elaborating the metaphor, even when disagreeing with the basic conceit, as in “I agree that X can be charming and clever, but I see no reason to distrust him”. Successive elaboration allows both speaker and listener to arrive at a mutually acceptable construal of “snake” in the context of X.

Because so many familiar stereotypes offer polarizing talking points – think of the endearing and not-so-endearing qualities of babies, for instance – metaphors are the ideal vehicle for conveying an affective view of a topic. Even when stereotypes are not used figuratively, as in the assertion “Steve Jobs was a great leader”, the stereotype (that of a great leader) is likely to elicit metaphors in response, such as “yes, a true pioneer” or “what an artist!”, or even “but he was also a tyrant!”. Familiar proper-named stereotypes can also be used figuratively, as when Jobs is compared to the fictional inventor Tony Stark, or Apple is compared to Scientology, or Google to Microsoft. We use stereotypes effortlessly, and their exploitations are common currency in everyday language.

Metaphors achieve their balance of suggestiveness and concision via the use of dense descriptors, familiar terms like “snake” that evoke a range of talking points through their rich variety of stereotypical properties and behaviors (Fishelov, 1992). Though every concept has the potential to be used figuratively, casual metaphors tend to draw their dense descriptors from a large pool of familiar stereotypes that is shared by all speakers of a language (e.g. see Taylor, 1954). A robust and scalable computational model of metaphor processing must demonstrate both how it can acquire a wide diversity of stereotypical descriptors and how it can flexibly represent the semantic denseness of these descriptors in a way that allows their figurative meaning in context to be inferred as needed. In this talk I will show how a large lexicon of reusable dense descriptors — familiar stereotypes — can be mined from web content, and further, how these stereotypical representations can be used selectively, to highlight relevant aspects of a given target concept in the computational treatment of a specific metaphor. Finally, I will show how a robust computational implementation of this model has been provided for research use on the Web in the guise of a multi-featured Web Service. This service may be exploited by human users and by third-party software applications that aim to exhibit a measure of their own linguistic creativity.


Brennan, S. E. and Clark, H. H. (1996). Conceptual Pacts and Lexical Choice in Conversation. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, 22(6):1482-1493.
Fishelov, D. (1992). Poetic and Non-Poetic Simile: Structure, Semantics, Rhetoric. Poetics Today, 14(1), 1-23.
Taylor, A. (1954). Proverbial Comparisons and Similes from California. Folklore Studies 3. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Veale, T. and Hao, Y. (2008). Talking Points in Metaphor: A concise, usage-based representation for figurative processing. In Proceedings of ECAI’2008, the 18th European Conference on Artificial Intelligence. Patras, Greece, July 2008.
Veale, T. (2012). Exploding the Creativity Myth: The Computational Foundations of Linguistic Creativity. London: Bloomsbury.



Metaphor in Natural Sciences

Carmela Morabito, University of Rome “Tor Vergata”,  Rome (Italy)

Degeneracy and dexterity: two metaphorical devices in neurosciences for the interpretation of the mind-body relationships

The historical and epistemological dimensions of two common concepts today in use in cognitive neurosciences will be explored: ‘degeneracy’ of the nervous system and behavioral ‘dexterity’. The common idea – related to plasticity, redundancy, and individual variability (all constitutive features of the new model of the mind-body relationship) – will be proposed as a key to understand the connection between development and functioning of the central nervous system and the development of the cognitive system in complex behaviors.


Andrea Grignolio, University of Rome “La Sapienza”, Rome (Italy)

Systems Biology: old metaphors, new tools

In the promising field of Systems Biology (SB), an interdisciplinary approach to the systematic study of complex interactions in biological systems which seeks to decipher common, emergent or hidden behaviors, a brand new metaphor is hard to find. It is quite atypical, for SB, as recent as it is, shall have put forth a new series of metaphors on which underpin its theoretical novelties and still undefined terminology, according to a well-established strategy used by newborn or developing disciplines in the XX century. On the contrary, the fundamental terms used by SB such as information, data, network, modules, degeneracy are all worn tropes that indeed came from other scientific fields and that in the new context of SB appear to be revitalized. The rejuvenating process, it is our hypothesis, is permitted by new tools —i.e. bioinformatics, data mining, network theory, artificial intelligence, statistical and mathematical modeling— which reshape the old terms by sieving and selecting the meanings that seem to be crucial for the recent needs of SB. Special attention will be paid to the biomedical field where SB’s metaphors vividly reveal the loss and gain process of the meanings and where new tropes seem to be able to design new hypothesis, new experiments and new unexpected results.


Luca Guzzardi, University of Pavia, Pavia (Italy)

Metaphorical and non-metaphorical at the dawn of modern science

That metaphors are widely used in practically all scientific fields appears to be out of question to modern historians or philosophers of science. As regards to the history of physics, even fundamental terms like ‘force’, ‘fields’, ‘pointlike particles’, ‘atoms’, etc. have a patent metaphorical meaning. Nevertheless, the emphasis on metaphors in science appears to be a recent historiographic attitude, tracing back to the 1960s. Moreover, as a matter of fact, scientists have not always regarded the terms they employed — ‘force’, ‘fields’, ‘pointlike particles’, ‘atoms’, etc. — as metaphors. At the dawn of modern science, Galilei contrasted the Scriptures, which speak metaphorically (Lettera a B. Castelli, 1613) with natural philosophy, which grasp the real geometrical-mathematical language of the “Great Book” of the universe (Il Saggiatore, 1623). Another example is Newton: as metaphorical the language of his “Queries” to the Opticks might appear today, Newton himself would hardly recognize e.g. his imagine of the infinite space as the “sensorium of God” as a metaphor. I will propose to understand both this apparent failure to recognize metaphorical tools in science and our habit to emphasize metaphors as the effect of a radical change in the relation we pose between words and things.

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