Maritime expressions
: a corpus based exploration of maritime metaphors

  • Simon Jonathon Isserlis

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This study uses a purpose-built corpus to explore the linguistic legacy of Britain’s maritime history found in the form of hundreds of specialised ‘Maritime Expressions’ (MEs), such as TAKEN ABACK, ANCHOR and ALOOF, that permeate modern English. Selecting just
those expressions commencing with ’A’, it analyses 61 MEs in detail and describes the processes by which these technical expressions, from a highly specialised occupational discourse community, have made their way into modern English.

The Maritime Text Corpus (MTC) comprises 8.8 million words, encompassing a range of text types and registers, selected to provide a cross-section of ‘maritime’ writing. It is analysed using WordSmith analytical software (Scott, 2010), with the 100 million-word British National Corpus (BNC) as a reference corpus. Using the MTC, a list of keywords of specific salience within the maritime discourse has been compiled and, using frequency data, concordances and collocations, these MEs are described in detail and their use and form in the MTC and the BNC is compared.

The study examines the transformation from ME to figurative use in the general discourse, in terms of form and metaphoricity. MEs are classified according to their metaphorical strength and their transference from maritime usage into new registers and domains such as those of business, politics, sports and reportage etc. A revised model of metaphoricity is developed and a new category of figurative expression, the ‘resonator’, is proposed. Additionally, developing the work of Lakov and Johnson, Kovesces and others on Conceptual Metaphor Theory (CMT), a number of Maritime Conceptual Metaphors are identified and their cultural significance is discussed.
Date of Award3 Jun 2014
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorRamesh Krishnamurthy (Supervisor) & Mike Scott (Supervisor)


  • maritime conceptual metaphor
  • maritime language
  • occupational discourse
  • specialised discourse
  • resonator

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