Metaphors in spoken academic discourse in german and english

  • Klaus Thiele

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Metaphors have been increasingly associated with cognitive functions, which means that metaphors structure how we think and express ourselves. Metaphors are embodied in our basic physical experience, which is one reason why certain abstract concepts are expressed in more concrete terms, such as visible entities, journeys, and other types of movement, spaces etc. This communicative relevance also applies to specialised, institutionalised settings and genres, such as those produced in or related to higher education institutions, among which is spoken academic discourse.
    A significant research gap has been identified regarding spoken academic discourse and metaphors therein, but also given the fact that with increasing numbers of students in higher education and international research and cooperation e.g. in the form of invited lectures, spoken academic discourse can be seen as nearly omnipresent. In this context, research talks are a key research genre. A mixed methods study has been conducted, which investigates metaphors in a corpus of eight fully transcribed German and English L1 speaker conference talks and invited lectures, totalling to 440 minutes. A wide range of categories and functions were identified in the corpus. Abstract research concepts, such as results or theories are expressed in terms of concrete visual entities that can be seen or shown, but also in terms of journeys or other forms of movement. The functions of these metaphors are simplification, rhetorical emphasis, theory-construction, or pedagogic illustration. For both the speaker and the audience or discussants, anthropomorphism causes abstract and complex ideas to become concretely imaginable and at the same time more interesting because the contents of the talk appear to be livelier and hence closer to their own experience, which ensures the audience’s attention. These metaphor categories are present in both the English and the German sub corpus of this study with similar functions.
    Date of Award19 Dec 2013
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorGertrud K Reershemius (Supervisor)


    • research talks
    • specialised discourse
    • spoken academic discourse
    • conceptual metaphor theory
    • contrastive corpus analysis
    • German

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