Metaphors are Conceptual Schemata that are Emergent Over Tokens of Use

Volume 13
Issue 3
Daniel R. Sanford
This paper presents the view that metaphors are conceptual schemata that emerge, for individual speakers, over metaphorical tokens of use to which they are exposed, and that the conceptual structures which comprise metaphor are subject to frequency effects. The theory posits that metaphorical conventionalization, at the level of both conceptual metaphors and particular expressions, reflects the operation of linguistic frequency effects. Key properties of metaphor—the unevenness of metaphorical mappings, the gradedness of metaphor, idiosyncracy of meaning for individual expressions, and the emergence of metaphorical ability in children—are accounted for in an exemplar theorybased model of emergence for metaphorical schemata. It is asserted here that a usage-based view of language, and the tools of an approach whereby language processing and storage are seen as driven by frequency effects, provide the best lens for understanding the properties of metaphor in all of its types.

Key words: Emergent Metaphor Theory, metaphor, frequency, conventionalization, exemplar, schema, emergence