Metaphor in political dialogue

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Metaphor and other figurative uses of language play a central role in political dialogue on account of their semantic, pragmatic and textual ‘added value’ effects: they provide an opportunity to introduce new thematic aspects, increase the textual coherence of the dialogue contributions and provide warrants for (analogical) conclusions. One of the oldest examples of metaphor use in political dialogue is the so-called fable of the belly, which tells the story of a dispute between the seemingly ‘lazy’ stomach/ruler and the more ‘active’ body members/citizens over the right to receive food. One of its most famous renditions can be found in Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, where it is embedded in a debate between the character of the senator Menenius and rebellious citizens. This dialogic frame and the dispute ‘within’ the fable establish a multi-layered inter-dialogic pattern. Whilst the literary construction of this dialogue system in Shakespeare’s play is unique, it underlines the more general aspect of metaphor’s dialogic role, which is discussed further with regard to the present-day use of body-based metaphor in political discourse. These case studies are interpreted as evidence for the necessity to integrate this dialogic function as a central aspect in cognitive metaphor analysis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-206
Number of pages16
JournalLanguage and Dialogue
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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