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Using a semantic annotation tool for research on metaphor in discourse

Project: Non-funded ProjectResearch

1/12/05 → …

The project, which has gone through several stages since late 2005, represents an investigation into the computer-assisted analysis of metaphoric patterns across discourses and genres. Our overall aim is to develop a tool that will enable metaphor researchers to search for metaphoric patterns in data sets that are too large to be analysed manually. This will be achieved by adapting a software tool that was developed at Lancaster University for the semantic analysis of texts, USAS. USAS employs a semantic field taxonomy with lexicographic origins, since revised for automated content analysis. Using a hybrid rule-based and statistical approach, high precision is achieved for semantic disambiguation. The USAS tool is embedded within a user-friendly web-interface called Wmatrix. The project, which has gone through several stages since late 2005, represents an investigation into the computer-assisted analysis of metaphoric patterns across discourses and genres. Our overall aim is to develop a tool that will enable metaphor researchers to search for metaphoric patterns in data sets that are too large to be analysed manually. This will be achieved by adapting a software tool that was developed at Lancaster University for the semantic analysis of texts, USAS. USAS employs a semantic field taxonomy with lexicographic origins, since revised for automated content analysis. Using a hybrid rule-based and statistical approach, high precision is achieved for semantic disambiguation. The USAS tool is embedded within a user-friendly web-interface called Wmatrix.

Our project complementsprevious attempts to investigate metaphor by means of corpus-linguistic techniques. Such empirical study acknowledges that systematic analysis of naturally occurring data raises crucial questions and leads to further insights into metaphor as a linguistic and cognitive phenomenon. This view of metaphor has become central as metaphor researchers working within Cognitive Metaphor Theor' have drawn attention to the presence of systematic and pervasive conventional metaphorical patterns in 'ordinary' language (e.g. I'm at a crossroads in my life), and have suggested that these reflect the existence of conventional conceptual metaphors, namely systematic cross-domain correspondences in conceptual structure (e.g. life is a journey). This approach has led to considerable advances in our understanding of metaphor both as a linguistic device and a cognitive model, and to our awareness of its role in many different genres and discourses.

By extending USAS, we attempt to further the empirical analysis of metaphor across genres. The program assigns individual words or expressions to semantic fields, which can be seen as the linguistic manifestation of the conceptual domains of cognitive metaphor theory. In the various stages of teh project, we havetest and developed Wmatrix by applying it to two larger data sets (Ken Kesey's novel One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest and 40 business magazine articles on marketing), which have been previously analysed by two members of our team using different methodologies. Currently, we are investigating the variation of metaphor use across genresd of scientific writing. The ultimate aim of our project is to provide metaphor researchers with an additional tool for the identification of metaphorical expressions and patterns in large data sets.

Between 01/04/2006 and 30/09/2007, the project was funded by the British Academy (SG-42813, principal investigator Veronika Koller).

Publications:

Hardie, A./ Koller, V./ Rayson, P./ Semino, E. (2007): "Exploiting a semantic annotation tool for metaphor analysis". In: M. Davies, P. Rayson, S. Hunston and P. Danielsson (eds) Proceedings of the Corpus Linguistics 2007 Conference. http://corpus.bham.ac.uk/corplingproceedings07/paper/49_Paper.pdf.

Koller, V./ Hardie, A./ Rayson, P./ Semino, E. (2008): "Using a semantic annotation tool for the analysis of metaphor in discourse". Metaphorik.de, 15: 141-60. http://www.metaphorik.de/15/koller.pdf.

Semino, E./ Hardie, A./ Koller, V./ Rayson, P. (2009): "A computer-assisted approach to the analysis of metaphor variation across genres". In: Proceedings of Corpus-Based Approaches to Figurative Language: a Corpus Linguistics 2009 Colloquium. http://www.cs.bham.ac.uk/~amw/pdfVersions/SeminoEtAl.pdf.