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Killer, thief or companion?: A corpus-based study of dementia metaphors in UK tabloids

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>30/06/2023
<mark>Journal</mark>Metaphor and Symbol
Issue number3
Number of pages18
Pages (from-to)213-230
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date25/05/23
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This article examines the metaphors that are used to represent dementia in British tabloid newspapers over a ten-year period (2010–2019). The analysis takes a corpus-based approach to metaphor identification and analysis, utilizing in particular the corpus linguistic technique of collocation analysis. Metaphors are considered in terms of the ‘targets’ they frame, which include the following aspects of dementia: (i.) prevalence; (ii.) causes; (iii.) symptoms and prognosis; (iv.) lived experience; and (v.) responses. A range of metaphors are identified, with the tabloids exhibiting a particular preference for metaphors which construct dementia as an agentive and violent entity and people with dementia as passive victims, and which foreground preventative responses to dementia such as pharmacological intervention and individual behavior change. It is argued that such metaphors have the potential to contribute to dementia stigma and place focus on preventing or eliminating dementia while backgrounding responses which may help people to “live well” with the syndrome in the here-and-now. Metaphors which frame dementia as a companion or which the experience of dementia as a journey are put forward as potentially less stigmatizing alternatives which might better reflect the particularities of this complex public health issue.