Voices From Shetland #1 – Carole Hough

For the next few weeks we will be sharing the summaries of the talks given at the workshop that took place in Lerwick, Shetland. First, here is Prof. Carole Hough (University of Glasgow), discussing the Mapping Metaphor project. Each summary will be brief, and offer a glimpse into the perspective of a variety of academics approaching the subject from different angles.


Mapping Metaphors of Law

Carole Hough, University of Glasgow


Mapping Metaphor with the Historical Thesaurus was a three-year research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council from 2012 to 2015 (PI Wendy Anderson), which compiled a near-comprehensive picture of metaphor throughout the history of the English language. Word meanings were grouped into semantically-coherent categories such as “Faith”, “Law” and “Punishment”, and the project team analysed all occurrences of word forms with more than one meaning in order to identify metaphorical connections between categories. One of the outputs is an online resource that enables users to view and to explore metaphors in different ways. My presentation at the Shetland Workshop focused on demonstrating the resource, and on discussing some of the new perspectives that it offers on legal language.

mappingmetaphor_arts_gla_ac The online resource is in two parts. The Metaphor Map of English covers the history of English from 1150 onwards (http://mappingmetaphor.arts.gla.ac.uk/), while the Metaphor Map of Old English covers the preceding Anglo-Saxon period (http://mappingmetaphor.arts.gla.ac.uk/old-english/). The decision to keep them separate was made partly to avoid swamping the Old English data with the much fuller data available for later English, and partly to avoid obscuring the differences in worldview reflected in metaphors from different periods. For instance, our monarchy does not issue laws, whereas Anglo-Saxon monarchs did. That means that the concepts within category 3D02 “Rule and Government” are much closer to 3E “Law” in the Metaphor Map of Old English than in the Metaphor Map of English. Other categories that abut closely on Law, particularly in Old English, include 3A05 “Marriage”, 3F01 “Morality and Immorality”, 3A09 “Social Position” and 3C02 “Armed Hostility”.

mappingmetaphor_arts_gla_ac 2

The resource displays the direction of metaphorical transfer, the strength of the connection between categories, the period from which the metaphor is first recorded, and selected examples. Some categories characteristically function as the source of metaphors; others, as the target. 3E “Law” falls within the latter group. In other words, law tends to be conceptualised in terms of other areas of experience. However, there are exceptions, and the Metaphor Maps provide some fascinating insights into changing perceptions of law through time.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s