DOI : 10.35562/elad-silda.896


ELAD-SILDA #5, which follows on from an international conference that took place at the University of Lyon (Jean Moulin Lyon 3) in 2019, constitutes a modest contribution to metaphor studies by focusing on the links between metaphor and manipulation. Indeed, since Lakoff and Johnson published their landmark work, Metaphors We Live By, in 1980, studies adopting a cognitive approach to metaphor have proliferated and it is nowadays generally acknowledged that metaphors have primarily a cognitive function; they structure both our language and our thought system, as they allow us to conceptualize a target domain thanks to a source domain. Cognitive linguistics, however, was frequently criticized for not considering the ornamental and rhetorical functions of metaphor. Other approaches were thus developed to take these functions into account, including Critical Metaphor Theory [Charteris-Black 2004], which largely relies on Critical Discourse Analysis. Charteris-Black based his studies on large corpora of political, religious, or journalistic texts and argued that metaphor, because of its cognitive and affective appeal, remained the ultimate rhetorical tool in some genres. He reckoned that lexicalized metaphors in those texts allow us to persuade readers or co-speakers and to convey an ideology, but also to manipulate the reader or the co-speaker by remaining unnoticed, as “the subliminal potential of metaphor is central to the performance of leadership” [Charteris-Black 2005: 2].

Yet, in Conceptual Metaphor Theory, metaphor largely relies on the principle of highlighting-hiding [Kövecses 2002: 80]; in other words, using one particular source domain allows the speaker to conceptualize one target domain in a particular way, that is to say to highlight some characteristic features of the source domain and to hide others. Metaphor thus allows speakers to manipulate the information by presenting it in a very specific way, as changing the source domain allows the way in which the information is presented to be changed. Consequently, it seems that metaphor allows speakers to manipulate the co-speaker(s) and the reader(s) by influencing their perception of a given reality. Therefore, wouldn’t it be possible to postulate that all metaphors have both cognitive and manipulative functions? Is this last function limited to a certain type of discourse, or inherent to any type of metaphorical discourse? Following Charteris-Black’s work on the persuasive function of metaphor (“Metaphor can be manipulative but is more commonly persuasive” [Charteris-Black 2005: 44]), this issue essentially focuses on the manipulative aspects of metaphor – whether or not in combination with other rhetorical strategies and with linguistic or non-linguistic devices.

All the papers in this issue are based on corpora (discourses, newspaper articles, advertisements) and tackle different societal topics, with a focus on the mechanisms used to manipulate or persuade the audience.

In the first paper, “’How to be happy’ according to Cosmopolitan: The metaphors of happiness at the service of positive psychology and neoliberalism ideology”, Lucia Gomez Vicente focuses on the metaphorical representation of happiness in the women’s magazine industry, which appears to be of particular interest at the moment. Indeed, different political, social and economic actors have made happiness become one of the main objectives of Western societies, both at the individual (self-fulfilment, satisfaction, happiness) and at the collective (workplace wellness, well-being of society) level. However, beneath these laudable ideals, and despite their altruistic, apolitical and ideology-free appearance, there lies a discourse that pursues very clear objectives of benefit only to certain interest groups [Illouz & Cabanas 2018]. The women’s press represents a privileged source in the understanding of the expectations faced by women [Blandin 2018] and, perhaps in a more general way, by individuals in a particular culture. Finally, the metaphors used enable us to analyze certain thought patterns specific to some discourses [Charteris-Black 2004]. The aim of this paper is thus to understand how happiness is represented metaphorically in Cosmopolitan magazine and to determine whether this representation corresponds to an ideological agenda. A corpus-based analysis of the metaphors of happiness used in the Cosmopolitan magazine has been conducted. The results show that most of these metaphors can be categorized according to six conceptual patterns related to the notions of “strength” and “limit”. The metaphors of happiness found in the corpus are shown to be ideologically charged and strongly related to positive psychology and neoliberal ideology.

The next article, “What Makes Metaphors Manipulative Tools? A Case-Study of Pro-Life Speeches in the US”, by Denis Jamet and Adeline Terry, also focuses on ideologically charged metaphors, and more specifically on the use of manipulative metaphors by pro-life supporters, whose aim is to limit the access to abortion and women’s rights in the United States. Manipulation implies a conscious choice from speakers to trigger a change of opinion in the interlocutors and to make them accept their own point of view, i.e. their own vision of the world. As pointed out by Goatly [2007], Charteris-Black [2005, 2014] or Van Dijk [1998], metaphors can be used as manipulative tools. Metaphors have traditionally been considered as figures of speech used by rhetoricians to convince people; cognitivists have demonstrated that they are figures of thought as well, which partly accounts for their manipulative potential. The three underlying reasons to this are, among others, the highlighting-hiding process, the existence of asymmetrical metaphors, and the multivalency of metaphors. The manipulative potential of metaphors is examined in twelve speeches from pro-life supporters, ranging from 2006 to 2019. One of the main ideological debates going on in the US has been on abortion, as the pro-life movement has grown stronger in recent years and has been threatening the right to abortion guaranteed by Roe v. Wade. The study of the metaphors in those speeches has enabled us to highlight how pro-lifers manipulate people regarding the apprehension of reality by systematically using a limited number of conceptualizations.

The two following articles concentrate on ideologically charged speeches in the United Kingdom, and more precisely on the metaphors used by far-right politicians in the Brexit debate. In “Brexit and the Myth of Grandeur”, Alma-Pierre Bonnet studies the links between metaphor and political myths. The decision by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union came as a shock to many. A key player during the referendum campaign was the Vote Leave organisation which managed to convince people that they would be better off outside the European project. Their success was made all the easier as Euroscepticism had been running deep in the country for decades. It is on this fertile ground that Vote Leavers drew to persuade people of the necessity to leave. Using critical metaphor analysis, this paper examines the way Vote Leavers won the argument by developing three political myths, which, once combined, conjured up the notion of British grandeur. Drawing on Jonathan Charteris-Black’s seminal works on the relation between metaphors and the creation of political myths in political rhetoric, this paper posits that the Brexit debate was not won solely on political ground and that the manipulative power of metaphors may have also been a key element. This might explain the current political deadlock, as political solutions might not provide the answers to the questions raised during the campaign.

Pauline Rodet’s contribution, “Metaphor as the Distorting Mirror of Brexit: A Corpus-Based Analysis of Metaphors and Manipulation in the Brexit Debate”, adopts a multimodal approach and offers a corpus-based inquiry into the use of metaphor in the Brexit debate. It aims to stress the link between manipulation and the metaphors that are used to talk about Brexit. It mainly focuses on the cognitive dimension of metaphor, following the Conceptual Metaphor Theory developed by Lakoff and Johnson. The methodology is largely inspired by Charteris-Black’s analysis in three steps: identification, interpretation and explanation. The corpus includes political speeches from various British politicians who strongly got involved in the debate, such as Boris Johnson, Theresa May and David Cameron. In addition, two cases of multimodal metaphors are closely analyzed. The article suggests looking at the links between the conceptual domains at the roots of the metaphors encountered in the corpus and the act of manipulating.

Two other articles also adopt a multimodal approach; in “Migrants, Metaphors and Manipulation: a Multimodal Case Study of Trump’s Speeches on Immigration (2015-2017)”, Bérengère Lafiandra intends to analyze the use of metaphors in a corpus of Donald Trump’s speeches on immigration; its main goal is to determine how migrants were depicted in the 2016 American presidential election, and how metaphor manipulated voters in the creation of this image. This study is multimodal since not only the linguistic aspect of speeches but also gestures are considered. After giving an overview of the theories on metaphor, it provides the theoretical framework and develops the main tenets of the ‘Conceptual Metaphor Theory’ (CMT). The author also tackles multimodality and explains what modes and gestures are. She finally provides the main source domains as well as other rhetorical tools that are used by Trump to depict migrants and manipulate voters.

Inesa Sahakyan, in The persuasive vs. manipulative power of multimodal metaphors in advertising discourse”, also focuses on the multimodality of metaphors, but in advertising discourse rather than political discourse. The purpose of this conceptual paper is, first, to contribute to the definition and understanding of features that could help to trace a demarcation line between the notions of persuasion and manipulation; second, to enquire into some of the possible ways of measuring the manipulative, as opposed to persuasive potential of metaphors and determine whether the use of metaphors necessarily entails a form of manipulation and if so, how; third, to study the implications of the degree of lexicalisation of a metaphor for its persuasive / manipulative force; finally, to enquire into the proportional relationship between multimodality and manipulative potential. In other words, her goal is to understand whether multimodal metaphors bear greater potential for manipulation as compared to their monomodal counterparts. These enquiries are addressed within the framework of the theory of semiotics and pragmatics developed by the American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914). Some examples of promotional metaphors from the car industry are discussed, such as metaphors which promote green washing.

The last contribution of this issue, “Representations of climate in the English-speaking press: building a metaphorical interdiscourse”, by Caroline Peynaud, deals with metaphors for climate. The press is essentially an intertextual discourse, composed of explicit quotations as well as of more implicit references that situate it within a complex interdiscourse. In particular, it has been shown that the media are inspired by one another, thus creating, between articles, genres and publications, intertextual and interdiscursive links that may evolve in time. The present study aims to analyze those links and, more particularly, those built by the metaphors applied to the field of climate as they are used in the English-language general-interest press. Metaphors, whether pedagogical or theory-constitutive, are defined as a projection of a domain over another, creating an analogy that allows a better understanding of the target domain. The phenomenon focused on concerns the circulation of metaphors between the press and specialised discourse and, within press discourse, between newspapers, geographical areas and time periods. To understand this phenomenon, a corpus of press articles dealing with climate change and published in The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, The New York Times and USA Today from 2014 to 2017 was built. It is compared to a corpus of Earth Negotiation Bulletins, reports published during COP21 in 2015. The metaphors related to the field of climate were identified and analyzed especially with the help of WMatrix software and its semantic field identification tool. It appears from the analysis that newspapers are inspired by specialised texts, but they do not necessarily use the metaphors in the same manner. The time period, geographical area and editorial line of newspapers also influence the use of metaphors.

The papers in this issue reflect the large and growing range of corpora that metaphor studies can help analyze and point to the fact that although metaphor studies are well-developed, they seem to be an inexhaustible source of research. We hope that this volume will contribute to arousing new lines of research blending different theories on metaphor, and more broadly further research on manipulation through language and conceptualisation.


Blandin Claire, 2018, Manuel d’analyse de la presse magazine, Paris : Armand Colin.

Charteris-Black Jonathan, 2004, Corpus Approaches to Critical Metaphor Analysis, Basingstoke & New York: Palgrave MacMillan.

Charteris-Black Jonathan, 2005 [2011], Politicians and rhetoric: the persuasive power of metaphor, Basingstoke & New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Charteris-Black Jonathan, 2014, Analysing Political Speeches: Rhetoric, Discourse and Metaphor, Basingstoke & New York: Palgrave-MacMillan.

Goatly Andrew, 2007, Washing the Brain. Metaphor and Hidden Ideology, Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Illouz Eva & Cabanas Edgar, 2018, Happycratie. Comment l’industrie du bonheur a pris le contrôle de nos vies, Paris : Premier Parallèle.

Kövecses Zoltán, 2002, Metaphor. A Practical Introduction, Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press.

Lakoff Georges & Johnson Mark, 1980, Metaphors We Live By, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Peirce Charles Sanders, [1931-1935] 1958, in Hartshorne Charles & Weiss Paul (Eds.), Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce, Vol. 1-6, Cambridge, Massachussets: Harvard University Press.

Van Dijk Teun A., 1998, Ideology. A multidisciplinary approach, London: SAGE.


Electronic reference

Denis Jamet and Adeline Terry, « Introduction », ELAD-SILDA [Online], 5 | 2020, Online since 20 juillet 2020, connection on 02 décembre 2021. URL :


Denis Jamet

Université de Lyon (UJML3) & University of Arizona

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Adeline Terry

Université de Lyon (UJML3)

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