Publication details [#55813]

Idström, Anna and Elisabeth Piirainen. 2012. The wolf - an evil and ever-hungry beast or a nasty thief?: Conventional Inari Saami metaphors and widespread idioms in contrast. Metaphor and the Social World 2 (1) : 87–113.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Language as a subject
Place, Publisher
John Benjamins
Journal DOI


This article aims to shed light on the impact of an extended social context on the motivation for the figurative content of conventional metaphors. The article therefore compares conventional linguistic metaphors found in Inari Saami with conventional linguistic metaphors that are widespread among European languages, in order to reveal differences and similarities between what is deeply local and shared only by a restricted speech community, i.e. an indigenous culture without a literary tradition, and what is unquestionably spread across a large number of languages. The comparison first presents three animal concepts prominent in both Inari Saami and widespread idioms, wolf, hare and raven, followed by an investigation of animal concepts found only in one of these two data sets: reindeer in Inari Saami and crocodile, ostrich and lynx among the widespread idioms. It is demonstrated that Inari Saami metaphors typically draw their motivation from the concrete life-experience of the people, while the widespread idioms are to a large extent based on literary traditions. In both contexts, the study finds metaphors drawn from or supported by folklore: fairy tales, mythology and superstition. Comparing these two data sets offers great possibilities to the study of metaphors: how we understand metaphors, and how they come into being, and what is the nature of vehicle development over extended time and space.