Publication details [#305]

Woodhams, Jay M. 2012. A journey towards employment: Metaphorical representations of social welfare in New Zealand. Metaphor and the Social World 2 (1) : 41–60. 20 pp.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Place, Publisher
Amsterdam: John Benjamins


This exploratory study addresses the metaphorical representation of social welfare and its beneficiaries in New Zealand political discourse. Using the Metaphor Identification Procedure (MIP) (Pragglejaz Group, 2007) systematic metaphors (Cameron, 2008) were identified in a corpus of governmental texts collected in the period 2009-2011 to which a smaller corpus of governmental texts from the period 2005-2008 were added. The analysis of the systematic metaphors shows that JOURNEY metaphors, being the most frequent example of figurative language identified, are central to the language of reform in New Zealand, which is underscored by the frequency of the related metaphor of MOBILITY (second most frequent). Another recurrent metaphor was the HEALTH metaphor, frequently instantiated in the form SOCIAL WELFARE IS AN ILLNESS. The article shows that these systematic metaphors create a picture where the goal of the Government’s reform journey is identified as a state of employment, and barriers to arrival at this destination are framed as mobility and health issues. It is argued that such metaphors are discriminatory, portraying beneficiaries and the social welfare system in a particularly negative light.