Publication details [#4727]

Frank, Roslyn M. 2009. Shifting identities: Metaphors of discourse evolution. In Musolff, Andreas and Jörg Zinken. Metaphor and Discourse. London: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 173–189. 17 pp.


The present chapter focuses first on the applications of CAS thinking to the notion of discourse metaphor networks. Then, an exemplary analogical sequence is explored: the evolution and discourse career of a biological concept, namely, that of the 'gene'. Although this term first appeared at the beginning of the twentieth century, only in the past decade has it started to penetrate the discourse of Cognitive Linguistics and Critical Discourse Analysis, revealing at the same time its ability to generate extended metaphor formations in the linguistic sciences. More concretely, I will discuss several analogical expansions of this base concept of a gene, showing how they currently function as a productive source for heuristic inferences in contemporary discussions of language and language change, particularly in the case of those attempting to incorporate an evolutionary or Neo-Darwinian perspective into their overall explanatory model for language evolution or language change, sometimes referred to as a 'population approach' where 'language' is treated, analogically, from the perspective of a 'species' or 'population'. Discourse metaphors provide evidence for the socio-cultural situated-ness of metaphorical reasoning along with the characteristic features of context-boundedness, strategic fuzziness, and polyvocality. As others have shown, discourse metaphors often demonstrate a rich social and cultural history. They can also exhibit an uncanny conceptual staying power, which reflects their status as highly entrenched, albeit constantly changing, entities, given that the socio-cultural ground under them is always shifting. Hence, discourse metaphor analysis brings to the fore the importance of a diachronic perspective with a cultural orientation, where continuity is apparent in the cognitive patterns manifesting themselves in such a longitudinal analysis. This set of conditions allows the discourse metaphor formation or analogical network to interact and hence co-evolve with its socio-cultural environment. (Roslyn Frank)