Using Metaphor Analysis: MIP and Beyond

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Introduction

Metaphor analysis is a method of extracting conceptions from texts. An important facet of metaphor analysis is the method used to identify the metaphors. According to my dictionary a metaphor is "A figure of speech in which a name or descriptive word or phrase is transferred to an object or action different from, but analogous to, that to which it is literally applicable" (Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 2007). They are thus used to illuminate a description of some concept. (This is described in more detail below.) Most researchers use their intuition to find the metaphors. However, from my experience, obtaining the metaphors by using one's intuition is not sufficiently rigorous or repeatable, since different people's intuition may identify different words as metaphors. Thus, if research is to be rigorous and repeatable some better way of identifying the metaphors is required.

Just such a method is available in the form of MIP, the Metaphor Identification Procedure created by the Pragglejaz Group (2007). However, in its basic form MIP has some problems. In my work, I have solved some of those problems and developed MIP into a more rigorous, valid, and repeatable method of identifying the metaphors. I have also devised ways in which MIP can be used to obtain both qualitative and quantitative results.

In the discussion that follows I sometimes refer to my own research results using MIP. These results were gained from an analysis of the responses of a group of doctoral students to an on-line survey at an Australian research intensive university. These results are described in more detail elsewhere (Pitcher, 2010, 2011)

Metaphor Analysis

The text to be analysed by metaphor analysis may be a body of literature, the transcript of an interview or other written material. Written material is used so that it may be conveniently examined a number of times to ensure that all the metaphors are found. Indeed, the search for, and finding of, all the metaphors is of the utmost importance for the following analysis. The material has to be examined closely to ensure that all the metaphors are found. This step is particularly important as some of the metaphors might be obscure.

Metaphors We Live By as written by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson (1980, 2003) is the seminal work on metaphor analysis. The authors show how metaphors can be grouped into "metaphorical concepts" which is important for any method of analysis of metaphorical terms. The metaphorical concept relates the target and source domains of the metaphor in the equation TARGET DOMAIN IS SOURCE DOMAIN. Thus, if a person uses the metaphor of a journey to describe his or her life then the concept is LIFE IS A JOURNEY. In this example "life" is the target domain and "journey" is the source domain since 'life' is the subject of investigation and "journey" is the domain to which it is linked by the metaphor. Part of the metaphor analysis process involves forming metaphors into concepts which illustrate the relationship between the target domain and the source domain (Lakoff & Johnson, 2003, passim).

Schmitt (2005) suggests a more detailed method of metaphor analysis. He writes at considerable length and in some detail about his method. He suggests that metaphors can reduce the complexity of qualitative data to manageable proportions and bring out clearly defined patterns (Schmitt, 2005, p. 360) and can be used to present the results of qualitative research in a clear fashion.

Schmitt states that he has "attempted to develop metaphor analysis as a systematic method to discover sub-cultural thinking patterns and the refine them to credible, teachable research steps" (Schmitt, 2005, p. 365).

In discussing the validity of metaphor analysis and the means of obtaining it, Schmitt suggests that metaphor analyses must provide the possibility of testing their accuracy and credibility. The ways in which the results are to be validated should not merely be applied to the actual analysis but should be applied throughout the whole investigation. …