Academic journal article British and American Studies

Hot on the Trail of Deadly Criminals: Conceptual Metaphors Employed by Law Enforcement Officers

Academic journal article British and American Studies

Hot on the Trail of Deadly Criminals: Conceptual Metaphors Employed by Law Enforcement Officers

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

The publication of Lakoff and Johnson's Metaphors we live by in 1980 is considered to be a significant landmark within the cognitive linguistic paradigm, as it advocates a cognitive approach to the understanding of metaphors. It proposes a departure from the understanding of metaphors as linguistic embellishments, mere figurative uses of expressions the aim of which is to conjure up or convey a new complex image. Moreover, Lakoff and Johnson (2003:3) argue that metaphors cannot be typically viewed as "characteristics of language alone, a matter of words rather than thought or action". Therefore, many metaphorical expressions which would traditionally fall within the sphere of metaphorical language are now viewed to be primarily a matter of thought which is reflected in language. Since one of the central tenets of Cognitive Theory of Metaphor (henceforth CTM) is that our conceptual system is "[...] fundamentally metaphorical in nature" (Lakoff and Jonson 2003:4), the way we perceive, define, create or alter our realities depends largely on how we reason about these realities. Language thus represents just another area where our thoughts and reasoning are reflected and where the nature of our conceptual system becomes apparent.

Further evidence supporting the claim that metaphors are a matter of thinking and reasoning rather than a matter of language itself is the distinction that CTM makes between conceptual metaphors and metaphorical expressions. As opposed to the traditional treatment of metaphors where such a distinction was not made, metaphorical expressions are now seen as linguistic realizations of conceptual metaphors which are present at the level of reasoning. Since conceptual metaphors find their "surface-level expressions in language and other semiotic modes of communication" (Koller and Semino 2009:12), the analysis of conceptual relations in our mind necessitates the study of metaphorical expressions as well as the identification and analysis of metaphorical relations or mappings between conceptual domains. Conceptual metaphors, as proposed by Lakoff and Johnson (2003) as well as Kövecses (2010), represent a simple equation between two domains - CONCEPTUAL DOMAIN (A) IS CONCEPTUAL DOMAIN (B) (Kövecses 2010:4). Meaning is construed here through conceptualisation - abstract, unfamiliar or poorly delineated areas of experience (target domains) are conceptualised in terms of those which are more concrete, familiar and well-delineated (source domains). Closely related to the process of conceptualisation and metaphorical mappings is the concept of metaphorical utilisation proposed by Kövecses (2010). The extent of metaphorical utilisation depends on the choice of source domains, since only some aspects of the source domain (B) can be mapped onto the target domain (A). Therefore, the nature of metaphorical mappings is said to be only partial, it brings into focus only some aspects of the target domain while it conceals all other irrelevant aspects.

Against the background of CTM, this paper aims to identify and analyse the conceptual metaphors employed by law enforcement officers in detailing the investigations of violent crimes. Moreover, since the broader domain of crime includes other constituent sub-domains as well (e.g. evidence, cases, suspects, criminals, punishment, etc.), the paper also explores the way in which these mental representations are structured via conceptual metaphors. More generally, the overall objective of the paper is to highlight the metaphorical expressions instantiating the underlying conceptual metaphors found within the discourse of law enforcement officers which may reflect "discourse systematicity [which] applies when particular uses of metaphors are characteristic of certain genres or discourses" (Semino 2008:34). Even though each crime investigation is carried out differently and focuses on different crimes and violent acts, the analysis of metaphorical expressions in my corpus indicates that law enforcement officers employ the same conceptual metaphors in recounting the details of various violent crimes. …

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