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Metaphors used in headlines of some electronic articles on US presidential election campaign 2012 a study from cognitive perspective

VIETNAM NATIONAL UNIVERSITY, HANOI
UNIVERSITY OF LANGUAGES AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES
FACULTY OF POST-GRADUATE STUDIES

NGUYỄN THỊ THU HẰNG

METAPHORS USED IN HEADLINES OF SOME ELECTRONIC
ARTICLES ON US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN 2012:
A STUDY FROM COGNITIVE PERSPECTIVE

(Các phép ẩn dụ trong tiêu đề một số bài báo điện tử viết về chiến dịch
tranh cử tổng thống Mỹ năm 2012: Nghiên cứu từ góc độ tri nhận)

M.A. MINOR THESIS

Field: English Linguistics
Code: 60220201

Hanoi, 2016



VIETNAM NATIONAL UNIVERSITY, HANOI
UNIVERSITY OF LANGUAGES AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES
FACULTY OF POST-GRADUATE STUDIES

NGUYỄN THỊ THU HẰNG

METAPHORS USED IN HEADLINES OF SOME ELECTRONIC
ARTICLES ON US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN 2012:
A STUDY FROM COGNITIVE PERSPECTIVE

(Các phép ẩn dụ trong tiêu đề một số bài báo điện tử viết về chiến dịch
tranh cử tổng thống Mỹ năm 2012: Nghiên cứu từ góc độ tri nhận)

M.A. MINOR THESIS

Field: English Linguistics
Code: 60220201
Supervisor: Assoc. Prof. Dr. Lâm Quang Đông

Hanoi, 2016


DECLARATION
I, the undersigned, hereby certify my authority of the study project report entitled
“Metaphors used in headlines of some electronic articles on US presidential
election campaign 2012: A study from cognitive perspective” submitted in partial
fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master in English Linguistics.
Except where the reference is indicated, no other person‟s work has been used
without due acknowledgement in the text of the thesis.
Hanoi, 2016

Nguyen Thi Thu Hang

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
First and foremost, I would have never been able to complete my MA thesis
without the enthusiastic guidance of Assoc. Prof. Dr. Lam Quang Dong, my
supervisor, who has patiently and constantly supported me through each stage of my


study as well as provided me with invaluable comments. I am also grateful for his
precious ideas which have inspired me greatly through my growth as an academic
researcher.
A special thank also goes to all the lecturers and the staff in Faculty of PostGraduate Studies and many others, who have created favorable conditions for me to
fulfill my MA dissertation, and without whose encouragement it would never have
been possible for me to have this thesis accomplished.
A special appreciation is also sent to my peers in Master classes, Cohort 22
for their both in-time advices and priceless suggestions which they have supplied
me. I am indebted to them for their time and sympathies that they have shared with
me during the process of my research writing.
Last but not least, I am greatly indebted to my family for the sacrifice they
have devoted to the fulfillment of this academic work.

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ABSTRACT
This MA minor thesis investigates the use of metaphors in headlines of some
electronic articles on US presidential election campaign 2012. As the study applied
the theoretical framework proposed by Lakoff and Johnson (1980), all three kinds
of metaphors including structural, orientational, and ontological metaphors were
found in 75 news headlines. Among 85 metaphorical expressions discovered in 75
article headlines, 67 were labeled as structural metaphors, making up 78.8%. It
turned out that war terms appeared with the highest frequency among other source
domains like sport competition, race, game, and business. While orientational
metaphors were realized through 10 metaphorical expressions (corresponding to
11.8%), ontological metaphors were depicted in only 8 (equivalent to 9.4%). By
analyzing how three kinds of metaphors employed in such political news headlines,
the study is expected to partly reveal the conceptual frame of American people
towards politics in general and election news in particular.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS
DECLARATION.......................................................................................................i
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS.....................................................................................ii
ABSTRACT..............................................................................................................iii
PART A: INTRODUCTION .................................................................................... 1
1. Rationale ............................................................................................................... 1
2. Aims of the study ................................................................................................. 2
3. Scope of the study ................................................................................................ 2
4. Significance of the study ...................................................................................... 2
5. Research methodology ......................................................................................... 2
5.1.

Research questions ........................................................................................ 2

5.2.

Research approach ......................................................................................... 3

5.3.

Research methods .......................................................................................... 3

5.4.

Data analysis .................................................................................................. 3

5.5.

Data collection procedures ............................................................................ 3

6. Design of the study ............................................................................................... 4
PART B: DEVELOPMENT..................................................................................... 5
CHAPTER 1: LITERATURE REVIEW ................................................................ 5
1. Theoretical background ........................................................................................ 5
1.1.

Cognitive linguistics ...................................................................................... 5

1.2.

Metaphor ........................................................................................................ 5

1.2.1.

Traditional views on metaphor ............................................................... 5

1.2.2.

Metaphor under the light of cognitive linguistics ................................... 6

1.2.3.

Classification of metaphor ...................................................................... 8

2. Literature review ................................................................................................ 10
2.1.

Metaphors in news headlines ....................................................................... 10

2.2.

Metaphors in politics ................................................................................... 12

CHAPTER 2: RESEARCH METHODOLOGY ................................................. 15
2.1.

Research questions ...................................................................................... 15

2.2.

Research methods ........................................................................................ 15

2.3.

Research procedures .................................................................................... 15

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2.4.

Data collection and data analysis ................................................................ 16

2.4.1.

Data collection ...................................................................................... 16

2.4.2.

Data analysis ......................................................................................... 16

CHAPTER 3: DATA ANALYSIS ......................................................................... 19
3.1. Structural metaphors ....................................................................................... 19
3.1.1. Politics is war ........................................................................................... 19
3.1.2. Politics is sport competition ..................................................................... 20
3.1.3. Politics is race ........................................................................................... 21
3.1.4. Politics is game ......................................................................................... 22
3.1.5. Politics is business .................................................................................... 23
3.2. Orientational metaphors.................................................................................. 25
3.2.1. Having control is up ................................................................................. 25
3.2.2. More is up, less is down ........................................................................... 25
3.2.3. Less is behind ........................................................................................... 26
3.2.4. Foreseeable future events are ahead ......................................................... 27
3.3. Ontological metaphors .................................................................................... 27
3.3.1. Nonhuman entities carry human capacities .............................................. 28
3.3.2. Abstracts are things .................................................................................. 28
CHAPTER 4: FINDINGS AND DISCUSSION ................................................... 31
4.1. Findings .......................................................................................................... 31
4.2. Discussion ....................................................................................................... 32
PART C: CONCLUSION....................................................................................... 35
1. Recapitulation ..................................................................................................... 35
2. Limitations and suggestions for further research ............................................... 35
3. Implications ........................................................................................................ 36
REFERENCES ........................................................................................................ 38
APPENDIX 1 ............................................................................................................. I
APPENDIX 2...........................................................................................................VI

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LIST OF TABLES AND CHARTS
Table 3.1: Frequency of source domains in structural metaphors
Chart 4.1: Proportions of three kinds of metaphors
Chart 4.2: Proportions of source domains used in structural metaphors

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PART A: INTRODUCTION
1. Rationale
It is taken for granted that politics-related language is rigid, standardized and
conventional. However, metaphor, which is considered a very interesting linguistic
phenomenon, can also be employed effectively in the field of politics, making
political news become friendlier and less superior to the public. For this reason, the
author is desirous of investigating how metaphors are used in the headlines of some
electronic articles on US presidential election campaign 2012. It is undeniable that
metaphors are not only a promising land for writers‟ creativity to take off but also a
product of minds, intellect and cognitive system. According to Lakoff and Johnson
(1980), this rhetorical device is not only considered a characteristic of language, but
it is also a matter of thought and action. Likewise, it is hoped that, under the lens of
cognitive linguistics, this research paper will provide readers with a clear
description of metaphors used in the headlines of such political articles.
Among series of political events during the last 4 years, the US election
campaign in 2012 emerged as the most striking one that the whole world kept track
of. As a matter of fact, the political campaign was actually the close race between
the President Barack Obama – a prominent representative of Democratic Party and
Mitt Romney – an outstanding nominee of Republican Party. Therefore, it comes as
no surprise that almost all of the headlines used to analyze in this dissertation
portray the fierce competition between these two candidates. With the hope of
elaborating on the nature of metaphors in political news, the research paper will
discuss the relationship between the source domains and target domains in structural
metaphors as well as uncover kinds of metaphors employed in those headlines. It is
also expected that the researcher can discover the most pervasive kind of metaphor,
the most dominant source domain in order to show readers the logical relationship
between the human conceptual system and the language of politics.
Last but not least, there is little research exploring metaphors in the context of
politics, which urges the author to investigate how this kind of meaning transference
is employed in such election news.

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2. Aims of the study
The research paper is aimed at:
-

Pointing out the kinds of metaphors exploited in those political headlines.
This aim can be achieved on the ground of Lakoff and Johnson‟s view in
their famous book titled “Metaphors we live by” (2003).

-

Exploring how those metaphors are used in such political headlines, and
identifying the most pervasive source domains of structural metaphors.

-

Suggesting some implications for the process of teaching, learning and
translating metaphors.

3. Scope of the study
The study focuses on the headlines of electronic articles whose contents are
about the US presidential election 2012. These articles are taken from such
electronic newspaper agencies as Red Alert Politics, Huff Post, CNN News, USA
Today, New York Times, and CBS News. All of them are famous, prestigious
newspaper agencies which always updated American people and global citizens on
the developments of the US presidential election in 2012.
4. Significance of the study
In terms of theoretical aspect, the research paper may not only provide useful
contributions to studies of linguistic units from cognitive perspective but also shed
light on other studies in the field of politics.
In terms of practical significance, the research is expected to encourage other
linguistic researchers to carry out similar studies investigating the function of
metaphors in the field of politics. Besides, it is hoped that this MA thesis will
supply readers a deeper understanding about how metaphors are used in election
news. The study is also believed to reveal the pervasive usage of sport and war
terms in structural metaphors found in those political headlines. Lastly, some
applications in teaching and translating are also found to be useful for both English
teachers and translators.
5. Research methodology
5.1.
-

Research questions
How can the metaphors in the chosen newspaper headlines be categorized
based on the classification of Lakoff and Johnson?

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-

What are the reasons underlying the mechanism of cognition in the chosen
metaphors?

5.2.

Research approach

The study is approached from the perspective of cognitive semantics. According
to the theory and classification of Lakoff and Johnson in their famous book
“Metaphors we live by” first published in 1980, metaphors are classified into three
kinds, namely, ontological metaphors, structural metaphors and orientational
metaphors. Metaphors found in the chosen headlines are also arranged into these 3
types.
5.3.

Research methods

The research mainly uses qualitative method to analyze the data collected.
Methods of description, classification and analysis are also employed in order to
find answers to the research questions as well as to fulfill the aims of the study.
5.4.

Data analysis

Primary data is collected by the author, and then the qualitative method is used
to analyze the data. All the newspapers headlines are chosen from US news
agencies in order to ensure the consistency of metaphor analysis under the light of
cognitive perspective. Equally important, the author uses numbers when necessary
to identify the pervasive type of metaphor as well as to count the terms of war,
sport, race, game and business employed in those headlines.
5.5.

Data collection procedures

75 electronic newspaper headlines containing metaphors are sorted out from
hundreds of articles whose contents are related to the US presidential election 2012.
Because the research paper investigates types of metaphors used in the chosen
headlines and how those metaphors are used, the author will make sure that all
selected headlines contain metaphor(s). After being classified into 3 kinds of
metaphors, these headlines will be further analyzed.

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6. Design of the study
Part A: INTRODUCTION
In this part, the researcher provides readers with reasons for carrying out this
research. Moreover, the aims, scope, significance and the research methodology are
clarified in the first part. Readers also find the research questions, the design of the
study here.
Part B: DEVELOPMENT
Chapter 1–Theoretical background and literature review
The chapter deals with the definition(s) of metaphor, the classification of
metaphors, and metaphors from the perspective of cognitive linguistics. The
definition and functions of a headline are also illuminated here.
Regarding literature review, the author will introduce to the readers the
related literature, the different ideas from knowledgeable scholars, writers and
linguists towards the subject and scope of this study. The researcher will embroider
her comments and critical thinking on those ideas.
Chapter 2–Research methodology
This chapter supplies the readers with research methods, research procedures
and the description of data collection and data analysis.
Chapter 3–Data analysis
This is the main chapter of the study which will focus on analyzing the data.
After metaphors in chosen headlines are classified into 3 kinds clearly, they will be
analyzed in accordance with the data analytical units.
Chapter 4–Findings and Discussion
In this chapter, the proportion of each kind of metaphors as well as the
frequency of source domains in structural metaphors will be clearly presented. Here,
the kinds of metaphors will be further discussed in relation with the conceptual
system of American people.
Part C: CONCLUSION
This final part will sum up main contents of the study, point out the study‟s
limitations as well as propose suggestions for further studies. Some implications in
teaching, learning English, and translating are also mentioned in this section.

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PART B: DEVELOPMENT
CHAPTER 1: LITERATURE REVIEW
1. Theoretical background
1.1.

Cognitive linguistics

Until 1970s has cognitive linguistics formally emerged as a science which is
concerned with researching the close relationship between language, human minds
and the socio-physical experiences of human beings. It is the social and physical
experiences that decide how human beings conceptualize their surrounding world
and how the surrounding events are reflected into their minds. It can be said that
cognitive linguistics allows those mental and physical experiences to play the role
as principles explaining how language is produced and used in certain way. More
specifically, to explore how metaphor, an interesting linguistic phenomenon, is used
under the light of cognitive linguistics, means that we explain why it is structured in
particular way.
According to Yu (1998: 12), “the contemporary theory of metaphor is closely
associated with cognitive linguistics, which comprises cognitive grammar and
cognitive semantics.” While Putz believed that cognitive linguistics “sees language
as making use of conceptual structure and general cognitive mechanisms” (cited by
Yu, 1998: 13), Fesmire (1994: 150) insisted that “cognitive linguistics is explicitly
committed to articulating the embodied, encultured, and imaginative dimensions of
meaning.” Therefore, metaphor – an interesting linguistic phenomenon, is logically,
obviously and naturally taken into consideration from the angle of cognitive
linguistics.
1.2.

Metaphor

1.2.1. Traditional views on metaphor
From the semantic perspective, metaphor is simply defined as “transference of
meaning from one object to another based on similarity between these two objects”
(Nguyễn Hòa, 2004: 105-106). Another Vietnamese scholar Đỗ Hữu Châu (1962:
54) has claimed that “ẩn dụ là cách gọi tên của sự vật này bằng tên của sự vật khác;

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giữa chúng có mối liên hệ tương đồng” (Metaphor is a way of calling an object by
the name of another, based on the similar relationship between them). Nguyễn Hữu
Quỳnh (2001: 259) has also shared the same idea with his definition on metaphor:
“Ẩn dụ tu từ là cách lấy tên gọi của đối tượng này biểu thị đối tượng kia trên cơ sở
mối quan hệ liên tưởng tương đồng giữa hai đối tượng. Có thể nói đó là cách so
sánh ngầm” (Rhetorical metaphor is a way of taking the name of one object to
represent another, based on the similar associative relationship between them. In
other words, it is an implicit simile).
Ortony (1993: 2) posits that metaphor is “an essential characteristic of the
creativity of language” and a “deviant and parasitic upon normal usage.” Likewise,
it is undeniable that metaphor, from the classical point of view, is primarily seen as
a product of creativity “in the realm of poetic or „figurative‟ language” (Lakoff,
1993: 204). Almost all of the traditional studies on metaphor were central-rhetoric
with metaphor being treated as a rhetorical element for the purpose of achieving
aesthetic effects.
Traditionally, metaphor is considered no more than a rhetorical device used
mainly in literature and poetics. In the past, it was “a matter of extraordinary rather
than ordinary language”, “a matter of words rather than thought or action.”
(Lakoff & Johnson, 1980: 453)
1.2.2. Metaphor under the light of cognitive linguistics
Contemporary theories on metaphors shed light on the pivotal role of cognitive
linguistics in detecting, analyzing and decoding secrets behind this rhetorical
device. Since the late 1970‟s, it has been affirmed that everyday language is
suffused with metaphor, and that metaphor is a natural linguistic phenomenon
reflecting our minds, our thoughts, our conceptual system, and even our action. The
cooperation between the linguistic scholar George Lakoff and the philosopher Mark
Johnson in 1980 set a strong and firm foundation for the theory on conceptual
metaphors and cognitive linguistics. Indeed, their „brain child‟ entitled “Metaphors
we live by” published in the same year provided linguists with basic understanding

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of metaphors under the light of cognitive linguistics. According to these two
researchers, metaphor exists in every corner of our life, not just in novel poetic
expressions. As Lakoff (1993: 203) insisted, “the locus of metaphor is not in
language at all, but in the way we conceptualize one mental domain in terms of
another.” The theoretical framework on conceptual metaphors proposed by George
Lakoff and Mark Johnson in 1980 has changed our understanding of metaphor as
well as proved its important roles in language and mind. Because such metaphors
are built on the foundation of our most basic understanding about our physical and
social experience, they are omnipresent in our daily language, our thoughts, and our
action without our ever noticing them. It can be said that these two famous scholars
have opened a new horizon, a progressive approach for researchers in the world to
explore metaphor‟s nature.
Holding the same viewpoint, Barcelona has found that metaphor is the
“cognitive mechanism whereby one experiential domain is partially mapped or
projected onto a different experiential domain so that the second domain is partially
understood in terms of the first one” (as cited by Nguyễn Hòa, 2004, p. 106).
Malotki (1983: 13) also put emphasis on the essential role of metaphor to human
language and cognitive system as he wrote: “In man‟s ongoing endeavor to
conceptualize and verbalize a world that can never be fully known, language is the
vital intermediary. Language provides a repertoire of coping mechanisms, of which
metaphor is one of the most powerful and useful.”
In Vietnam, such pioneers in cognitive linguistics and conceptual metaphors as
Trần Văn Cơ, Nguyễn Đức Tồn, and Lý Toàn Thắng have given birth to a lot of
works and studies on this kind of meaning transference as well as its effects in
human language and minds. In the late 20th century and early 21st century, cognitive
linguistics emerged as a new approach to probe into metaphors; and the term
„conceptual metaphor‟ was no longer strange to Vietnamese linguists. The
integration of conceptual metaphors and cognitive linguistics into Vietnamese
language and culture led to the changes in the way of analyzing metaphors. In his

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book titled “The Stylistics of Modern Vietnamese”, Hữu Đạt (2001: 302) stated that
“Thực chất của phép ẩn dụ chính là việc dùng tên gọi này để biểu hiện sự vật khác
dựa trên cơ chế tư duy và ngôn ngữ dân tộc. Nói tới ẩn dụ không thể không nói tới
mối quan hệ giữa đặc trưng văn hóa và ngôn ngữ” (Metaphor is, actually, the way
of using the name of this object to refer to another object, based on the mechanism
of thought and language of a people. Metaphor is an indispensable part in the
relationship between language and culture). Clearly, metaphor is not separately
viewed in the world of literature anymore, but rather in a certain relationship with
language and culture. Also, Professor Trần Văn Cơ (2007) in “Ngôn ngữ học tri
nhận – Ghi chép và suy nghĩ” (Cognitive Linguistics – Notes and Thoughts)
portrayed an overall picture about conceptual metaphors, the development of
metaphor from the lens of cognitive linguistics.
1.2.3. Classification of metaphor
According to Lakoff and Johnson (2003), there are three main types of
metaphors, namely, structural metaphors, orientational metaphors and ontological
metaphors. Among these three kinds, structural metaphors play the most important
role as “the essence of metaphor is understanding and experiencing one kind of
thing in terms of another” (Lakoff & Johnson, 2003: 5); and structural metaphors
prove this statement most clearly.
1.2.3.1. Structural metaphors
Structural metaphors are created by mapping the image-schematic structure of
the source domain onto the structure of the target domain (Lakoff & Johnson,
1980). By using the mapping mechanism, we can achieve better understand of an
abstract concept via a more concrete one. A very sparkling and typical example is
also illustrated by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson (1980): ARGUMENT IS
WAR. It can be seen that the abstract concept ARGUMENT is metaphorically
structured by the less abstract one WAR. This structural metaphor is realized in our
everyday language by a variety of expressions such as:

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-

I had to struggle to protect my viewpoint.

-

He successfully defends his ideas in most arguments.

-

His criticisms were right on target.

-

He shot down all my arguments.

Here, we talk about argument by borrowing the language used in war like
struggle, defends, right on target, and shot down.
1.2.3.2. Orientational metaphors
Orientational metaphors do not structure one concept in terms of another, but
rather, “organizes a whole system of concepts with respect to one another” (Lakoff
& Johnson, 2003: 14). Most orientational metaphors deal with spatial orientations
based on the physical experiences of our bodies: “metaphor is motivated by, and
grounded in, our bodily experience – how our bodies function in and interact with
the world” (Yu, 1998: 23). For instance, orientational metaphors such as HAPPY IS
UP and SAD IS DOWN are built with the physical basis that drooping posture is
typically associated with sadness and depression while erect posture with a positive
emotional state. Some expressions are attributed to these two orientational
metaphors we commonly catch in real life include:
-

He is in low spirits these days.

-

I am feeling up today.

-

I fall into a depression.

-

That boosted my spirits.

However, George Lakoff and Mark Johnson (1980) also emphasized that the
orientational metaphors which were based on spatial orientation: up-down, in-out,
front-back, on-off, etc., could be different in different cultures. Specifically, while
some cultures conceptualize future ahead of us, the cognitive systems of other
cultures orient it behind us.
1.2.3.3. Ontological metaphors
Ontological metaphors are often referred to in association with entities and
substances. In terms of ontological metaphors or entity and substance metaphors,

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George Lakoff and Mark Johnson (2003: 25) claim that no sooner have we
identified “our experiences as entities or substances than we can refer to them,
categorize them, group them, and quantify them.” Likewise, ontological metaphors
are employed, based on the human beings‟ experiences about the physical objects,
the visible entities, and substances around us. Both orientational metaphors and
ontological metaphors are viewed in close relationship with our physical
experiences; however, the latter provide reasonable basis to consider events,
activities, emotions, ideas, etc., as entities and objects. With the ontological
metaphor INFLATION IS AN ENTITY, many metaphorical expressions entail:
-

If there is much more inflation, we will never survive.

-

We need to combat inflation.

-

Buying land is the best way of dealing with inflation.

From these metaphorical expressions, we can see that inflation – initially an
abstract concept is described as a tangible entity which human beings can quantify,
measure, combat and deal with. This characteristic of ontological metaphors is
believed to be partly similar to structural metaphors.
2. Literature review
2.1.

Metaphors in news headlines

Headlines are regarded as a special and typical kind of text which appears at the
top of articles, and are usually typed in large and bold letters. It is said that the more
concise news headlines are, the more easily readers can remember them. Bruce
(1972) has implied that the function of report headlines is to highlight the brief
content of the whole article, to help readers quickly find the pieces of news that
interest them most, and to urge the readers to read more. Meanwhile, Studer (2008)
has recommended two pragmatic functions of news headlines: one is to advertise or
polish the contents of the reports; the other is to introduce or summarize the topic of
articles. It is believed that such figures of speech as puns, irony, metaphors and

10


similes are frequently employed in report headlines in order to make those headlines
appear more appealing in the eyes of readers.
It comes as no surprise that metaphors, as a typical representation among other
rhetorical devices, are often splashed across the front pages of newspapers and other
means of media. Undeniably, this figure of speech is believed to not only breathe a
new life into these headlines themselves but also bring certain image effects to the
readers‟ minds. Subsequently, those news headlines can linger on the minds of
targeted audiences for a long time. Fowler (1991: 4) has argued that language
influences thoughts as its “structure channels” contain our mental experience of the
world and that “news is a representation of the world.” Indeed, the exploration of
how conceptual metaphors are used in newspapers headlines will unlock the secret
of how language can shape the world, and investigate how human cognition reflects
the world in the language of news.
In fact, there are few studies on the effects of metaphors in newspapers and news
headlines. One of them is the research conducted by a Chinese scholar - Jian-Shiung
Shie (2012) with the title “Conceptual metaphor as a news-story promoter: The
cases of ENL (English-as-a-native-language) and EIL (English-as-an-internationallanguage) headlines.” His study focuses on the realizations of conceptual metaphors
in the headlines of the corresponding New York Times and Time Supplement news
stories. As a matter of fact, New York Times is designed for English native
speakers while Times Supplement for English-as-foreign-language learners. By
analyzing the rhetorical functions of conceptual metaphors in those corresponding
headlines, the author reveals the pragmatic roles of those metaphors as a news-story
promoter. Additionally, he presented a noticeable discovery, which was, metaphors
in New York Times tended to be sophisticated, unconventional and far away from
the true messages that the headlines actually deliver to the readers. Meanwhile,
metaphors in headlines of articles for English-as-a-foreign-language speakers like
Times Supplement newspapers are clear, conventional (easy to look up in
dictionaries, other reading materials or on the Internet), and at a closer distance with

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the true intentions of articles‟ authors. That was really a valuable finding of this
Taiwanese linguistic professor; nevertheless, he has not mentioned how difficult
metaphors are in different themes. He should compare and contrast metaphors in
terms of their conventionality and conceptual distance in newspapers with different
target audiences, but the same topic. If the articles‟ contents belong to the same
theme, this Taiwanese scholar can measure the process of acquiring metaphors of
different readers more accurately.
This MA thesis is expected to open a new window in the analysis of how
metaphors are used in politics generally and in headlines of election news
particularly.
2.2.

Metaphors in politics

Lakoff and Johnson are pioneers who are closest to the conclusion that everyday
language is metaphorical in nature. They suggested “metaphor is pervasive in
everyday life, not just in language, but in thought and action.” Therefore, politics or
political language is also naturally metaphorical. It seems that language in political
contexts can affect attitudes of people towards political candidates and more
generally, elections (Matlock, 2012). Tennie Matlock (2012) – a very active scholar
whose interest is metaphor in political campaigns also suggested “two seemingly
subtle but powerful ways that language influences how people think about political
candidates and elections.” These two ways include grammar and metaphor.
Particularly, there are many phrases like “race”, “run”, “jogging” and “finish line”
used in political campaigns so frequently that their literal meanings fade away.
People regularly exploit them to talk about political campaigns without noticing that
they are regarded as metaphorical colors. He has also found out that motion
metaphors are pervasive in framing messages in political campaigns because "it is
in line with a large body of findings in cognitive science on how human are wired to
mentally simulate motion in all sorts of conditions, including even when nothing is
actually moving.” In terms of motion metaphors in political races, Matlock (2013)
pointed

out three

frequently-employed

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metaphorical structures, including


POLITICAL

CAMPAIGNS

ARE

RACES,

NATIONAL

POLITICS

AS

MOVEMENT, and A NATION AS VEHICLE. He continued that the investigation
of metaphors in political elections would be essential since it could “spawn or alter
beliefs about who should and who should not be in office.” This investigation is “of
great value to understanding the political mind” as well.
Lakoff (1996) has explained how and why people develop and maintain
particular belief states in the realm of politics. He came into a conclusion that
conservatives often regard the government as a father that rules his family (citizens)
with “an iron fist” when progressives consider the government as a caring and
tolerant parent who always provides its children (citizens) with instructions,
orientation, and encouragement. That is how metaphors are pervasive in political
framing.
Another group of researches (Mio, Riggio, Levin, & Reese, 2005) who kept
track of metaphors in the contexts of politics interestingly figured out that this
stylistic device was a great source of inspiration for both the electorate and the
public. These linguists suggested that it was more likely for charismatic presidents
to use metaphorical language in their inaugural addresses. Surprisingly, their study
results (Mio, Riggio, Levin, & Reese, 2005: 287) demonstrated “charismatic
presidents used nearly twice as many metaphors (adjusted for speech length) than
non-charismatic presidents.” That is how these influencing politicians inspire,
motivate, and even induce more followers.
Interestingly, it is alleged that “contemporary political discourse is packed full
of metaphors, many of which reveal important aspects of the figurative nature of
political thought” (Gibbs, 1994: 140). He further argued that “many of the
metaphors used in politics draw heavily and systematically on the languages of
sports and warfare.” The author of this MA dissertation shares the same viewpoint
with this statement as a lot of sport terms and war language are indicated among
report headlines chosen.

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Regarding the effects of metaphorical expressions in politics, Mio (1997)
implied how complicated political matters became understandable by virtue of
metaphors, yet he still wondered the degree to which voters would be willing to
change their minds after being exposed to such political messages. He noted that
most Americans were not interested in national news and that metaphors only
worked effectively as they are reached by political sophisticated citizens.
Nevertheless, that was an opinion among an ocean of ideas about the effects of
metaphors into the readers‟ minds and their political preference. There are still a lot
of secrets and hidden effects of metaphors waiting for our discovery.

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CHAPTER 2: RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
This chapter will zoom in the research methods, data collection procedures, and
data analysis in details.
2.1.

Research questions

The research is carried out in order to seek answers for the following questions:
-

How can the metaphors in the chosen newspaper headlines be categorized
based on the classification of Lakoff and Johnson?

-

What are the reasons underlying the mechanism of cognition in the chosen
metaphors?

2.2.

Research methods

The current study mainly employs qualitative methods to describe, analyze, and
evaluate how metaphors used in headlines of some electronic articles on US
presidential election campaign 2012. The research methods are identified in
accordance with the aims of the study. In addition, quantitative method is also
adopted reasonably to synthesize and count the number of each kind of metaphors,
and from there, to find out the most prevalent among three types of metaphors.
2.3.

Research procedures

The procedure of investigation undergoes several stages:
Firstly, the author finds all the headlines related to the US election event in
2012, then she selects out ones that are posted by US newspaper agencies. The
purpose of this step is to ensure that all the chosen headlines contain suitable
contents and are consistent in terms of sources. Those headlines whose contents are
relevant, but belong to the online newspapers of the UK or other countries will be
eliminated. The hidden reason is that though talking about the same event, people in
different countries may conceptualize, apply their cognitive system differently.
Secondly, report headlines which consist of no metaphors are removed.
Thirdly, all the metaphors in those political headlines are classified into three
types under the theoretical framework on metaphors (Lakoff & Johnson, 2003). It is
noticed that a news headline may contain more than one metaphor.

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Then, the research paper will show the percentage of each kind of metaphors as
well as disclose the pervasive source domains in structural metaphors.
Last, some implications in teaching and learning English, translating metaphors
are mentioned while suggestions for further research are apparently pointed out.
2.4.

Data collection and data analysis

2.4.1. Data collection
The data of this MA thesis is collected from different US online news
agencies such as Red Alert Politics, Huff Post, CNN News, USA Today, NY Times,
and CBS News. These electronic articles are authoritative newspapers keeping track
of all new developments of the US election campaign 2012. It is noted that these
public newspapers are not representative „announcers‟ of any parties in the US
government; therefore, the language used in these reports is quite neutral and
objective.
Based on the theoretical framework of Lakoff and Johnson in their seminal
work “Metaphors we live by” (2003), the MA dissertation is expected to elaborate
upon the underlying reasons behind such mechanism of cognition of American
people in those political metaphors. In other words, the writer will partly reveal why
language in those report headlines are mostly related to sport and war, uncover the
motives making sport and war language deeply integrate into such political
headlines.
In the light of cognitive linguistics and conceptual metaphors proposed by
Lakoff and Johnson, 75 relevant news headlines are selected from different
prestigious US electronic reports to analyze. Since the President Barack Obama and
the Republican candidate – Mitt Romney emerged as two most outstanding
nominees in the presidential election campaign, almost all of the headlines depict
the efforts, activities and fierce competition between these two excellent candidates.
2.4.2. Data analysis
2.4.2.1.
-

Data analytical framework

Model of the research

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The categorization of the data is carried out on the ground of Lakoff and
Johnson‟s Conceptual Metaphor Theory (2003) and their classification of three
kinds of metaphors (structural metaphors, orientational metaphors and ontological
metaphors).
Their suggestion, which is “our conceptual system is largely metaphorical”
(2003: 3), extends the limitation of metaphors from poetic language to the ordinary
language in daily life. The exploration into the use of metaphors in political election
will show the close relationship between the source domains and the equivalent
target domains as well as the reasoned connection between the source domains and
American conceptual system in political field.
-

Method of data analysis

The dissertation mainly uses qualitative methods to shed light on how metaphors
work in political headlines. After being selected, the data is explained verbally,
descriptively, impressionistically, and rather subjectively. The research is conducted
with the combination of both descriptive and explanatory methods. Besides, the
quantitative method is employed when necessary in order to identify the prevalent
kind of metaphor as well as the proportions of source domains in structural
metaphors.
Firstly, data is qualitatively analyzed as follows:
 The typical representations of metaphors in chosen political headlines
 The explanation of why election campaigns are understood and described in
such ways
 Making use of experiences of source domains in the cognitive process of
creating meaning extensions.
 Concerning some of the elements of American culture in putting forward
explanations why war and sport terms appear with the highest frequency.
Furthermore, how the proportions of kinds of metaphors, the frequencies of
source domains specify about the cognitive mechanism of American people
is also demonstrated.

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