Metaphor Analysis

2013 / Project Head: Prof. Dr. Dr. Michael B. Buchholz


Project Description

Metaphor analysis is based on the concepts and developments in so-called "cognitive linguistics", as developed by the former Chomsky student George Lakoff in numerous works which have met with a great response.

I myself have been able to publicise metaphor analysis in Germany, with my first comprehensive publication on the subject being released in 1993. This brought together several texts on metaphor analysis – which today are regarded as classics – that were not only of interest to psychoanalysts but which were even penned to some extent by psychoanalysts. This however is of little wonder, as the metaphor is a highly interesting rhetorical figure, the position of which was already pointed out by Freud.

In a work written in 1996 ("Metaphern der Kur"/Metaphors of the Cure; reissued in 2003), I was able to methodically expatiate in detail on metaphor analysis and show that as an instrument of qualitative research it is not only suitable for the analysis of interviews, but also to analyse naturalistic conversation situations. I demonstrated the latter in the book in a complete analysis of a 30-hour short-term therapy. Numerous other works have been published in this respect which deal with subjects, such as "metaphors of the ego", "metaphors of the unconscious", "metaphors in a therapeutic dialogue", and provide connections between psychoanalysis and its highly developed theory construction with the "embodiment" concepts of the cognitive sciences.

The combining of metaphor analysis with the linguistic instruments developed, such as conversation analysis as it has occurred in ethnomethodology and the qualitative method of narrative analysis, proved to be convincingly successful in a major study on sexual offenders (together with Franziska Lamott and Kathrin Mörtl in 2008). It proved possible to demonstrate in a range of facets that the unique rhetorical manner of speaking of these people served as a psychodynamic defence. This was the first study worldwide which assessed forms of speech and presentation and worked towards a linguistic marker which could be used as an indication of whether a sexual offender registers appropriate processing or not. The combining of the three methods named as KANAMA has been shown to be able to provide an indication of mental processing which can be taken into account in a release prognosis. Since then, KANAMA has been acknowledged in several manual articles as an autonomous method of qualitative research.

As 20 years have passed since the first publication in 1993, the time is now ripe to release a further editor's volume; especially the findings in neuroscientific metaphor research deserve to be integrated here. The volume, to which among others the author Arthur Jacobs (neuropsychologist and speech psychologist at the FU Berlin University) has agreed to contribute, as well as representatives of the so-called multimodal metaphor research and psychoanalytical clinicians, is due for release in spring 2014. The book is in the compilation stage with contributions currently being viewed and copyedited, with the final editing work still to be completed. However almost all of the contributions have already been submitted to me as the editor.

The works, at times as unpublished texts to date, deal with the embedding of metaphors in moods or sentiments during ongoing conversations; they describe the acquisition of metaphoric competency from a developmental psychology perspective and connect this view with the findings in the concepts of mentalisation (Fonagy) and the new theories of evolutionary anthropology (Tomasello). They document neuroscientific research on metaphors, as well as clinical contributions.