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Metaphors we read by: Finding metaphorical conceptualizations of reading in web 2.0 book reviews

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Abstract

While interdisciplinary research on metaphor is abundant (Eggs, 2000; Semino & Demjén, 2017; Veale et al., 2016), it is still scarce in Digital Humanities. At the intersection of literary studies, corpus stylistics, and digital humanities, we present an exploratory quantitative metaphor analysis of a corpus of German language lay book reviews. Using a deliberately simple methodological approach that operates on seed words for conceptual sources and targets we investigate how reading experiences of literary texts are metaphorically presented by reviewers. We explore a corpus of approx. 1.3 mill. book reviews for metaphors used to conceptualize the target domain READING EXPERIENCE. In line with conceptual metaphor theory, metaphors in language are understood as closely linked to human thought processes and experiences (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980, pp. 4–6; Shutova, 2017). They are mappings from typically more basic experiential source domains (LIFE) to more abstract target domains (READING EXPERIENCE), indicated by indirectly used lexis (the words come, end, and road in “we've come to the end of our road”, VUAMC, Steen et al., 2010). Starting from findings on literature reviews in English (Stockwell, 2009; Nuttall & Harrison, 2018) and on reviews in German (Köhler, 1999), we analyze metaphor patterns in social reading networks, with a particular focus on the mapping READING EXPERIENCE IS MOTION. The main aim at this stage is to draw up a first typology of mappings.
Metaphors we read by: Finding metaphorical conceptualizations of reading in web 2.0
book reviews
Introduction
While interdisciplinary research on metaphor is abundant (Eggs, 2000; Semino & Demjén, 2017;
Veale et al., 2016), it is still scarce in Digital Humanities. At the intersection of literary studies,
corpus stylistics, and digital humanities, we present an exploratory quantitative metaphor
analysis of a corpus of German language lay book reviews. Using a deliberately simple
methodological approach that operates on seed words for conceptual sources and targets we
investigate how reading experiences of literary texts are metaphorically presented by reviewers.
We explore a corpus of approx. 1.3 mill. book reviews for metaphors used to conceptualize the
target domain READING EXPERIENCE.
In line with conceptual metaphor theory, metaphors in language are understood as closely
linked to human thought processes and experiences (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980, pp. 4–6;
Shutova, 2017). They are mappings from typically more basic experiential source domains
(LIFE) to more abstract target domains (READING EXPERIENCE), indicated by indirectly used
lexis (the words come, end, and road in “we've come to the end of our road”, VUAMC, Steen et
al., 2010).
Starting from findings on literature reviews in English (Stockwell, 2009; Nuttall & Harrison, 2018)
and on reviews in German (Köhler, 1999), we analyze metaphor patterns in social reading
networks, with a particular focus on the mapping READING EXPERIENCE IS MOTION. The
main aim at this stage is to draw up a first typology of mappings.
Method and Data
Metaphor Identification
In view of the challenges of reliable automatic metaphor detection (Veale et al., 2016), we apply
a deliberately simple rule-based corpus stylistic approach (Deignan & Semino, 2010). A
commonly used resource for identification of metaphorical lexical items per source domain is
semi-automatic semantic tagging (Demmen et al., 2015). However, in the absence of an out-of-
the-box semantic tagger for German, we rely on a ‘traditional’ onomasiological resource
(Dornseiff, 2004). Metaphors are identified by (1) detecting seed words for target domains, (2a-
c) detecting source domain seed words in the textual neighborhood of target domain seed
words: the metaphor vehicles. Potential metaphors are examined and assigned to a typology of
mappings by inspection of KWICs (3).
Step 1. To identify target domain seed words, we compile a list of ‘objects of reading
experience’ (OREs), i.e. noun lemmas that refer to aspects of reading (literary works, such as
Buch ‘book’, Geschichte ‘story’, Roman ‘novel’ and parts thereof, such as Ende ‘ending’ or
Spannung ‘suspense’, see Table 1).
Step 2. (2a) Potential source domains are pre-identified by manual MIPVU annotation of small
samples of the data (cf. Herrmann et al., in press), and the literature on ‘reading’ metaphors
(e.g. Nuttall & Harrison, 2018). For the present paper, we focus on conceptualizations of reading
experiences as MOTION (see Herrmann & Messerli, submitted, for metaphor vehicles from the
domain FOOD INTAKE). (2b) The lexical access points to the MOTION domain are provided by
a word list extracted from Dornseiff (2004) for the semantic field Fortbewegung (8.3, see Table
2). (2c) To find potential metaphor vehicles that refer to ORE (and not to some other referent),
cooccurrences are computed between
‘motion’ lemmas and ORE, with a window of 10 lemmas around ORE (using raw frequencies,
see Table 3).
1
Step 3. From the resulting frequency list of potential ‘motion’-metaphor vehicles (n= 389,689) a
sub-section of the most common lemmas is examined by means of KWICs to determine
whether potential vehicles were indeed used metaphorically. In a qualitative step, we infer
usage patterns from the resulting true metaphor positives (Table 4).
Data
The LoBo corpus (extracted from the social reading platform “Lovelybooks”) contains approx.
1.3 mill. German language reviews by 54,000 users, amounting to 439,923,000 words (Table 4),
spread over 15 genres. Each review features a rating (15 stars) that refers to a specific book.
The corpus is lemmatized and PoS-tagged with TreeTagger (Schmid, 1994), and encoded in
CWB (http://cwb.sourceforge.net/).
Table 4. Overview of word frequencies of ORE and source domain seed words in LoBo
Analysis
A first result is a list of those lemmas from the semantic field Fortbewegung ‘motion’ that occur
frequently within a window of ten words of ORE. While it does not yet allow for conclusive
results regarding metaphor use, this list serves as an intermediary step towards identifying a
multitude of MOTION metaphors for subsequent analysis establishing a typology of mapping
patterns.
The analysis of KWICs shows that certain manners of motion are particularly frequent. Notable
are the motions of walking, flying, and driving/riding, realized with the lemmas gehen ‘to go’,
fliegen ‘to fly’, and Fahrt ‘ride/drive’. Notable is variance of ‘speed, with fast motion (Fahrt,
fliegen), and slower motion (gehen).
Another important observation is about agency within the metaphorical scenario. Readers
position themselves mainly as (a) observers who see how the plot moves along; (b) agents who
actively ‘walk’ and ‘fly’ through the story (or a book’s pages); (c) patients being put in motion by
the book; and (d) companions who travel along with an ORE (see Table 5). Findings
1
Our aim here is not the identification of phraseological units by significance tests against chance
distribution (Mutual Information, DICE, and log-likelihood). Rather, raw frequencies allow us to define a
window of reference for metaphor vehicles.
demonstrate the complexity of reading that cannot be restricted to passive reception or
hedonistic consumption (cf. Rebora et al., 2019).
In all, our study offers a first typology of metaphorical MOTION-mappings in digital shared
reading, as well as evidence of the productivity of MOTION as a source domain for READING in
German lay reviews (cf. Nuttall & Harrison, 2019, for English reviews). Extending this
exploratory phase into statistical analysis, we plan variance analysis with factors as reader’s
evaluation (star ratings) and book genre (e.g., middle brow vs. popular). Methodologically, we
plan to improve precision of metaphor detection, e.g. by including semantic information from
resources such as GermaNet, but also through active learning. Generally, further examination of
metaphors will allow valuable insight into underlying conceptual and value systems in reader
reviews.
References
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... There are ongoing efforts to take into account implicit sentiment (e.g. figurative speech) in online amateur reviews (Berenike and Messerli 2019). Cultural analytics approaches (Walsh and Antoniak 2021) target amateur criticism in a similar large-scale way, though without ABSA. ...
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The Routledge Handbook of Metaphor and Language provides a comprehensive overview of state-of-the-art interdisciplinary research on metaphor and language. Featuring 35 chapters written by leading scholars from around the world, the volume takes a broad view of the field of metaphor and language, and brings together diverse and distinct theoretical and applied perspectives to cover six key areas: Theoretical approaches to metaphor and language, covering Conceptual Metaphor Theory, Relevance Theory, Blending Theory and Dynamical Systems Theory; Methodological approaches to metaphor and language, discussing ways of identifying metaphors in verbal texts, images and gestures, as well as the use of corpus linguistics; Formal variation in patterns of metaphor use across text types, historical periods and languages; Functional variation of metaphor, in contexts including educational, commercial, scientific and political discourse, as well as online trolling; The applications of metaphor for problem solving, in business, education, healthcare and conflict situations; Language, metaphor, and cognitive development, examining the processing and comprehension of metaphors. The Routledge Handbook of Language and Metaphor is a must-have survey of this key field, and is essential reading for those interested in language and metaphor.
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Die vorliegende Arbeit setzt sich zum Ziel, das Problem der sprachlichen Wertung in zeitgenössischen journalistischen Rezensionen literarischer Neuerscheinungen zu untersuchen. Im Mittelpunkt des Interesses stehen die Fragen: Nach welchen Wertkriterien wird Literatur bewertet und mit welchem Vokabular bzw. welchen Wörtern und Metaphern? Dabei soll innerhalb der Wertkriterien nicht nochmals nach Bewertungsaspekten der bewerteten Literatur, wie z.B. Aufbau, Inhalt, Darstellung, unterschieden werden. Das Textkorpus setzt sich zusammen aus 263 Rezensionen der FAZ, der SZ und der ZEIT aus dem Jahr 1988, einschließlich der Literaturbeilagen im Frühjahr, Herbst und Winter. 101 Rezensionen stammen aus der FAZ, 98 aus der SZ und 64 aus der ZEIT, darunter 95 Rezensionen zu Romanen, 117 zu Erzählungen, Kurzprosa, Novellen, Briefen, 30 zu Lyrikbänden, 14 zu Aphorismen und Fragmenten, drei zu Lyrik- bzw. Prosabänden mit Bildern, drei zu Parodien und Sprachspielereien und eine zu einem Drama. -
Frankfurt am Main: Campus
  • G Genette
Genette, G. (1989). Paratexte: Das Buch vom Beiwerk des Buches. (D. Honig, transl.). Frankfurt am Main: Campus.