What may words say, or what may words not saya corpus-based approach to linguistic action

  1. Martínez Vázquez, Montserrat
Alicante Journal of English Studies / Revista Alicantina de Estudios Ingleses: RAEI

ISSN: 0214-4808 2171-861X

Year of publication: 2005

Issue: 18

Pages: 189-214

Type: Article

DOI: 10.14198/RAEI.2005.18.09 DIALNET GOOGLE SCHOLAR lock_openRUA editor

More publications in: Alicante Journal of English Studies / Revista Alicantina de Estudios Ingleses: RAEI


In this paper I present an empirical approach to the analysis of the way English speakers conceptualize the communicative process in English. Most linguistic expressions about language in English are surface manifestations of what Reddy termed the "conduit metaphor". Reddy's model implies several interrelated cognitive associations: words are conceived as containers in which speakers introduce their ideas and send them to listeners, who will take these ideas out of these containers. Central to this model is the metaphor words are containers. It has also been claimed that there are other ways of perspectivizing the language process apart from the notion of containment (Vanparys 1995). In fact, Reddy himself notes that there is approximately a 30% of metalanguage not based on the conduit metaphor. The pervasiveness of the container metaphor would reasonably be most directly tested in expressions with the lexeme word. In order to measure what falls inside and outside these containers I carry out a corpus analysis of the lexeme word excerpted from the British National Corpus (BNC). The systematic evidence obtained from a large but delimited corpus gives us more reliable information about the frequency and use of this metaphor than an intuition based analysis or an arbitrary search in multi-source corpora.