Metaphorical (in)coherence in discourse

Yeshayahu Shen*, Noga Balaban

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article introduces a critique of a version of the conceptual metaphor (CM) view (e.g., Lakoff & Johnson, 1980), regarding the issue of metaphorical coherence in natural discourse. The issue at stake is: Are metaphorical expressions in natural discourse coherently or incoherently distributed in discourse? The hypothesis derived from the theories developed by certain proponents of the CM view is that the occurrence of a conventional metaphorical expression (e.g., "We have reached a crossroads in our relationship") that instantiates a certain root or conceptual conventional metaphor (e.g., LOVE IS A JOURNEY) will support the use of consistent metaphorical expressions, that is, expressions belonging with the same root metaphors (e.g., "Let's change direction"). In this study, we compared 15 randomly selected passages taken from daily newspapers to a baseline of 15 newspaper passages that marked their deliberate, explicit use of an underlying root metaphor. Contrary to the prediction derived from (a certain version of) the CM view, we found significant differences between the 2 samples. These findings are discussed in light of a recent debate over the role played by conceptual metaphors in language use.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-153
Number of pages15
JournalDiscourse Processes
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1999


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