Food for thought?

Metaphors are a familiar feature of poetry, but over the last forty years it has become increasingly obvious that they are also a fundamental aspect of everyday language, and beyond that a fundamental aspect of thought. We can neither express our emotions in any detail without metaphor (in a state of depression, a fiery temper) nor conceptualise complex scientific ideas without them (internet, black hole). Conversely we can convey our thirst for knowledge so much more clearly because everyone knows what it feels like to be thirsty.

Many disciplines are now engaging in research on metaphor – but they don’t always share the same language in talking about it, they interrogate it from different perspectives, and they may not always be talking about quite the same thing. We also know too little about concepts of metaphor across languages. This research project will work across disciplines and languages in order to address the following questions:

Is metaphor a universal phenomenon across languages, and how does it manifest itself in different cultures?

How does metaphor work at the interface between cognition, embodiment and language?

How is linguistic creativity conceptualised, and to what extent may metaphor facilitate creativity?

Related content

The Creative Power of Metaphor conference: multimedia output (including films of keynote speakers and roundtables, plus short interviews with poster presenters).

Watch short documentaries about: Metaphor and Linguistic Diversity, Metaphor and Emotion, Metaphor and Communication, and Metaphor and Creativity.

What is metaphor, and how does it work?

Blog posts on metaphor

The Creative Power of Metaphor: conference overview

Figurative frames in political communication

Do you have butterflies in your stomach or little deers jumping in your heart?

The words of the prophets are written on subway walls: metaphor and graffiti

Words and images: a royal wedding?

Metaphor activity: what do you think of Modern Languages


Werkmann Horvat, A., Bolognesi, M., & Kohl, K. The status of conventional metaphorical meaning in the L2 lexicon. Intercultural Pragmatics. Accepted for publication in 2021–22.

Werkmann Horvat, A; Bolognesi, M; Kohl, K. “Creativity is is a Toaster: Experimental Evidence on How Multilinguals Process Novel Metaphors. Applied Linguistics pp. 1–25. 2021: DOI: 10.1093/applin/amab002.

Werkmann Horvat, A; Bolognesi, M; Lahiri, A. Processing of literal and metaphorical meanings in polysemous verbs: An experiment and its methodological implications. Journal of Pragmatics 171, pp. 131–46. 2021. DOI: 10.1016/j.pragma.2020.10.007.

Kohl, K; Bolognesi, M; Werkmann Horvat, A. The Creative Power of Metaphor. In K. Kohl, Rajinder Dudrah et al. (eds). Creative Multilingualism, pp. 25-46. Cambridge: Open Book Publishers. 2020.

Bolognesi, M. “Review of Perception metaphors, edited by Laura J. Speed, Carolyn O'Meara, Lila San Roque and Asifa Majid. Amsterdam: Benjamins Publishers.” Journal of Pragmatics 155, pp. 160–2. 2020. DOI: 10.1016/j.pragma.2019.11.003

Bolognesi, M; Lievers, F S.  “How language and image construct synaesthetic metaphors in print advertising.” Visual Communication 19.4. pp.431–47. 2020. DOI: 10.1177/1470357218782001.

Bolognesi, M. “Review of Multimodal Metaphor and Metonymy in Advertising by Paula Pérez Sobrino.” Language and Cognition 10.3, pp.552–9. 2018. DOI: 10.1017/langcog.2018.14.

Cavazzana, A; Bolognesi, M. “Uncanny Resemblance. Words, pictures, and conceptual representations in the field of metaphor.” Cognitive Linguistic Studies 7. 1, pp. 31-57. 2020. DOI: 10.1075/cogls.00048.cav.

Kohl, K. “In the red evening:  A poetic challenge to society from the stuff of experience.” TLS. 2019.

Stampoulidis, G; Bolognesi, M. “Bringing metaphors back to the streets: A corpus-based study for the identification and interpretation of rhetorical figures in street art.” Visual Communication. 2019. DOI10.1177/1470357219877538.

Stampoulidis, G; Bolognesi, M; Zlatev, J. “A Cognitive Semiotic Exploration of Metaphors in Greek Street Art.” Cognitive Semiotics 12.1. 2019. DOI: 10.1515/cogsem-2019-2008.