Kollegvortrag, 24. Februar 2021

Gastvortrag – Andrew Goatly: „Metaphor and Communication: Creativity and Risk“

24. Februar 2021, 14:00 - 16:00
Anmeldung per Mail an baharova@uni-trier.de
Andrew Goatly

The DFG Center for Advanced Studies “Russian-Language Poetry in Transition” (FOR 2603) cordially invites you to a lecture with Prof. Dr. Andrew Goatly streamed live via Zoom. Please register by e-mail with our coordinator Katja Baharova (baharova@uni-trier.de) no later than February 23rd, 2021, to receive the stream’s access data.


All communication is risky, and metaphor, being novel language use is, perhaps, especially so. Relevance Theory, one theory of pragmatics, highlights the uncertainty in communication, and provides a useful framework for interpretation.  However it fails to take into account that degrees of risk vary according to genre, and the purposes inherent in a genre. Metaphors in different genres can be shown to tolerate different degrees of risk. This is related to metaphor’s different purposes or effects in different genres: for instance, explanation in popular science, intimacy in conversation, and “informativeness” in poetry.

If we can describe creativity as the surprising, the risky, and the new, metaphor seems to be inherently creative. But metaphor is not an either/or matter and its creativity can be related to different degrees or clines of metaphoricity: (1) semantic distance, (2) conventionality, (3) contradictoriness, (4) marking, and (5) explicitness. The surprise factor of contradictoriness (3) may be reduced by marking (4). The riskiness factor will be reduced by explicitness (5). There will be limits to newness with concretising metaphors on the semantic distance scale (1) which rely on conventionality (2). This is illustrated by analysis of the poem One Flesh, by Elizabeth Jennings. But transfer metaphors, relying on similarity or analogy involving concrete objects on the semantic distance scale (1) can be more creative, as illustrated with examples from Ted Hughes and Shakespeare.

Although novel metaphor is essentially creative, we can conclude that its communicative use involves degrees of creativity in different genres, with poetry, unlike, say, popular science, the most risky.


After studying English at Oxford University, and obtaining his PhD at University College London, supervised by the late Randolph Quirk, Andrew Goatly embarked on a teaching and research career in colleges and universities in the UK, Rwanda, Thailand, Singapore, Austria, and Hong Kong. He is now retired in Canterbury, UK, but remains an Honorary Professor of Lingnan University, Hong Kong. His books include The Language of Metaphors (Routledge 1997, revised edition 2011), Critical Reading and Writing in the Digital Age (2nd edition with Preet Hiradhar, Routledge 2016), Washing the Brain: Metaphor and Hidden Ideology (Benjamins 2007), Explorations in Stylistics (Equinox 2008), and Meaning and Humour (Cambridge 2012). He has compiled a useful online interactive database of lexicalized metaphors in English, Metalude (Metaphor at Lingnan University Department of English). At present he is working on two new books: Two Modes of Meaning: metaphor, metonymy and life as we know it, and Metaphor, Metonymy and Lexicogenesis.