Jeannette Littlemore is a Professor of Applied Linguistics in the Department of English Language and Linguistics at the University of Birmingham.
The title of Jeannette's RaAM 2020 keynote address is Variation in the creative use of metaphor and metonymy
In this three-part talk I will explore variation in the production and interpretation of creative metaphor and metonymy. The talk will draw on findings from a range of studies that I have conducted, alone and with others, that draw on data from academic and real-world, linguistic and multimodal, monolingual and multilingual settings.
In first part of the talk, I will use examples from some of our work to explore what is meant by ‘creative metaphor and metonymy’. Here, I will discuss the variety of ways in which these tropes can be used creatively, moving beyond the traditional idea of juxtaposing novel source and target domains. I will look at whether we can draw a distinction between creative metaphors and metonyms per se and creative uses of metaphor and metonymy. I will discuss questions such as: At what level of analysis should the decision be made about whether or not a trope is creative? And to what extent do the criteria for distinguishing between creative and conventional metonymy resemble those used for distinguishing between creative and conventional metaphor? I will also discuss the interplay between form-focussed creativity and meaning-focussed creativity in the context of metaphor and metonymy, and ask if it is useful to make such a distinction.
I will then turn my attention to individual differences in the production and interpretation of creative metaphor and metonymy, reporting on a number of empirical studies that I have conducted, alone and with others, into the ways in which factors such as gender, cultural background, multilingualism and synaesthesia shape the ways in which people work with different kinds of creative metaphor and metonymy. The findings from these studies suggest ways in which factors such as empathy, emotion, and experience interact to shape the associative networks that people draw on when working with creative tropes.
In the final part of the talk, I will turn my attention to studies that we have conducted using ‘real-world’ data to explore the different ways in which people respond to creative metaphor and metonymy in everyday settings, and the different factors that drive the creative production of these tropes. Here I will discuss findings from studies that we have conducted in collaboration with advertising agencies investigating the various ways in which people combine different semiotic resources when interpreting creative metaphor and metonymy. I will also discuss the ways in which people make creative use of metaphor and metonymy to express positive and negative evaluation, to describe challenging incidents, and to come to terms with traumatic emotional experiences.
I will draw together the findings from this three-part talk to identify factors that appear to drive the creative production of metaphor and metonymy (such as the need to express and share evaluation, emotion, and traumatic experiences) and factors that appear to shape variation in the associative networks that lead to variation in people’s responses to creative uses of metaphor and metonymy (such as age, gender, and multilingualism). I will then discuss the implications of this for the ways in which the creative use of metaphor and metonymy shapes, and may ultimately improve, people’s lives.
Jeannette's research focuses on metaphor and metonymy and explores the facilitative and debilitative role played by metaphor and metonymy in language education and in cross-linguistic and cross-cultural communication more generally. She is interested in the creative use of metaphor and metonymy and in the ways in which figurative meaning is negotiated by speakers with different kinds of background knowledge and different emotional experiences.
Her monographs include: Metaphors in the Mind: Sources of Variation in Embodied Metaphor (Cambridge University Press, 2019), Metonymy: Hidden Shortcuts in Language, Thought and Communication (Cambridge University Press, 2015); Figurative Language, Genre and Register (with Alice Deignan and Elena Semino, Cambridge University Press, 2013); Doing Applied Linguistics (with Nicholas Groom, Routledge 2011); Applying Cognitive Linguistics to Second Language Learning and Teaching (Palgrave MacMillan, 2009) and Figurative Thinking and Foreign Language Learning (with Graham Low, Palgrave MacMillan, 2006). She is currently working on a new monograph: Unpacking Creativity: The Role of Figurative Communication in Advertising, (with Paula Perez-Sobrino, Cambridge University Press).