Interdisziplinäres Zentrum für Kognitive Sprachforschung

Links und Funktionen



Abstract Ahrens & Chung

Establishing Cognitive Models with Small Corpora: Case Study of U.S. Political Speeches

One issue of particular concern in conceptual metaphor theory has to do with establishing the basis for a certain cognitive models. That is, it is necessary to avoid circularity in postulating a cognitive model based on conceptual metaphors and then saying that the conceptual metaphors underlie the cognitive model. This can be avoided if it is first shown through lexical frequency and collocation that a particular cognitive model exists and parameters can be drawn that can describe the model without referring to metaphors. Next, source-target domain pairings can be established and then related to the model without running the risk of circularity.

To test this hypothesis, I use the corpora from the State of the Union Addresses for American presidents from 1980-2006 and radio addresses for the same period, and demonstrate that is a different pattern of lexical frequency and collocation for lexemes relating to ‘strength’ and ‘nurturance/empathy.’ These particular lexemes were chosen based on Lakoff’s (2002) proposal that Democrats and Republicans have different world views that can be seen through their choice of conceptual metaphors relating to NATION IS A FAMILY, with Republicans favoring a ‘Strict Father’ model and Democrats favoring a ‘Nurturing Parent’ model. Lakoff suggests that the main underlying conceptual metaphor is MORALITY IS STRENGTH for the ‘Strict Father’ model and MORALITY IS EMPATHY for the ‘Nurturing Parent’ model; however, to date, there is no linguistic data to support his hypothesis. Using a corpora, however, and delimiting search terms will allow us to look at the frequency of the keywords as well as their collocation patterns. In sum, this paper suggests that small, narrowly focused corpora are suitable for identifying different conceptual worldviews through an examination of lexical frequency, and collocation.



Lakoff, George. 2002. Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think. Chicago: Chicago University Press.