‘Eyebrow heads’ and ‘yummy mummies’: Metaphor and Second Language Learning

  • Jeannette Littlemore


Metaphor and metonymy constitute two cognitive processes which lie at the heart of much human thought and communication. In very basic terms, metaphor draws on relations of substitution and similarity whereas metonymy draws on relations of contiguity. In metaphor, one thing is seen in terms of another and the role of the interpreter is to identify points of similarity allowing, for example, a football commentator to describe a particularly easy victory as being ‘a walk in the park for The Reds’. In metonymy, an entity is used to refer to something that it is actually related to, For example, ‘Hollywood’ refers to the American film industry and ‘Wall Street’ refers to America’s financial services sector. Jakobson (1971) famously argued that metaphor and metonymy constitute two fundamental poles of human thought, a fact which can be witnessed through their prevalence in all symbolic systems, including art, language, music and sculpture. More often than not, metaphor and metonymy work together and are so deeply embedded in the language we use that we do not always notice them. However, languages vary both in the extent to which, and the ways in which, they employ metaphor and metonymy, and this can have important ramifications for those endeavouring to acquire a second language.


Language Learner Target Domain Source Domain Conceptual Metaphor Language Classroom 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Copyright information

© Jeannette Littlemore 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeannette Littlemore
    • 1
  1. 1.University of BirminghamUK

Personalised recommendations