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Professor Elena Semino

Metaphors, and why they matter – creating a better normal

I will talk about metaphor as a central tool for communication and reasoning. Whether consciously or not, we regularly use metaphors to talk about subjective and complex phenomena in terms of more concrete and clear-cut experiences. For example, we talk about life as a journey, negative emotions as being down, and illness as an enemy. I will explain why this is and why it matters, especially in communication about sensitive topics. The talk builds on my experience of researching the use of metaphors in communication about cancer, pain, Covid-19 and climate change, as well as on experimental research that shows how the metaphors we are exposed to influence the ways in which we think and feel about problems and their possible solutions.



Elena Semino is Professor of Linguistics and Verbal Art in the Department of Linguistics and English Language at Lancaster University (UK), and Director of the ESRC Centre for Corpus Approaches to Social Science. She is a Fellow of the UK’s Academy of Social Sciences. She specializes in health communication, medical humanities, corpus linguistics, stylistics, narratology and metaphor theory and analysis. She is currently leading projects on communication about psychosis, chronic pain and vaccinations.

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