On the (not so) persuasive potential of metaphorical language in news media communication. Framing the Latin-American migration debate through metaphor

Start - End 
2021 - 2024 (ongoing)
Type 
Department(s) 
Department of Linguistics
Research Focus 

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Abstract

The persuasive function of metaphorical language has long been taken for granted, both inside and outside of the field of linguistics. Due to their ability to structure more abstract topics in terms of more concrete domains of experience, thereby ‘highlighting’ some aspects of the conversation topic while ‘hiding’ others, metaphors promoted in (mass) media are held to represent a potent tool for influencing people’s way of thinking, feeling and acting in relation to complex socio-political issues, such as migration. Yet, in recent years, this presumption has increasingly come under fire on the grounds of its unstable empirical foundations and the emergence of conflicting experimental evidence. In view of this, the current project aims to shed light on this highly-debated persuasive potential of policy metaphors harnessed in the media’s discourse and their capacity to impact public opinion formation. Using the US-based, Spanish-language newspaper El Diario’s coverage of the Latin-American migration debate about DACA as an empirical case study, it seeks to address shortcomings of prior critical metaphor approaches. Rather than solely relying on a close-text analysis to make claims about metaphors’ ideological motivations and impact, it takes real media producers and consumers seriously in its account of observed metaphorical patterns. To this end, this project incorporates multiple methods, combining corpus-based discourse analysis with ethnographic fieldwork, a focus group and an experimental design.

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