Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and lakoff's conceptual metaphor theory
Our understanding of metaphor in language and thought has been reshaped, and the Conceptual Metaphor Theory (CMT), proposed by Lakoff and Johnson has become one of the most widely accepted views. The CMT claims that our conceptual system is organised in metaphors, and that these are reflected in language. According to Lakoff (1995), in the domain of American politics, there are a number of basic metaphor schemas that underlie the conceptual systems of Democrats and Republicans. For instance, MORALITY AS EMPATHY, and MORALITY AS STRENGTH, respectively. This paper aimed at finding linguistic evidence of those conceptual systems in Hillary Clinton’s and Donald Trump’s speeches in a corpus comprising two speeches by each. To that effect, I have grouped the five most pervasive metaphor schemas in the language they use, and observed to what extent they fit in with Lakoff’s schemas. Results showed that none of the ten coincided with Lakoff’s lists of source metaphors for either party. Instead, the schemas identified dealt with more basic conceptual domains such as WAR and SPATIAL DIRECTIONS. For example, the POLITICS IS WAR metaphor is portrayed in Clinton's phrase: ‘Those rules have been under assault by Republicans in Congress and those running for president.’ The data appeared to suggest that the incoherence between my findings and Lakoff's theory was due to the discrepancy in an important premise: his metaphors systematically have MORALITY as the target domain. Thus, I resolved to perform a second examination in which I accepted MORALITY as the target domain of the discourses. The aim was to, having taken a step closer to his theory, newly attempt to find linguistic evidence of Lakoff's underlying conceptual schemas. The results indicate that his concepts are evident in the general content of the speeches. However, most of the expressions instantiating the schemas are not conveyed in a language that involves mapping between a source domain and a more abstract target domain, in this case MORALITY, and so cannot be said to be metaphorical in his own terms. On the basis of the findings, I suggest that although Lakoff states that the metaphors structuring our conceptual systems are mirrored in language, when he offers a description of the prototypical conceptual systems of Clinton and Trump, the metaphors constituting them are meagerly manifested in the respective speeches. I therefore haven’t found evidence to support Lakoff’s proposal to apply CMT to political discourse.