What is it about?

Metaphors can always be (re)formulated in a TARGET A IS SOURCE B format; their meaning arises from "mapping" one or more salient features of the source onto the target. In the metaphor "football is war" features qualifying for mapping from WAR onto FOOTBALL include "requiring sacrifices," "involving attacks, victims and cruelty," and "ruthlessness." Any object or phenomenon that evokes clear-cut associations within a community of users can function as the source domain of a metaphor, since these associations can be used for mapping onto the target domain. The activation of associations, in turn, presupposes that the source domain is identifiable via one or more modes/modalities. While the verbal mode, in its written or spoken varieties, has received ample attention, and the visual mode is also now theorized more broadly, non-verbal sound and music as (source)domain-cueing modes/modalities still await exploration. The present chapter demonstrates that sound and music can play a role in multimodal metaphor by (1) cuing a source domain; and/or (2) triggering mappable connotations of a source domain signaled in another mode. Ten examples of multimodal metaphors involving sound and music from two different genres (advertising and film) are discussed.

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Why is it important?

Sound and music are heavily undertheorized modes in multimodal metaphor theory. This chapter is a first attempt to get this topic on the agenda.


I am not at all an expert on sound or music. But I find that the few musicologists that have written on the role of music in metaphor tend to be difficult to understand by scholars not versed in music theory. So this is an attempt to write about the topics for non-experts.

Dr Charles Forceville
Universiteit van Amsterdam

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Chapter 16. The role of non-verbal sound and music in multimodal metaphor, September 2009, De Gruyter,
DOI: 10.1515/9783110215366.6.383.
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