The role of metaphors in the teaching of German as a foreign language


Abstract – Philosophers and linguists have always been aware of the importance of metaphor in the development of thought and language. However it was the founders of cognitive theories of metaphor Lakoff and Johnson (1980), who first focused their analyses on metaphors in everyday language. Their work generated great interest in many disciplines including psycho-linguistics where recent studies regarding first and second language acquisition have engaged with the role of metaphor in these processes (Mandler 1992, 2000, Butzkamm and Butzkamm 1999, respectively).

Within the ambit of foreign language teaching research, studies on metaphor have led to an orientation towards objectives regarding not just verbal fluency but also conceptual metaphoric fluency (Beißner 2002; Bellavia 2007, 2011; Boers & Lindstromberg 2008; Danesi 1993, 1995, 1998; Lazar 1996; Rösler 1985).

This work is based on the assumption that a language pedagogy in line with the results of this research in linguistics and psycho-linguistics must consider its objectives to include the development of schemata and metaphorical associations as stable contents of learner memory to be drawn upon during the comprehension and production of texts. It will also offer several exercise types aimed at the development of “metaphoric competence” in German as a foreign language.

Keywords: metaphor, image schema, cognitive linguistics, foreign language teaching and learning, German as a foreign language.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i22390359v11p7


Aitchison J. 1997, Wörter im Kopf. Eine Einführung in das mentale Lexikon, Max Niemeyer Verlag, Tübingen.

Balboni P. 1999, Dizionario di Glottodidattica, Guerra, Perugia.

Baldauf C. 1997, Metapher und Kognition, Peter Lang, Frankfurt/Main.

Bartlett F. C., 1932, Remembering: A study in experimental and social psychology, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Beißner K. 2002, I see what you mean - Metaphorische Konzepte in der (fremdsprachlichen) Bedeutungskonstruktion, Peter Lang, Frankfurt/Main.

Bellavia E. 1996, The German über, in Pütz M., Dirven R. (eds.), The Construal of Space in Language and Thought, Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin, New York, pp. 73-107.

Bellavia E. 1997, Metaphern der Alltagssprache, in Bredella L., H. Christ, M. Legutke (Hgg.), Thema Fremdverstehen, Gunter Narr, Tübingen, pp. 216-236.

Bellavia E. 2007, Erfahrung, Imagination und Sprache, Gunter Narr, Tübingen.

Boers F. 2000, Metaphor awareness and vocabulary retention, in „Applied Linguistics“, 21, pp. 553-571.

Boers F., M. Demecheleer 1998, A cognitive semantic approach to teaching prepositions, in „ELT Journal“, 52 (3), pp. 197-204.

Börner W., K. Vogel 1994, Mentales Lexikon und Lernersprache, in Börner W., Vogel K. (Hgg.) (1994), Kognitive Linguistik und Fremdsprachenerwerb. Das mentale Lexikon, Gunter Narr Verlag, Tübingen.

Bowerman M. 1985, What shapes children’s grammar?, in Slobin D. (ed.), The cross-linguistic study of language acquisition, Erlbaum, Hillsdale.

Bowerman M. 1993, Learning a semantic system: What role do cognitive predispositions play?, in Bloom P. (ed.), Language acquisition: Core readings. Harvester Wheatsheaf, New York, pp. 329-363.

Bowerman M. 1996, The origins of children’s spatial semantic categories: cognitive versus linguistic determinants, in Gumperz J., Levinson S. C. (eds.), “Rethinking Linguistic Relativity, Studies in the Social and Cultural Foundations of Language”, 17, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 145-176.

Bransford J. D., J. Merieta 1972, Contextual Prerequisites for Understanding: Some Investigations for Comprehension and Recall, in “Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behaviour”, 11, pp. 771-96.

Brugman C. 1983, The Story of Over, LAUT, Trier.

Butzkamm W. 1989, Psycholinguistik des Fremdsprachenunterrichts, Francke, Tübingen.

Butzkamm W., Butzkamm J. 1999, Wie Kinder sprechen lernen, Francke, Tübingen, Basel.

Casadei F. 1996, Metafore ed espressioni idiomatiche, Bulzoni, Roma.

Clark H. H. 1973, Space, time, semantics, and the child, in Moore T.E. (ed.), Cognitive development and the acquisition of language, Academic Press, New York, pp. 27-63.

Craik Ferguson I. M., Robert S. Lockhart 1972, Levels of processing: A framework for memory research, in “Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior”, 11, pp. 671-684.

Damasio Antonio R. 1994, Descartes’ Error. Emotion, reason, and the human brain, Putnam’s Sons, New York.

Danesi M. 1993 Vico, Metaphor, and the Origin of Language. Indiana University Press, Bloomington.

Danesi M. 1995, Learning and Teaching Languages: The Role of Conceptual Fluency, in “International Journal of Applied Linguistics”, 5, pp. 3-20.

Danesi M. 1998, Il cervello in aula. Neurolinguistica e didattica delle lingue. Guerra, Perugina.

Diewald G. 1997, Grammatikalisierung. Niemeyer, Tübingen.

Dirven R. 1989, Cognitive linguistics and pedagogic grammar, in Graustein G., G. Leitner (eds.), Reference Grammars and Modern Linguistic Theory, Niemeyer, Tübingen, pp. 56-75.

Dirven R. 2001, English phrasal verbs. Theory and didactic application, in Pütz M., S. Niemeier, R. Dirven (eds.), Applied Cognitive Linguistics II. Language Pedagogy, Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin, New York, pp. 3-27.

Dornseiff F. 1954, Bezeichnungswandel unseres Wortschatzes. Ein Blick in das Seelenleben der Sprechenden. Lahr in Baden.

Duden 1992, Redewendungen und sprichwörtliche Redensarten. Duden Verlag, Mannheim.

Eysenck Michael W., Keane Mark T. 1990, Cognitive Psychology – A Student’s Handbook, Erlbaum, Hove and London, Hillsdale.

Gaeta L., S. Luraghi 2004 [2003], Introduzione alla linguistica cognitiva, Carocci, Roma.

Gibbs Raymond W. 1994, The Poetics of Mind. Figurative Thought, Language, and Understanding, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Glucksberg S., P. Gildea, H. B. Bookin 1982, On understanding nonliteral speech: Can people ignore metaphors?, in “Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior”, 21, pp. 85-98.

Glucksberg S., Boaz Keysar, M. S. McGlone 1992, Metaphor understanding and accessing conceptual schema: reply to Gibbs (1992), in “Psychological Review”, 99, pp. 578-581.

Greenspan Stanley I. 1997, L’intelligenza del cuore, Mondatori, Milano.

Hawkins Bruce W. 1984, The Semantics of English Spatial Prepositions, UCSD Diss, San Diego. Heidemann A. 1996, The visualization of foreign language vocabulary in CALL, Peter Lang, Frankfurt/Main.

Heine B., U. Claudi, F. Hünnemeyer 1991, Grammaticalization: A conceptual framework. University of Chicago, Chicago.

Hieber W. 1992, Grammatikfenster und Gedächtnisbilder - Zum Konzept einer Lernzugriffsgrammatik?, in „Deutsch als Fremdsprache“, 29 (1), pp. 195-200.

Hörmann H. 1976, Meinen und Verstehen. Suhrkamp, Frankfurt/Main.

Johnson M. 1987, The Body and the Mind. The Bodily Basis of Meaning, Imagination, and Reason. Univ. of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Keller R., I. Kirschbaum 2003, Bedeutungswandel, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin.

Kleinschroth R. 1994, Sprachen lernen. Rowohlt, Hamburg.

Kövecses Z. 1996, A cognitive linguistic view of learning idioms in an FLT context, in „Applied Cognitive Linguistics II: Language Pedagogy“. Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin, New York, pp. 87-116.

Kurz G. 1997, Metapher, Allegorie, Symbol, Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, Göttingen.

Lakoff G. 1987, Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things. What Categories Reveal about the Mind. Univ. of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Lakoff G., M. Johnson 1980, Metaphors We Live By, Univ. of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Lakoff G., M. Turner 1989, More than Cool Reason. A Field Guide to Poetic Metaphor. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, London.

Langacker Ronald W. 1987, Foundations of Cognitive Grammar, vol. I: Theoretical Prerequisites, Stanford University Press, Stanford.

Langacker Ronald W. 2008, Cognitive Grammar. A Basic Introduction, Oxford University Press, Oxford, New York.

Lazar G. 1996, Using figurative language to expand students’ vocabulary, in “ELT Journal”, 50, pp. 43-51. Lehmann C., 1982, Thoughts on grammaticalization. A programmatic sketch, Bd. 1, Arbeiten des Kölner Universalienprojekts 48, Köln.

Lewis M. 1993, The Lexical Approach, Hove, Language Teaching Publications.

Mandler Jean M. 1992, How to build a baby: II. Conceptual Primitives, in “Psychological Review”, 99, pp.


Mandler Jean M. 1998, On developing a knowledge base in infancy, in “Developmental psychology”, 34, pp.


Mandler Jean M. 2000, Perceptual and conceptual processes in infancy, in “Journal of Cognition and Development”, 1, pp. 3-36.

Meex B., T. Mortelmans 2002, Grammatik und Kognition. Deutsch anders gedacht, in “Germanistische Mitteilungen”, 56, pp. 48-66.

Miller George A. 1956, The Magical Number Seven, Plus-or-Minus Two: Some Limits on our Capacity for Processing Information, in “Psychological Review”, 63, pp. 81-97.

Müller B.-D. 1994, Wortschatzarbeit und Bedeutungsvermittlung, Langenscheidt, Berlin.

O’Malley Michael J., A. Uhl Chamot 1990, Learning Strategies in Second Language Acquisition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Ortony A. 1975, Why Metaphors Are Necessary and not Just Nice, in “Educational Theory”, 25(1), pp. 45-53.

Ortony A. 1979 (ed.), Metaphor and Thought. Cambridge University Press.

Ortony A. 1993 (ed.), Metaphor and Thought. Cambridge University Press.

Oxford Rebecca L. 1990, Language Learning Strategies. What Every Teacher Should Know. New York, Newbury.

Paivio A. 1971, Imagery and verbal processes. Holt, Rinehart, Winston, New York.

Paivio A. 1973, Picture superiority in free recall: Imagery or dual coding?, in “Cognitive Psychology”, 5, pp. 176-206.

Paivio A. 1979, Psychological Processes in the Comprehension of Metaphor, in Ortony A. (ed.) 1979, Metaphor & Thought, Cambridge University Press, pp. 150-171.

Paivio A. 1986, Mentale Representations. A Dual Coding Approach. Oxford University Press, Oxford, New York.

Pütz M., R. Dirven 1996 (eds.), The Construal of Space in Language and Thought, Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin, New York.

Radden G. 1989, Von der traditionellen zur kognitiven Grammatik, in “Materialien Deutsch als Fremdsprache”, 28, pp. 153-179.

Radden G. 1994, Konzeptuelle Metaphern in der kognitiven Semantik, in Börner W., K. Vogel (Hgg.), Kognitive Linguistik und Fremdsprachenerwerb. Das mentale Lexikon, Narr, Tübingen, pp. 69-87.

Rickheit G., H. Strohner 1993, Grundlagen der kognitiven Sprachverarbeitung. Francke, Tübingen, Basel.

Rohrer J. 1978, Die Rolle des Gedächtnisses beim Sprachenlernen. Kamps, Bochum.

Rösler D. 1994, Deutsch als Fremdsprache. Stuttgart, J.B. Metzler, Weimar.

Rumelhart David E. 1975, Notes on a schema for stories, in Bobrow D.G., Collins, A. (eds.), Representation and understanding: Studies in cognitive science. Academic Press, New York.

Rumelhart David E. 1980, Schemata: The Basic Building Blocks of Cognition, in Spiro R., Bruce B., Brewer W. (eds.), Theoretical Issues in Reading Comprehension. Hillsdale, pp. 35-58.

Schank Roger C. 1982, Dynamic memory. CUP, Cambridge.

Schank Roger C., Robert P. Abelson 1977, Scripts, plans, goals and understanding. Hillsdale: Erlbaum. Scheller J. 2009, Animationen in der Grammatikvermittlung. Multimedialer Spracherwerb am Beispiel von Wechselpräpositionen, Lit-Verlag, Berlin, Münster.

Scherfer P. 1995, Zu einigen Aspekten der Erforschung des mentalen Lexikons von Fremdsprachenlernen, in K. R. Bausch, H. Christ, F.G. Königs, H.J. Krumm (Hgg.), Erwerb und Vermittlung von Wortschatz im Fremdsprachenunterricht. Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag, pp. 165-173.

Scherling T., H.-F. Schukall 1992, Mit Bildern Lernen. Handbuch für den Fremdsprachenunterricht.

Langenscheidt, Berlin.

Schwarz M., J. Chur 2001, Semantik. Gunter Narr, Tübingen.

Serra Borneto C. 1998, Introduzione alla linguistica cognitiva, Carocci, Roma.

Slobin Dan. I. 1974, Einführung in die Psycholinguistik, Scriptor Verlag, Kronberg/Taunus.

Slobin Dan. I. 1985 (ed.), The cross-linguistic study of language acquisition. Hillsdale: Erlbaum.

Sperber H. 1989, Mnemotechniken im Fremdsprachenerwerb. Iudicium, München.

Storch G. 1999, Deutsch als Fremdsprache: Eine Didaktik. Fink, München.

Suñez Muñoz F. 2013, Bildhaftigkeit und Metaphorisierung in der Grammatikvermittlung am Beispiel der Passivkonstruktion, in „Zeitschrift für Interkulturellen Fremdsprachenunterricht“, 18 (1), pp. 4-20.

Sweetser Eve E. 1990, From Etymology to Pragmatics. Metaphorical and Cultural Aspects of Semantic Structure. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Taylor John R., Some pedagogical implications of cognitive linguistics, in Geiger R. A., Rudzka-Ostyn B. (eds.), Conceptualizations and Mental Processing in Language, Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin, New York.

Tönshoff W. 1998, Zur Rolle des Begriffs ‚Kognition’ beim Lernen von Fremdsprachen, in Bausch, K.-R., Christ, H., Königs, F.G., Krumm, H. J. (Hgg.), Kognition als Schlüsselbegriff bei der Erforschung des Lehrens und Lernens fremder Sprachen. Gunter Narr Verlag, Tübingen, pp. 179-186.

Weinrich H. 1976, Sprache in Texten. Klett, Stuttgart.

Willss W. 1992, Schematheorie und Wortbildung, in „Deutsch als Fremdsprache“, 4, pp. 230-234. Wunderlich D. 1985, Raum, Zeit und das Lexikon, in Schweizer H. (ed.), Sprache und Raum, Metzler, Stuttgart, pp. 66-89.

Full Text: pdf


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribuzione - Non commerciale - Non opere derivate 3.0 Italia License.