Framing Narratives of Suffering through Metaphors


This paper aims to describe narratives of domestic violence, as found on (an online platform created with the aim of helping other people in a similar situation to fill a cognitive and emotional gap), in order to detect how suffering is framed in discourse. The linguistic relation between state of mind and affect can be narratively framed through metaphorical discursive patterns. The aim of this paper is to detect these metaphorical features in abused people’s narratives that best express their experiential cognitive awareness. The quantitative investigation, carried out with WMatrix, and the qualitative analysis underpin the metaphorical patterns evidenced in the described narratives. As will be see, despite various metaphors are employed in these narratives, the leitmotif supporting all these narratives is that change is motion while states are locations – the possibility for change is only given to abused people when external forces are at stake.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i22390359v52p193

Keywords: framing; metaphors; discourse analysis; medical popularized discourse; corpus linguistics; online health communication


Baker P., and McEnery T. 2015, Corpora and Discourse Studies: Integrating Discourse and Corpora, Palgrave Macmillan, London

Barnden J. A. 1997, Consciousness and common-sense metaphors of mind, in Nuallain S., McKevitt, P. and Mac Aogain E. (eds.), Two Sciences of Mind: Readings in Cognitive Science and Consciousness. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, pp. 311–40.

Biber D. 1988, Variation Across Speech and Writing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bockting I. 1995, Character and Personality in the Novels of William Faulkner: A Study in Psychostylistics. Amsterdam: University Press of America.

Breivik H., Borchgrevink P.C., Allen S.M., Rosseland L.A., Romundstad L., Breivik Hals E.K., Kvarstein G., and Stubhaug A. 2008, Assessment of pain, in “British Journal of Anaesthesia”, 101 [1], pp. 17–24.

Bueno-Gómez N. 2017, Conceptualizing suffering and pain. In “Philosophy Ethics and Humanities in Medicine” 12 [7], no pages indicated.

Bullo S. and Heath Hearn J. 2021, Parallel Worlds and Personified Pain: A Mixed-Methods Analysis of Pain Metaphor Use by Women with Endometriosis. In “British Journal of Health Psychology”, 26 [2], p. e12472, doi:10.1111/bjhp.12472.

Cameron L., Low G., and Maslen R. 2010. Finding systematicity in metaphor use, in Cameron L. and Maslen R. (eds.), Metaphor Analysis: Research Practice in Applied Linguistics, Social Sciences and the Humanities. London: Equinox, pp. 116–46.

Chew M.M. 2011. Analysis of an anti-domestic violence internet forum in China: mutual help, open communication, and social activism, in “China Media Research”, 7 [1], pp. 65+.

Demjén Z. 2015. Sylvia Plath and the Language of Affective States: Written Discourse and the Experience of Depression. London: Bloomsbury

Demjén Z. and Semino E. 2017. The Routledge Handbook of Metaphor and Language. Oxon: Routledge.

Ensink T. and Sauer C. (eds.) 2003. Framing and Perspectivising in Discourse. Amsterdam/ Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Entman R. 1993. Framing: Toward clarification of a fractured paradigm, in “Journal of Communication” 43 [4], pp. 51–58.

Fillmore C.J. 1975. An alternative to checklist theories of meaning, in Proceedings of the First Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society, Amsterdam: North Holland, pp. 123–31.

Fillmore C.J. 1985. Frames and the semantics of understanding, in Quaderni di Semantica 6 [2], pp. 222–53.

Flitcraft A.H., Hadley S.M., Hendricks-Matthews M.K., McLeer S.V. and Warshaw C. 1992. American Medical Association Diagnostic and Treatment Guidelines on Domestic Violence, in “Archives of Family Medicine” 1 [1], pp. 39–47.

Fowler R. 1977, Linguistics and the Novel. London: Methuen.

Gee J.P. 2017, Introducing Discourse Analysis, Routledge, Oxon.

Goffmann E. 1967 Interaction Ritual: Essays in Face-to-Face Behaviour, New Brunswick (NJ): Aldine Publishing Company.

Grady J. 1997, Foundations of meaning: primary metaphors and primary scenes, Unpublished PhD thesis, Berkeley: University of California.

Gray A., Barrett, B.J., Fitzgerald A., and Peirone A. 2019. Fleeing with Fido: an Analysis of What Canadian Domestic Violence Shelters Are Communicating Via their Websites about Leaving an Abusive Relationship when Pets Are Involved in “Journal of Family Violence” 34, pp. 287–298,

Gwyn R. 1999, Captain of my own ship”: Metaphor and the discourse of chronic illness, in Cameron L. and Low G. (eds.), Researching and Applying Metaphor. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 203–20.

Halliday M.A.K., Matthiessen C.M.I.M. 2014. Introduction to Systemic Functional Grammar. Oxon: Routledge.

Hargitai R., Naszódi M., Kis B., Nagy L., Bóna, A., and László J. 2007, Linguistic Markers of Depressive Dynamics in Self-Narratives: Negation and Self-Reference, in “Empirical Text and Culture Research”, 3, pp. 26–38.

Herzog, B. 2020, Invisibilization of Suffering: The Moral Grammar of Disrespect. London: Palgrave-Macmillan.

Lakoff G. 2001,, available at: Accessed Dec. 2021.

Lakoff G. and Johnson M. 1980, Metaphors We Live By, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Lamberg L. 2003, Online empathy for mood disorders: patients turn to Internet support groups, in “Journal of American Medical Association”, 280, pp. 3073–77.

Leech G., and Short, M. 1981, Style in Fiction. Harlow: Longman.

Loftus, S. 2011, Pain and its metaphors: A dialogical approach, in “Journal of Medical Humanities”, 32: 213–30.

McEnery T. and Hardie A. 2012 Corpus Linguistics: Method, Theory and Practice, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Minsky M. 1975, A framework for representing knowledge, in Winston P. (ed.), Knowledge and Cognition, Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, pp. 201–310.

Padfield, D. and Zakrzewska, J.M. 2017, Encountering pain, in “The Lancet”, 389 [10075], pp. 1177–78.

Patterson K.J. 2020, Understanding Metaphors through corpora. A cases study on metaphors in the nineteenth century, Abingdon: Routledge.

Pragglejaz Group 2007, MIP: A Method for Identifying Metaphorically used Words in Discourse, in “Metaphor and Symbol”, 22 [1]: 1–99.

Rayson P. 2008, From Key Words to Key Semantic Domains, in “International Journal of Corpus Linguistics”, 13 [4], pp. 519–49.

Rayson P. 2009, Wmatrix: a web-based corpus processing environment, Computing Department, Lancaster University.

Ritchie L.D. 2013, Metaphor, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Semino, E. 2002, A Cognitive Stylistics Approach to Mind Style in Narrative Fiction, in Semino E. and Culpeper J. (eds.), Cognitive Stylistics: Language and Cognition in Text Analysis, Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Semino E. 2008, Metaphor in Discourse, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Semino, E. 2010, Descriptions of Pain, Metaphor, and Embodied Simulation, in “Metaphor and Symbol”, 25 [4], pp. 205–26, doi:10.1080/10926488.2010.510926.

Semino E., Demjén Z., Hardie A., Payne S.A., and Rayson, P.E. 2018a, Metaphor, Cancer and the End of Life: A Corpus-based Study, London: Routledge.

Semino E., Demjén Z., and Demmen, J. 2018b, An Integrated Approach to Metaphor and Framing in Cognition, Discourse, and Practice, with an Application to Metaphors for Cancer, in “Applied Linguistics”, 39 [5], pp. 625–45,

Stein E., Pearlman R.A., and Tate T.P. 2018 Using Metaphors and Figurative Language to Improve Communication About Patient Suffering, in “Journal of Pain and Symptom Management”, 56 [6], pp. e68–e69.

United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner 1993, Declaration on the elimination of violence against women, Retrieved from:

Werlich E., 1976, A Text Grammar of English, Heidelberg: Quelle and Meyer.

Williams A.C. de C. and Craig K.D. 2016, Updating the definition of pain, in “Pain, The Journal of the International Association for the Study of Pain”, 157, pp. 2420–23.

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.