Supporters and opponents of deliberate metaphor have engaged in vehement discussions about its theoretical rationale (e.g., Gibbs 2015a/b; Steen 2008, 2011, 2015). At the same time, the distinction between deliberate and non-deliberate metaphor has been applied in (corpus) analyses of metaphor (e.g., Beger 2011; Nacey 2013; Perrez & Reuchamps 2014; Ng & Koller 2013). However, a systematic procedure for the identification of deliberate metaphor is not yet available.

In this paper, we therefore introduce DMIP, a method for identifying potentially deliberate metaphor in discourse. This method examines the structures and functions of metaphor-related words without making claims about individual language users’ production or reception processes. An operational definition of deliberate metaphor is first established, based on its theoretical definition as a perspective-changer. We then propose that the change of perspective from target to source can be observed at the level of referential meaning, and apply DMIP to a series of examples from the VUAMC[1] to illustrate how potentially deliberate metaphor can be identified. We will also report the results of a series of reliability tests to show that DMIP constitutes a reliable tool for deliberate metaphor identification.



Beger, A. (2011). Deliberate metaphors? An exploration of the choice and functions of metaphors in US-American college lectures. 20, 39–60.

Gibbs, R.W. (2015a). Do pragmatic signals affect conventional metaphor understanding? A failed test of deliberate metaphor theory. Journal of Pragmatics 90, 77–87.

Gibbs, R.W. (2015b). Does deliberate metaphor theory have a future? Journal of Pragmatics 90, 73–76.

Nacey, S. (2013). Metaphors in learner English. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Ng, C. J. W., & Koller, V. (2013). Deliberate Conventional Metaphor in Images: The Case of Corporate Branding Discourse. Metaphor and Symbol, 28(3), 131–147.

Perrez, J. & Reuchamps, M. (2014). Deliberate metaphors in political discourse: the case of citizen discourse. 25, 7–41.

Steen, G. J. (2008). The paradox of metaphor: Why we need a three-dimensional model of metaphor. Metaphor and Symbol, 23(4), 213–241.

Steen, G.J. (2011). From three dimensions to five steps: The value of deliberate metaphor. 21, 83–110.

Steen, G.J. (2015). Developing, testing and interpreting deliberate metaphor theory. Journal of Pragmatics 90, 67–72.

[1] The VU Amsterdam Metaphor Corpus is available online via (Oxford Text Archive).