Metaphor in End of Life Care

Title of project:

Metaphor in End of Care Life


Name and institution of principle investigators:

Professor Elena Semino, Lancaster University


Names and institutions of co investigators/collaborators:

Dr Andrew Hardie, Lancaster University

Dr Veronika Koller,Lancaster University

Professor Sheila Payne, Lancaster University

Dr Paul Rayson, Lancaster University


Funding sources:

The Economic and Social Research Council


Summary of research:

The aim of this project is to investigate the use of metaphor in the experience of end of life care in the UK. We have studied the metaphors used by members of different stakeholder groups (patients, unpaid family carers and healthcare professionals) in a 1.5-million-word corpus consisting of interviews and contributions to online forums. We have addressed the following research questions:

A. How do members of different stakeholders groups (health professionals, patients and unpaid family carers) use metaphor to talk about their experiences, attitudes and expectations of end-of-life care (e.g. palliative treatment, preparations for dying, etc.)?
B. What does the use of metaphor by these stakeholder groups suggest about (a) the experiences and needs of the members of these groups and their mutual relationships, and (b) the nature of metaphor as a linguistic and cognitive phenomenon?

The method we have employed to identify and analyse metaphor in our data is both qualitative and quantitative. Our approach includes the exploitation of an online semantic annotation tool developed by a member of the team, which has enabled us to identify metaphorical expressions more systematically than is possible with other methods for the study of metaphor in large data sets.
Project website/webpage:


Anticipated time frame of project:

2012 – 2014


Anticipated audiences:

Linguists, healthcare professionals, charities.


Tagged as: 

metaphor, cancer, end of life


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Posted on 17 Apr 2015, under Projects.