Prof. Veronika Koller

Lancaster University (United Kingdom)

Veronika Koller is an Austrian-British linguist. She is currently Reader in Discourse Studies at the Department of Linguistics and English Language of Lancaster University, United Kingdom. Her research focuses on critical discourse analysis. One of Koller’s best known work is Discourses of Brexit, published by Routledge in 2019. Edited along with Susanne Kopf and Marlene Miglbauer, the book provides an insight into how discourse influenced the outcome of the 2016 United Kingdom European Union membership referendum. The authors analysed political speeches on Twitter and other related platforms to analyse discourses regarding the Brexit.


A wall of human misery”: Critical metaphor analysis and the discursive representation of refugees from Ukraine.

In this talk, I revisit a classical concern in critical metaphor analysis (Charteris-Black 2004, Koller 2004, Musolff 2004): the representation of refugees in public discourse. This topic has recently gained currency due to the 2015 European migrant crisis as well as the war in Ukraine and the subsequent movement of people to Western Europe. What makes this particular migration different from other cases is the overwhelmingly positive attitude of the Western public, press and politicians towards the refugees. The question I seek to answer is whether a sympathetic attitude to refugees is reflected in different metaphors than the ones recorded in the literature and how we can account for any differences or similarities. The metaphoric representation of refugees and other migrants has been well researched, both in relatively recent (Charteris-Black 2006) and in historical discourses (Taylor 2021). Thus, we know that metaphors of invasion have been used alongside dehumanising metaphors of water, animals and objects over time, and that other metaphors, e.g., of immigrants as guests, have been employed less persistently. Previous work has also shown the ideological functions of such metaphors in public discourse (Cap 2019) and demonstrated their effects on audiences (Hart 2021). The empirical part of the talk consists of a cross-genre study of political speeches, news coverage and statements by charities in the UK, which develops my previous work combinings corpus-assisted methods such as semantic domain analysis (Koller et al. 2008) with manual investigation of metaphor scenarios (Koller and Ryan 2019, Musolff 2006). Based on systemic-functional linguistics, I operationalise metaphor scenarios to include obligatory participants and processes, along with optional circumstances, evaluation and modality. Not all of these five elements are always present in a given scenario and some of them may be realised in literal terms. A special focus will be on the lexical encoding of emotions, to see if the discourse promotes empathy with refugees from Ukraine as an affiliated rather than an out-group. The results will be compared against findings from previous studies about metaphors for refugees in relevant genres, to highlight trends in public opinion in the face of conflict. The talk makes two contributions to critical metaphor analysis: in theoretical terms, it problematises the ideological square (van Dijk 1998) of positive self and negative other representation, while methodologically, it presents a systematic approach to metaphor scenarios. In doing so, it further promotes the study of metaphor in discourse.


Cap, P. (2019). Britain is full to bursting point! Immigration themes in the Brexit discourse of the UK Independence Party. In V. Koller, S. Kopf & M. Miglbauer (eds), Discourses of Brexit (pp. 69–85). Routledge.

Charteris-Black, J. (2004). Corpus Approaches to Critical Metaphor Analysis. Palgrave.  

Charteris-Black, J. (2006). Britain as a container: Immigration metaphors in the 2005 election campaign. Discourse & Society, 17(5), 563-581.  

Hart, C. (2021). Animals vs. armies: resistance to extreme metaphors in anti-immigration discourse. Journal of Language and Politics, 20(2), 226-253.

Koller, V. (2004). Metaphor and Gender in Business Media Discourse: A critical cognitive study. Palgrave. 

Koller, V., Hardie, A., Rayson, P., & Semino, E. (2008). Using a semantic annotation tool for the analysis of metaphor in discourse. Metaphorik. de, 15(1), 141-160.

Koller, V., & Ryan, J. (2019). A nation divided: Metaphors and scenarios in the media coverage of the 2016 British EU referendum. In Hart, C. (ed.) Cognitive Linguistic Approaches to Text and Discourse: From poetics to politics (pp. 131-156). Edinburgh University Press. 

Musolff, A. (2004). Metaphor and Political Discourse: Analogical reasoning in debates about Europe. Palgrave.

Musolff, A. (2006). Metaphor scenarios in public discourse. Metaphor and Symbol, 21(1), 23-38.

van Dijk, T. (1998). Ideology: A multidisciplinary approach. Sage. 

Taylor, C. (2021). Metaphors of migration over time. Discourse & Society, 32(4), 463-481.

© 2022, 15th Researching and Applying Metaphor Conference

Wydział Filologiczny UwB
Plac Niezależnego Zrzeszenia Studentów 1
15-420 Bialystok

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