Talks in 2020 so far

20 February 2020

Prof Wendy Anderson
University of Glasgow

The metaphorical threads of English: a digital humanities approach

The semantic domain of Textiles is a very productive one for metaphor in English, and some of its metaphorical connections are long-standing, traceable back to Old English. Things that are unimportant can be gauzy, tinsel or fluff, while behaviour may be fustian, homespun or silky. Stories may be spun, embroidered, or even quilted together. This talk will use the Metaphor Map of English (, in conjunction with several corpora of English, to explore the place and function of textile metaphors in English, tracing their threads across the history of the language, and revealing the lexical and metaphorical options open to speakers at particular times. It will also use the domain of Textiles as a canvas for investigating apparently bidirectional metaphors.


19 March 2020

Dr Charlotte Taylor
University of Sussex

Metaphors of migration in the British press 1800-2018

This paper aims to cast light on contemporary migration rhetoric by integrating historical discourse analysis. While there has been extensive analysis of migration discourses in a contemporary time frame, we have relatively little understanding of how longstanding these discourse frames are, how they have developed over time, or what alternative framings might have been lost through time. This is where the kind of long-scale diachronic study made possible by combining corpus linguistics and (critical) discourse analysis can make a vital contribution to understanding contemporary language use. In the paper, I will focus on continuity and change in metaphorical framings of emigration and immigration in the Times newspaper from 1800-2018. I will discuss longstanding metaphors of migrants as liquid, commodities, animals and guests, as well as the more recent migrants as invaders and burdens, and unpack the discourse functions of these metaphors at different points in time. I will conclude by reflecting on what we can learn about present-day migration discourses through this kind of approach.


30 April 2020

Dr Bethan Benwell
University of Stirling

The role of affiliation in responses to complaints to the NHS

In this paper I use Conversation Analysis to examine telephone complaints to the NHS which focus on a variety of issues raised by patients or their families.

Previous analyses of the activity of complaining have demonstrated how complaining occurs in extended sequences that emerge in a collaborative stepwise fashion in which complainants may engage in elaborate interactional work oriented to securing recipient affiliation (Drew and Curl 2008). While callers to the NHS complaints helpline are overarchingly oriented to “telling their story”, the call handlers are oriented to the institutional requirement to gather information and identify an appropriate outcome. Intricately enmeshed within these orientations is the participants’ negotiation of the normative preference for alignment and affiliation (Stivers et al. 2011).

The analysis presented here focuses specifically on the sequential environments and forms of talk through which callers pursue affiliation and call handlers display or withhold affiliation. One of our key observations is that the receipt of complaints is not simply a matter of gathering information. The act of complaining in this particular institutional setting is socially and emotionally consequential for callers. Our data shows that a range of often quite subtle interactional resources are employed by complaints handlers to affiliate with the caller but in cases where affiliation is pursued but not forthcoming, complaints are often heightened and the grievance escalates.


Drew, P. & Curl, T. (2008) Contingency and Action: A Comparison of Two Forms of Requesting. Research on Language and Social Interaction. 41(2): 129-153.

Stivers, T., Mondada, L. & Steensig, J. (2011) The Morality of Knowledge in  Conversation. Cambridge: CUP.

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