Analysing the diffusion of scientific metaphors through a Corpus of Middle English Medical Texts

This paper describes the origins, usage and diffusion of ME medical metaphors for medicine, as recorded in the texts included in the corpus of Middle English Medical Texts. The medical metaphors found in the corpus draw upon a variety of experimental
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   J AVIER E.   D ÍAZ -V ERA   Analysing the Diffusion of Scientific Metaphors through a Corpus of Middle English Medical Texts   1. Introduction Creating metaphors is a very useful process for designating the new concepts that are constantly emerging in medicine, due to technical and scientific progress. Metaphorical conceptualization has in fact  been widely recognized as a widespread phenomenon in medicine and other specialized fields, contributing to theory building and to the development of scientific thought. In the present paper, and taking the cognitive theory of metaphor (as described, among many others by Lakoff & Johnson 1980, 1999; Lakoff 1987; Johnson 1987 and Lakoff 1993), as my departure point, I am going to analyze a set of metaphors used in Middle English medical texts. This chapter aims to describe the srcins, usage and diffusion of these medical metaphors. In order to do this, I have analysed the texts contained in the Middle English Medical Texts (MEMT) corpus. This corpus, which includes 86 texts and 495,322 words from three different traditions of medical writing (surgical treatises, specialized texts, and remedy books) from 1375 to 1500, has proven to be adequate for the study of historical English, as shown by the studies carried out by Taavitsainen (2006). My intention is twofold. On the one hand, I will identify and describe some of the metaphors recorded in Middle English texts from the different medical traditions and fields. On the other hand, I will try to show that many of the metaphors related to medicine in use in contemporary medical texts existed already, with different degrees of  pervasiveness, in the Middle Ages.   Javier E. Díaz Vera 76 This work is divided into three different parts. The first section explores some of the numerous studies on the use of metaphor in contemporary English medical texts. After that, I will describe the MEMT corpus and the type of data I am interested in for analysis. The last section offers the results and discussion of the findings. 2. Background The study of cognitive metaphor began in non-specialized discourse and, from here, it broadened its scope to a wide variety of areas, from  biology (Keller 1995) to architecture (Caballero 2006), from economy (White 1997) to technology (Cook 2007). With regard to medical language, metaphors have been considered from two different  perspectives: 1. Metaphorical usages in non-specialised descriptions of the symptoms (Tompkins and Lawly 2002; Teucher 2003) and the effects (Sontag 1978, 1989; Goldbloom 2003) of illnesses and in the doctor-patient relationship (Skelton et al. 2002; Goldbloom 2003). 2. Metaphorical usages in specialised descriptions of symptoms, diseases and healing techniques (Brown 2003; Boquera 2000). According to the studies mentioned above, whereas professionals tend to use the same set of highly standardised metaphors, independently of the degree of specialisation of the context, patients are more improvising, vivid and idiosyncratic. Consequently, doctors and  patients share very few metaphors in common and, very often, this leads to difficulties in or even complete lack of mutual understanding (Sagan 1988). Some of the highly standardised metaphors frequently used by contemporary doctors and other medical professionals have attracted   Diffusion of Scientific Metaphors through a Corpus of ME Medical Texts   77 the attention of many researchers from different linguistic and medical fields. This is the case of the so-called MEDICINE IS WAR   metaphor, which has long informed the discourse about infectious diseases (Sontag 1978; Burnside 1983), and more recently about cancer, AIDS and other epidemic diseases (Sontag 1978, 1989; Brandt 1988; Norton et al. 1990, among many others). According to this military metaphor, which structures much of our western conception of medicine, illness treatment is conceptualised as a war led by doctors and allied health  personnel. Medical practice can also be paralleled to religious beliefs. The MEDICINE IS RELIGION  metaphor probably exists from the very srcins of this scientific branch and, differently to the MEDICINE IS WAR   metaphor sketched above, it is shared with many other medical traditions from different parts of the world. This explains why this metaphor operates in two ways: (1) in medicine is religion (doctors have a strong vocation to serve and are full of compassion to their  patients); and (2) in religion is medicine (priests heal the soul of their  believers). Another, much more recent metaphor for medicine, is gaining terrain in our conception of medicine: MEDICINE IS BUSINESS  (Mustacchi and Krevans 2001). In this metaphorical view of medical  practice, health professionals are seen as service providers, whereas  patients are bare consumers of these services. Moreover, the various diagnostic, therapeutic, and rehabilitative resources that constitute health care represent “raw materials.”  In other cases, metaphorical conceptualizations focus on a more limited aspect of medical science. This is the case of, for example, the description of pain associated to disease. Metaphoric and metonimic extensions are very common in professional descriptions of pain, as in the following examples: i. P AIN IS A WEAPON  (this is related to the general military metaphor previously described); ii.   P AIN IS A SOUND  iii.   P AIN IS A QUANTITY  that fills the body.   Javier E. Díaz Vera 78 Finally, the HUMAN BODY  can be referred to by health professionals in terms of such different things as a MACHINE , a LANDSCAPE  (or, following the MEDICINE IS WAR   metaphor, a battlefield) or a BUILDING . 3. Data and methodology As stated above, this research is based on the MEMT corpus. In order to analyse the texts, I have used Corpus Presenter software (Hickey 2003), although manual analyses have also been performed at times. The texts included in the MEMT corpus are classified into three broad categories, according to their tradition of writing, contents and audience: surgical texts, specialised texts, and remedies and materia medica . This division was first suggested by Voigts (1982, 1984) and has subsequently become widely accepted. In the first category,  surgical texts , we have 15 texts belonging to university tradition; some of them represent the highest academic level of writing, being derived from university texts. The second category,  specialized texts , includes 24 texts representing the academic tradition and treatises dealing with natural philosophy and reproduction, specific illnesses or fields of specialization. The third category, remedies and    materia medica , contains texts belonging to the remedybook tradition and includes recipes, charms and herbals. In order to extract the relevant metaphorical data from the corpus, I have either followed some of the strategies described by Stefanowitsch (2006: 2-5; given the diachronic character of our corpus, some of these strategies have been slightly adapted,) or simply created my own (Díaz Vera 2000, 2007):    Manual searching  : Careful reading of a selection of nine  previously selected texts from the general corpus (three texts for each textual tradition).    Search for source domain vocabulary : Metaphorical expressions always contain lexical items from their source   Diffusion of Scientific Metaphors through a Corpus of ME Medical Texts   79 domain (for example to fight against cancer  , a pungent pain ). Rather than trying to impose present-day metaphoric patterns on medieval conceptions of medicine, this strategy will let us ascertain the existence (or not) of the metaphors described above in the Middle Ages.    Search for target domain vocabulary : Here, I have searched a list of lexical items from the different medical fields and subfields in order to try to identify metaphorical usages in medical texts.    Search for sentences containing lexical items from both the  source and the target domain  (i.e. a combination of the two methods sketched above).    Search for metaphors based on ‘markers of metaphors’  , i.e. linguistic expressions indicating the existence of a particular metaphor, as described in the inventories proposed by Goatly (1997) Wallington et al. (2003).     Etymological analysis of specialized terms:  The etymological roots of scientific terms may conjure up visual images (Norri 1992:106; Díaz Vera 2007), which we will use here in order to try to reconstruct historical processes of metaphorical extension of meaning. Through the application of these strategies, either isolated or in combination, I will propose a description of the srcins, usages and diffusion of a set of metaphors used in our corpus of Middle English medical texts. Our choice of corpus is not casual, but based on the highly specialized character of the MEMT: differently to most other historical corpora, the MEMT offers a large body of representative and monothematic texts dealing with one single target domain (i.e. medicine), allowing a systematic and highly exhaustive identification of the metaphorical expressions used in that field.
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