Conceptual metaphors in computer networking terminology

  • Carol G Lombard 6 Pin Oak Court, Cary, Illinois 60013, United States of America
Keywords: metaphors, computer, networking terminology


Abstract: In this article, the cognitive linguistic notion of conceptual metaphor (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980) is used as a basic framework for analysing and explaining the occurrence of metaphor in the terminology used by computer networking professionals in the information technology (IT) industry. An analysis of linguistic expressions taken from a range of IT literature reveals a consistency in metaphorical projections from the HUMAN BEING and BUILDINGS domains onto the COMPUTER NETWORKS domain. These projections give rise to a number of metaphorical entailments (also known as specialised or sub-metaphors) such as COMPUTER NETWORKS ARE WELL-ORGANISED COMMUNITIES, COMPUTER NETWORKS ARE BATTLEGROUNDS, COMPUTER NETWORKS ARE TARGETS FOR INTRUSION, and COMPUTER NETWORKS ARE SECURED STRUCTURES. Based on the evidence, it is argued that coherent systems of metaphorical conceptualisations, grounded in cognitive concepts such as perceived similarity and correlated experiences, underlie the creative yet systematic ways in which specialists talk about computer networks. These systems appear to assist professionals in gaining deeper insight into the complexities of their field, the problems they encounter and the manner in which they seek solutions to these problems. As George Lakoff and Mark Johnson put it: ‘It is as though the ability to comprehend experience through metaphor were a sense, like seeing or touching or hearing, with metaphors providing the only ways to perceive and experience much of the world. Metaphor is as much a part of our functioning as our sense of touch, and as precious' (1980: 239).

Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 2005, 23(2): 177–185

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1727-9461
print ISSN: 1607-3614