Diachronic Political Metaphorology: Linguistic Personology


The present research was conducted in the framework of such novel linguistic approaches as diachronic political metaphorology and linguopolitical personology, which allow linguists to explicate cognitive strategies behind a politician’s linguistic behaviour. Approaches allow establishing the connection between events in one’s political career and metaphors used to describe them. To verify this hypothesis, the authors analyzed the dynamics of the metaphorical models that were extricated from political speeches given by Yulia Tymoshenko, who remains one of the most prominent female politicians in the world. The analysis revealed that each period of her political career can be characterized by one dominant metaphorical model. During her first participation in the presidential elections, Tymoshenko’s speeches were full of military and sport metaphors, which demonstrated her desire to win. When indicted, the politician exploited theater metaphors to show that she had been framed up and the trial was unlawful. During the elections of 2014, Tymoshenko used the criminal metaphor to highlight the faults of her opponents and describe the situation in the country. Since 2015, the dominant metaphor has been of military character, which reflects the current military and political conflict in the country. Thus, the change of the prevailing metaphorical model is directly determined by the political situation and the ideological attitudes that shape the goals a politician seeks to achieve in a particular period of his or her career. The present research substantiates methodological principles that can be used to describe the dynamics of metaphorical models in the political idiolect.

Keywords: Diachronic metaphorologypolitical linguisticsmetaphorical dynamicsYulia Tymoshenko


Cognitive linguistics has shaped a new approach to metaphor as a way of conceptualizing and evaluating reality. Lakoff and Johnson’s (1980) "The Metaphors We Live By" has become a seminal work of cognitive linguistics. The cognitive approach to metaphor is employed by various linguistic disciplines, including political linguistics and linguopolitical personology, the former focusing on metaphors in political and media discourse, the latter – on the metaphorical tools typical of this or that politician.

Synchronous studies in political metaphorics have gradually been replaced by those in dynamics. The aim of diachronic political metaphorology is to reveal the complex interaction between various opposing tendencies, such as stability vs. dynamics, cultural identity vs. cross-cultural interaction, periods of intensive development (“metaphorical storms”) vs. periods of relative stability (“metaphorical calms”) (Anikin, Budayev, & Chudinov, 2015).

Problem Statement

The metaphorical dynamics in political idiolects still remains a completely undeveloped area, since all the studies in this field have been synchronic (Ivanović, 2017; Kamalu & Iniworikabo, 2016; Lu & Ahrens, 2008; Pasaribu, 2016; Penninck, 2014; Semino & Masci 1996; Xue, Mao, & Li, 2013; Kameneva & Perevalova, 2012; Tsvetkova, 2013; Chudinov & Nikiforova, 2018; Xiaoxiao, 2016). While it is important to study the main linguistic tools (including metaphorical ones) used by a particular political figure, it is equally important to research the metaphorical dynamics and reasons behind them.

Research Questions

The present research revolves around the following hypothesis: the diachronic perspective makes it possible to establish the effect of events in one’s political career on the linguistic tools one uses to describe them and the whole political situation in the country, as well as to influence the electoral base during each period, thus, providing an opportunity to explicate a particular cognitive strategy.

To verify the hypothesis, we analyzed the dynamics of metaphorical models in the speeches of one of the most prominent female figures in modern politics, Yulia Tymoshenko. Her political figure was chosen for two reasons. First, the current political situation in Ukraine remains unstable, and a change in metaphorical tools is easier to record in a period of social and political turbulence. Second, Yulia Tymoshenko has been an active participant of all the political processes in the modern history of Ukraine, and her speeches are emotional and rich in metaphors.

Purpose of the Study

The present research substantiates the methodological principles that can be used to describe the dynamics of metaphorical models in the political idiolect. The paper features the dynamics of the metaphorical models in Yulia Tymoshenko’s political idiolect.

Research Methods

The analysis was based on the method of metaphorical modeling developed by the Ural school of political linguistics (Kondratyeva, 2018) and the method of content analysis (Winter & Stewart, 1977). The research methodology included the following procedures: 1) determining the time interval of the study; 2) highlighting the stages of the political career of the politician and their characteristics; 3) identification of the prevailing metaphorical models for each period according to their frequency; 4) description of their frame structure; 5) establishing the reasons for their dominance.


The research featured the period of 2010-2016, since it encompassed the most vivid political events in Tymoshenko’s career. We used the method of focal fragmentation to divide the period into the following stages: 1) 2010 – Tymoshenko lost the presidential elections to V. Yanukovych; her government resigned; 2) 2011 – Y. Tymoshenko was trialed and sentenced; 3) 2011-2014 – imprisonment; 4) 2014 – Y. Tymoshenko was released and legally rehabilitated; she ran for presidential and parliamentary elections; 5) 2015-2016 – Y. Tymoshenko became a member of the Ukrainian parliament. Yulia Tymoshenko’s metaphorical tools are diverse; she regularly appeals to military, criminal, theatrical, sport, medical, religious, construction, and computer metaphorical models. However, a content analysis revealed that only one metaphorical model predominates in each period. As a rule, the metaphor is used for self-presentation and to describe political processes.

2010: Tymoshenko loses the presidential elections, her government resigns, and she joins the opposition.

This period is marked by Tymoshenko’s desire to win and eliminate her political rivals. It is characterized by a significant emotional intensity, which puts forward the military metaphor represented by the following frames.

Frame 1. "War and its kinds." In Yulia Tymoshenko’s metaphorical worldview, her election campaign was an ongoing war for a rightful place in the political landscape, or a war between parties. This frame was represented by the following nominations: gas war, intraspecific war, front, revenge . E.g.: Yushchenko surrendered Ukraine to Yanukovych, and today they are waging a joint war against the state (14/01/2010); Time has come to shut all the internal fronts within the democratic fraction… An example of such an intraspecific war is the none-of-the-above technology (The Uboyny Politotdel).

Frame 2. "Military personnel." Yulia Tymoshenko described politically aware people as belonging to various army ranks: party members and voters were the infantry while she was their commander-in-chief: Today I propose to begin in Ukraine a campaign to identify all our soldiers and fighters, all those who profess our values and ideals (24/08/2010); No real commander has ever left the battlefield (about fleeing from Ukraine) (Co-correspondent.net.).

Frame 3. "Weapon." Politicians use weapons, e.g. cannons and artillery, to achieve their goals: The biggest political mistake of his presidency was that he used “heavy artillery” against me. (RosInvest); Dear oppositionists, turn your guns on the real enemy (Co-correspondent.net.). The main weapon in political battles is ballots and votes: people have weapons, but they are few, and one of these reliable weapons is the ballot, the vote, and the opportunity to have your say to all the authorities and all politicians (24/08/2010).

Frame 4. "Military action." Y. Tymoshenko often used such lexemes as battle, cleansing, blockade, attack, and strike . She presented political interactions as acts of military hostility that were shaking the country: You are tired of fierce political battles (13/02/2010); The leader of the opposition party strikes at his own people (01/05/2010); Ukraine is a vast country, but there is nowhere to retreat, so the invaders must be chased away (28/09/2010).

Thus, Yulia Tymoshenko conceptualized the presidential elections of 2010 as an active military operation. The pragmatic potential of the military metaphor is characterized by the vectors of aggressiveness, danger, and anxiety. At the same time, such metaphors show concern for the future of the country and a desire to fight for it.

2011 – The trial.

In 2009, Yulia Tymoshenko signed a gas contracts between Naftogaz (Ukraine) and Gazprom (Russia). She was accused of authority abuse, and a long trial process resulted in guilty verdict. Tymoshenko regularly described the trial as a performance, thus, creating an image of a politically charged showtrial, i.e. a staged process that was unfolding according to a certain script.

Frame 1. "Spectacle and Performance." Y. Tymoshenko described the trial as a performance, circus, or show: Prosecutors ... do not react to any illegal actions of the judge. All this is a performance (24/06/2011); Do not turn the courtroom into a circus. I am alone and cannot defend myself. (27/07/2011); Despite the absence of corpus delicti, he continues this trial show (27/07/2011). She even defined the genre of the performance as a farce: As we expected, this trial has turned into a farce (05/11/2011).

Frame 2. "Sets and props." The props metaphor demonstrated the false, ostentatious nature of the political process: The Ministry of Internal Affairs plans to stage a sham trial of Yulia Tymoshenko (05/06/2012). Such lexemes as stage, curtain , and screen pointed at some secret organizers "behind the stage": The Prosecutor’s Office and those who run the show from behind the stage hate those who have conscience and professionalism (2/09/2011).

Tymoshenko described the participants of the trial as props or puppets whose strings were pulled by the presidential administration, so they had no right to judge anyone: I have a motion for refusal of the judge. ... I disqualify you because I consider you a puppet of the presidential administration (June 24, 2011); Puppet Kireev performed a pre-planned provocation (18/07/2011).

Frame 4. "Theatre Staff." Participants of the trial appeared in Tymoshenko’s statements as actors playing out their roles: Unfortunately, there are the same actors – Mr. Klyuyev and Mr. Yushchenko; they publicly signed the capitulation of Ukraine and surrendered its national interests (03/02/2011). Tymoshenko regularly called the judge a travesty, emphasizing the illegitimacy of what was happening: You are not a judge. Kireev, you are a judicial travesty who executes orders for political repressions (05/09/2011); I am sorry for Kireev and other travesties (18/07/2011).

Frame 5. "Audience." According to Yulia Tymoshenko, there was only one spectator interested in the trial, namely the President of Ukraine V. Yanukovych: The court reads the fake indictment once again with the broadcast in Mezhigorye. They are doing it as an encore for only one spectator – Yanukovych (22/06/2011).

Thus, the theatre metaphor was the main means of representing the trial of 2011 in Yulia Tymoshenko’s speeches. She demonstrated the staged character of the sham trial, thus, questioning its legitimacy.

2011-2014 – Imprisonment.

This period was marked by the sacred metaphor, which was very uncharacteristic of Yulia Tymoshenko. Probably, she was trying to present herself as an innocent but stoic victim of the regime.

Frame 1. "Holiness and sinfulness." Tymoshenko used such lexemes as holiness and saint to describe Ukraine and her own political actions but, obviously, never that of her opponents: We will celebrate the revival of our new life and the holy Ukraine (27/10/2012); Right now I cannot breathe the holy air of unity, freedom, and struggle together with you (November 25, 2013). The right to be sovereign. This is a sacred right (April 26, 2014).

Frame 2. "God's grace and atonement." Yulia Tymoshenko described the political protests on the Maidan square in Kiev as God's grace: Today you made Euromaidan creative and cheerful. It was as if you asked God’s blessing in your own language, and it rose over Ukraine and inspired the whole world for our support (29/11/2013). She used a metaphor of excommunication from the church to describe the gap between Ukraine and Europe: Yanukovych’s mafia cannot stop our holy reunion with our real, civilized family, from which we were excommunicated for so long (11/25/2013).

Frame 3. "Relics and objects of worship." During her imprisonment, Yulia Tymoshenko was repeatedly called an icon of freedom, by her own daughter as well: My mother has become an icon of freedom for the whole world (02/19/2012). Thus, Yulia Tymoshenko and her associates were described as icons of moral behaviour that deserve idolization.

Frame 4. "Religious practice and rites." Metaphors of repentance and sacrifice became rather frequent in that period: On behalf of all politicians, I want to repent my sins and apologize to you. There have been no politicians worthy of you until this day... (22/02/2014); There is no such peaceful and moral sacrifice that we would not make for the sake of our European future (26/11/2013). Tymoshenko represents her own life path as a selfless service to the chief deity, i.e. Ukraine: Our strength is in our faith in Lord, the selfless service to our motherland, our great country (27/11/2012).

Frame 5. "Miracles of faith." Tymoshenko uses metaphors of resurrection to broadcast the idea of reviving lost values: Ukraine will certainly win. Christ has risen! So will Ukraine! (04/20/2014); A great miracle has happened in Ukraine. You’ve breathed life back into the Ukrainian society (29/11/2013).

By using sacred metaphors with a positive pragmatic potential, Tymoshenko seeks to position herself as a martyr for an idea, a victim of unfair persecution, ready to suffer for Ukraine.

2014 – Release from prison, legal rehabilitation, presidential and parliamentary elections.

In February 2014, V. Yanukovych was removed from power; Yulia Tymoshenko was released from prison and joined the presidential election campaign. During this period, she used a lot of criminal metaphors to show how rotten the current political system had become in her absence, to emphasize the need for immediate transformations for the sake of Ukraine.

1. The frame "Criminals and crimes." She represented her political opponents as criminals that threatened the peaceful life of the state: swindlers, cheats, thieves, kleptomaniacs, bonebreakers, murderers , and thimbleriggers : What if Yanukovych decides to break the democratic presidential elections in Ukraine, to arrange another thimblerig and to hold the next elections in one round (29/05/2013); ... Yanukovych stopped being the president of Ukraine and became a murderer. After that, he has no right to hold the presidency! (22/01/2014).

Frame 2. "Criminal communities and their structure." Y. Tymoshenko characterized the rival parties as gangs and mafia clans: They went to Maidan to prevent the ruling mafia from killing our European choice (25/11/2013); You, the ruling mafia, have pushed the people to the limit (20/01/2014).

Frame 3. "Crimes and criminal routine." Y. Tymoshenko metaphorically described the destructive activities of some politicians as acts of robbery, rape, murder, theft , and burglary : Neglect of the law is becoming the norm for our raped society (07.03. 2013). She conceptualized Yanukovych’s actions as mass shootings: The blood of these Heroes of Ukraine is on the hands of Yanukovich. He personally shot them close at range when he was congratulating the people on the Day of Unity (22/01/2014). In her opinion, the parliament and the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine became a hide-out for criminals – a den of thieves, a brothel : In such a humiliating format, the Ukrainian parliament will look more like a den of thieves than a political center for European reforms (15/02/2014).

Frame 4. "Police and security." Y. Tymoshenko saw herself and her political bloc as police: I know that you expect me to liberate Ukraine from the criminal occupation and bring it back to life (01/22/2013).

Thus, the increase in the number of criminal metaphors can be explained by the complicated political situation in Ukraine, the desire to reveal Yanukovych’s flaws to the whole world, and the need to justify her own political manoeuvres.

2015-2016 – Period of parliamentary activity during the military conflict in Ukraine.

The unstable political situation triggered a new development of the military metaphor in Yulia Tymoshenko’s speeches. In 2015-2016, the metaphor represented various spheres of political life in Ukraine, whereas in 2010 it targeted mainly the presidential election.

Yulia Tymoshenko shaped a new image of the country: a female warrior in a helmet and body armour: Happy birthday to you, my dear land! You are twenty-three now... You are already liable for military service ... And although today you are wearing a helmet and a bullet-proof vest ... Even though you are at war today! But very soon the time will come and you will put on your best embroidered shirt! (08/24/2014).

To represent the political conflict in Ukraine, she used traditional frames but with new content. For instance, the frame "War and its kinds" was no longer about the feuding political parties but about the war for the future of Ukraine: After all, this war is not in Ukraine, this war is in Europe, in the world, and Putin declared it (05/02/2015). The frame "Military personnel" also changed: in 2010 she described politicians as warriors, but in 2015-2016 every citizen of Ukraine became a warrior: The main value of our country is you – invincible fighters, fearless warriors! (01.08.2015). As for the "Weapon" frame, it was the Ukrainian language that became an object of military metaphor, not only the votes: Ukrainian is our secret invincible weapon (26/05/2015).


However significant Tymoshenko’s metaphorical diversity might be a particular dominant metaphorical model for each period of her political career. The prevailing metaphor stems from the political situation and the ideological attitudes that shaped her goals. The military metaphor dominated during Tymoshenko’s first presidential election, which demonstrated her strong desire to win. During the trial, she adopted theatre metaphor to show that the trial was staged and illegitimate.

During the 2014 presidential campaign, she used the criminal metaphor to highlight the mistakes of her political opponents and the dangerous situation in the country. Ever since 2015, there has been a surge in the military metaphor, which reflects the current military and political conflict in the country. Thus, we can assume that a study in the dynamics of metaphorical models is a promising area that requires scientific attention. A comprehensive study of the evolution of metaphorical models in political discourse, including political idiolects, might be an important step in the development of diachronic metaphorology and linguopolitical personology. In the future, it can help to identify the features of the world-modelling of the Russian nation at different stages of its development.


The reported study was funded by RFBR according to research project № 19-012-00522 "The problem of legitimization in political discourse: the aspect of linguistic personology".


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28 December 2019

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Kameneva, V., & Kondratyeva*, O. (2019). Diachronic Political Metaphorology: Linguistic Personology. In D. Karim-Sultanovich Bataev, S. Aidievich Gapurov, A. Dogievich Osmaev, V. Khumaidovich Akaev, L. Musaevna Idigova, M. Rukmanovich Ovhadov, A. Ruslanovich Salgiriev, & M. Muslamovna Betilmerzaeva (Eds.), Social and Cultural Transformations in the Context of Modern Globalism, vol 76. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 1729-1735). Future Academy. https://doi.org/10.15405/epsbs.2019.12.04.234