The article features metaphorical representation of “social networks” concept in the Russian online discourse dated 2014-2019. The research material was posts from
Keywords: Metaphorical representationconceptual metaphorconceptonline discoursesocial networks
Rapid development of technology at the end of the XXth – beginning of XXIth century gave rise to a fundamentally new space of communication – social networks – and to a new type of communication – online discourse, which is significantly different from other types of discourse. Discourse-making signs are (1) common interests of participants and their connection to a single electronic resource, (2) polymodality of messages (visual, audio and text components), (3) the possibility to receive an instant response to the content, (4) the reduced distance of communication, in which the boundary between private and public communication formats is dissolved (Karasik, 2018, p. 164). Linguists immediately took the interest in the new discourse: the research object has been the language of social networks, genres, virtual linguistic persona, typology of network characters, online strategies and tactics, a virtual conceptual system formation (Akhrenova, 2016; Dobrinskaya, 2016; Frischmann, 2018; Karasik, 2018; Language and speech on the Internet, 2018; Pavlov, 2017; Prokofiev, 2017, etc.).
An important and yet insufficiently studied aspect of social networks is the metaphorical interpretation in different types of discourse (science, media, network, everyday-life, etc.). The need for research is determined by the fact that, social networks terminology is largely metaphorical (cf.
The study focused on two issues: first, defining the role of a metaphor in conceptualization, interpretation and assessment of reality, the article demonstrates the effect of metaphorical cognitive mechanisms in the exploration of a new conceptual space – social networks. Secondly, the online discourse as research material will reveal the features of metaphorical interpretation and assessment of a new communicative phenomenon immediately by its users, and not by observers in case of studying of “social networks” concept in other types of discourse (Galichkina, 2016; Kondratyeva, 2019; Makeeva & Borodulina, 2017, 2018; Tomaszewski, 2011; Voiskunsky, 2001, etc.). In addition, the study will highlight the most disputable moments of modern virtual communication.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose is to analyze the metaphors representing “social networks” concept in the Russian online discourse.
We used the method of metaphorical modeling to analyze the language, consisting in the defining of sources of metaphoric expansion used in online discourse for representation of “social networks” concept, the identification of metaphorical transfer and the explication of assessments of a cognizable phenomenon contained in the metaphors. We also used content analysis method, which allows determining the frequency of metaphoric models. In statistical processing of the material the percentage distribution of metaphoric models with their subsequent ranking was applied. At the final stage, we interpreted the information, providing linguistic and cultural comment.
The study showed that most metaphors representing “social networks” concept are determined by English origin “the original terminology, which is based on the Russian-speaking usage gets a new understanding, acquires specific cultural texts and connotations” (Kakorina, 2013, p. 145). Metaphors of web, water reservoir, swamp, wilds, garbage hole, home and disease are used most actively for the representation of the concept (target sphere) in online discourse.
Web metaphor (23%)
The metaphor is connected with the metonymic transfer from the generic social networks concept – the Internet, metaphorical by its nature in the language source, to its part – social networks: WWW is an abbreviation of “World Wide Web”, “World Wide Web”.... Many believe that the World Wide Web, WWW, is the Internet, although this is certainly not the case (eponim2008.livejournal.com).
Translating the word
The representatives of the metaphors are network, web and related verbs to entangle/confuse, etc.: On the web of social networks. Social networks have entangled my generation, probably, since I was an eleven-grader, if not earlier (pay.diary.ru›~Cjoe/? from=20); We were all mired in the web of social networks, or rather got confused (patri0t.livejournal.com). The metaphor has negative connotations in Russian linguoculture: the word-play to get into the network often indicates addiction to virtual reality.
Water space metaphor (14%)
Marine theme “from the very beginning of the formation of the Internet metaphoric language dominated both English and French” (Makeeva & Borodulina, 2017, p. 9). As part of the metaphorical transfer “ocean – Internet” in the English discourse there were metaphors to surf the Internet, to navigate, navigation system, which were calqued in Romance, German and Slavic languages (see more details Jamet, 2010; Juanals, 2004; Kakorina, 2013; Makeeva & Borodulina, 2017). There is similar metaphorical understanding of social networks. Mainly, the metaphor compares search for information and online communication with sliding on the water surface or with full immersion in water space.
Representatives of the metaphorical model are verbs
Spending time in social networks is metaphorically interpreted as immersion in water, which is facilitated by the use of verbs
Swamp metaphor (17%)
It is an implementation of water metaphor with a negative connotation, since it is used to indicate negative information found in social networks: Social networks (especially FB) are increasingly reminiscent of the swamp: the same bad smelling and sticky matter. News feeds are full of gossip, squabbles, arguments (ikrima.livejournal.com); In the abyss of social networks, users drown in fecal whirlpools, Opinion leaders horse around on the shit- waves, scoffing and spitting (manyunya1116.livejournal.com).
In addition, verbs to
Garbage hole metaphor (9%)
Actualizes negative characteristics of the information and the way it is presented in social networks: unreliable, disorderly, undifferentiated: Social networks are garbage. Reliable information may be found, but it takes pains to check for its accuracy (gusev-a-v.livejournal.com). Representatives of the model are garbage, cesspool: I’ve deleted my profile in VKontakte (I haven't been there for a long time), Odnoklassniki (even longer), MirTesen, PhotoStrana, My Circle, Facebook, and several other social dumps (liveinternet.ru/users/ylogru); I’ve found a new cesspool. The abyss of social networks suppressing our minds (
Forest metaphor (wilds, jungle) (11%).
Metaphors of wilds highlight the idea of difficult orientation in the virtual world and the tricky exit from the world of social communications. It includes lexemes, denoting impassable forest areas – woods, wilds, jungle: We will guide you through the wilds of empty communities over the abyss of content right where abandoned publics with millions of people have frozen in silence (vk.com›wall-26760927? own=1); Going through the jungle of social networks, I came across the full version of the poem, (aged-hare.livejournal.com). The jungle metaphor additionally actualizes conflict behavior of the users: Guide to Survival in the “Jungle” of Social Networks (by SecWorld); Digital Jungle: how to avoid danger in social networks (vbudushee.ru›upload/iblock).
Home metaphor (12%)
The metaphor is of English origin: Internet resources, their separate parts, interface elements are interpreted with house/home metaphor, e.g., Home Page, Gallery, News Room. The similar metaphorization principle is observed in social networks.
Home metaphor is realized through the nomination of site visitors:
Home metaphors are also created by verbal vocabulary, denoting living in the house or visiting the house
Spending a lot of time in social networks is also represented by means of the verb
Account deleting or refusal to communicate virtually is described by
Home metaphors create the image of a space replacing a real home in which users spend much time (often to the detriment of the real communication).
Disease metaphor (16%)
Social media users are actively discussing the dangers of excessive pastime in the virtual world, using medical metaphors. Such lexemes as disease, treatment, medicine, etc. are of frequent occurrence: IS SOCIAL NETWORK A DISEASE? (liveinternet.ru/users/buvay_sar); Do you consider social media addiction a disease? And if so, what should be the treatment? (k-poli.livejournal.com).
Most users are concerned about the steady dependence on social networks. They compare their condition – when they cannot visit their favorite resources – with withdrawal syndrome: How has your life changed after deleting your profile? (in particular “Vkontakte”). What urged you to do it? How long did the withdrawal syndrome last? (And did you have it? (justforus.diary.ru›p209549234.htm); To forbid myself to sit in a social network (and at the same time test my addiction) was difficult. So hard that there even were withdrawal symptoms... (jennifer-hot.livejournal.com).
Many users also reflect on finding treatment for the virtual dependence, using metaphors of hygiene and detoxification:
The study of metaphors representing “social networks” concept in the online discourse revealed several trends:
1. Metaphors used by participants of virtual communication allow explicating significant features of social networks as a complex phenomenon as well as characterizing their functions. In particular, social networks are perceived by users as a space in which communication is carried out (ocean) and where they spend a lot of time (home), as a storage of diverse information (ocean, garbage hole). The complex structure of social networks (web, network, jungle) has been also noted.
2. Online discourse metaphors are less diverse than, e.g., in media and science discourses (Kondratyeva, 2019; Voiskunsky, 2001), e.g., such metaphors as of a mirror, labyrinth, or a frontal were unpopular. It is probably due to a rather low cultural level of average users.
3. Metaphors with strongly-marked negative pragmatic potential (
Most metaphors represent the addiction on social networks, the difficulty of returning from the virtual world to reality (
The research was supported by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research, research project No. 19-012-00202 “Everyday political communication in social networks: a comprehensive linguistic analysis”.
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03 August 2020
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Sociolinguistics, linguistics, semantics, discourse analysis, translation, interpretation
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Kondratyeva, O., & Novoklinova, A. (2020). Metaphorical Representation Of “Social Networks” Concept In The Russian Online Discourse. In & N. L. Amiryanovna (Ed.), Word, Utterance, Text: Cognitive, Pragmatic and Cultural Aspects, vol 86. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 709-716). European Publisher. https://doi.org/10.15405/epsbs.2020.08.84