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The linguistic analysis of metonymies in business-media discourse and terminology

Metonymies in business-media discourse

Corpus-based studies on metonymies in business media have demonstrated that metonymy is a productive and also very frequent phenomenon (Weidacher 1971:

84-91; Lecolle 2001:153; Hanchen and Schnitzer 2003: 41; Marked and Nissim 2006: 153). Lexical metonymies in business media tend to be conventionalized (Koch 2004: 25). Although they occur quite often, the majority of these metonymies are not memorized in the mental lexicon as new lexical entries or new technical terms. They generally serve rhetorical purposes and may, depending on the context, create different semantic-pragmatic effects. Most can be observed in all the more common Western languages, but a minority seem to be more usual in some languages than in others (Hanchen and Schnitzer 2003: 41). Common source domains in all the observed languages are companies, markets, organizations, locations/places and goods. Frequent targets are economic agents, facilities, markets, prices/values, and goods. In the following, metonymic expressions are assigned to three different groups according to source domain. For each group, the most frequent target domains in business media are then described, together with the resultant semantic-pragmatic effects.

Probably the most thoroughly examined source domain of metonymic usage is that of institutions (i.e. companies, markets, and organizations). Depending on the specific target, these metonymies may be classified into at least five main types. Table 18.1 includes examples of each. Their targets are contiguous entities such as company shares (type 1.1), share or market values (types 1.2 and 1.3), members of the institution (type 1.4) and facilities of the institution such as factories, branches or offices (type 1.5) (Lecolle 2001:165-166; Hanchen and Schnitzer 2003: 41; Markert and Nissim 2006:162).

Table 18.1: Institutions as source domains

Examples

source

target

Type 1.1: ‘company for shares' General Motors is now oversold.

‘company'

‘company shares'

Type 1.2: ‘market for market value'

Asian markets have fallen following a heavy sell-off on Wall Street.

‘market'

‘market value'

Type 1.3: ‘company for share value'

Eurotunnel was the most active stock. (Markert and Nissim 2006: 163)

‘company'

‘share value'

Type 1.4: ‘institution for members'

The company says the layoffs are due to changes to a new continuous operations model, [. . .].

The markets therefore lose their ability to price it so they ignore it.

‘company'

‘market'

‘company member(s)' ‘market member(s)'

Type 1.5: ‘company for facility'

The opening of a McDonald’s is a major event. (Markert and Nissim 2006: 162)

‘company'

‘facility'

The second group of source domains consists of locations/places and may be divided into four regularly occurring types (see Table 18.2). The first refers to the stock market located at that place (type 2.1). It is inherently linked to the second, which relies on the relationships between a place, the stock market located there and an index of that market’s performance (type 2.2). Type 2.3 can be seen as a combination of type 2.1 and the ‘institution for members’ type (1.4). Here, a location is linked to a stock market and, consequently, to the stock-market agents. The target concepts of type 2.4 are similar to those of the ‘company for facility’ type 1.5, in that they represent facilities of a company located at the place in question.

Table 18.2: Locations as source domains

Examples

source

target

Type 2.1: ‘location for stock market'

Asian markets have fallen following a heavy sell-off on Wall Street.

‘location'

‘stock market'

Type 2.2: ‘location for stock exchange index' Asian stocks end lower, Tokyo falls sharply.

‘location'

‘stock-market value'

Type 2.3: ‘location for share-market agents'

Wall Street is pumping more money into Republican campaigns this election cycle, [...].

‘location'

‘stock-market agents'

Type 2.4: ‘location for facility/factory'

The closure of Bochum is set to cost at least 550 million euros.

‘location'

‘facility'

Finally, two types of metonymies have been identified whose source domains are economic goods such as products or money (see Table 18.3). The first activates the relationship between a good and the whole market sector (type 3.1). This type is quite frequent in Spanish and French, but rather rare in English and German, which is the reason why the examples in Table 18.3 are, exceptionally, drawn from the two Romance languages. The second type relies on a contiguity relation between a good and its price or value (type 3.2).

As pointed out at the beginning of this section, the main targets of metonymic expressions in business media are economic agents, markets, facilities and prices/ values. Consequently, depending on the target, the resulting semantic effects may be described as personalization/personification, institutionalization, valuation/ quantification or reification. Among these, personalization is the most frequently examined. It is exemplified by the two metonymic patterns ‘institution for members’ and ‘location for stock-market agents’ (types 1.4 and 2.3). Here, a market, a company or the location of either indirectly refers to members of the organizational structures concerned. These metonymies are characterized by very fuzzy references; that is, the precise identity of the agents remains unclear (Lecolle 2001:165-166; Lejeune 2012:

Table 18.3: Goods as source domains

Examples

source

target

Type 3.1: ‘good for market/sector'

Dans le telephone fixe, la filiale [...] n’avait pas d’autres possibilites.

‘In the landline phone market (literally: landline phone), the subsidiary had no other options.'

La vivienda se enfrenta a otro ano de fuerte demanda.

‘The housing market (literally: dwelling) is facing another year of high demand.'

‘product'

‘market/sector'

Type 3.2: ‘good for price/value'

Gold almost touched its lifetime high of30,000 [...].

‘good'

‘price/value'

164-170). Operating in the name of, and as part of a social structure, organization or institution, their precise identities seem to be irrelevant, at least in the given context of business coverage. Svensson (1980:115) suggested that, in this way, authors sometimes deliberately try to conceal the real actors. Second, the semantic effect of types 1.2, 1.3, 2.2 and 3.2 is valuation/quantification because these metonymic patterns refer to prices or values. Third, types 2.1 and 3.1 provide examples of institutionalization in which a location or good is meant to activate an association with some social entity or institution, such as a market or sector. Finally, types 1.1,1.5 and 2.4 may be regarded as instances of reification, where a social entity (institution) is seen as a physical or material entity.

 
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