Waging metaphorical war: Cross-linguistic analysis of metaphors for cancer, COVID-19, and climate change

Our current major project proposes to analyze the metaphor systems for cancer, COVID-19, and climate change in five varieties of English, French, and Spanish across Canada, France, the United States, and Mexico. We are developing a new MetaNet database for French and improving the existing English and Spanish MetaNet data by expanding semantic coverage and documenting sociolinguistic variation. This project will run from April 2022 to March 2025 and is funded by a SSHRC Insight Grant and a UBC Arts Undergraduate Research Award.

Differential impacts of metaphor on climate

This study investigates the relationship between climate change metaphors and the rise of ‘climate doomism’: the belief that catastrophic warming of the planet is now inevitable, and that there is no possible action that can be taken to avert this. We are focusing on comparing the effects of climate change metaphors that inhere an end point (e.g., “the cliff edge”) with those that do not (e.g., “the overflowing bathtub”). We hypothesize that both types may be effective at conveying a sense of urgency, end point metaphors are more likely to produce feelings of hopelessness and powerlessness. Our study is bilingual, focusing on American English speakers and Canadian French speakers. This project is funded by the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies Catalyst Collaboration Fund.

Influence of Individual vs. Collective Responsibility on Disease Prevention Behaviours

In this study we ask, Does framing the spread of a disease as an individual’s responsibility vs. a collective responsibility affect disease control solution choices to prevent disease spread? Our study approaches this question from two perspectives. First, we consider how an induced feeling of individual or collective orientation can influence disease control solution choices; second, we consider how an individual’s own inclinations on the individualism/collectivism spectrum influence their responses to individual- and collective-oriented disease mitigation responses. Half of the survey participants are primed into either an individualist or collectivist mindset, allowing us to directly measure the effects of an induced orientation on responses to these mitigation behaviours. The other half of the participants are not primed into a particular orientation; rather, we measure their own natural orientation on the individualism/collectivism spectrum, allowing us to observe how Americans of differing attitudes naturally respond to individual or collective disease mitigation behaviours.