(Metaphors in Language)


The main goal of the present research is to investigate arguments in favor of utilizing metaphoric awareness in shaping competent language learners with envious levels of intercultural competencies to serve them in their everyday communicative situations on board. One way of raising awareness is by uncovering the underlying motivation which can be found behind many instances of L2 vocabulary, especially in the area of ESP (English for Specific Purposes; e.g., Maritime English or English for Engineering). Conceptual metaphors (CMs) (e.g., ANGER IS FIRE in burst with anger or HAPPY IS UP in be over the moon) and cultural knowledge (e.g. maritime knowledge in culturally-motivated (CS) language such as sail under false colors or batten down the hatches) are instances of background motivation in the case of figurative language, and many multi-word expressions (MWEs) such as idioms. Raising learners’ awareness of CMs can facilitate their retention of the very vocabulary they motivate, whereas grouping vocabulary around underlying CMs can aid its retention. Various studies have examined CM facilitation and factors such as L1 transfer have been tested as a variable. The proposed research has placed focus on the following: 1. identifying and quantifying conceptual metaphors which are shared between learners’ L1 (Croatian) and L2 (English); 2. assessing the nature of the L1 transfer when it comes to the comprehension of figurative vocabulary; and 3. testing the effect of raised metaphoric awareness on the processing of both universal (CM) as well as culture-specific (CS) metaphoric vocabulary by means of an event-related potential (ERP) study. The research is expected to shed light on the nature of meaning transfer between L1 and L2 the nature of which will be bidirectional in nature, with a stronger connection exerted in the case of CMs shared between English and Croatian. We also expect for the ERP experiment to reveal faster processing times for vocabulary motivated by shared CMs than culture-related vocabulary units. Furthermore, we expect to find beneficial effects of metaphor instruction upon vocabulary processing in both CM and CS conditions. The project will upgrade the existing LaCon laboratory (Laboratory for Language, Cognition & Neuroscience) established at the Faculty of Maritime Studies, University of Rijeka, and supported in part by the Croatian Science Foundation (HRZZ) under the project number UIP-2019-04-1576, which will further the experimental and neurocognitive lines of research both at the Faculty as well as university-wide.

Team Members


Jelčić Čolakovac, J. (2019). On why anger can be poured, steeled, and boiled: corpus-driven study of anger metaphors in Croatian. Strani jezici: časopis za primijenjenu lingvistiku, 48(4), 197-222. 

The Conceptual Metaphor Theory (CMT) proposed by Lakoff and Johnson (1980) and its exclusion of culture as the motivational mechanism for metaphorical expressions has given rise to other theories such as the Conventional Figurative Language Theory (CFLT) proposed by Dobrovol’skij and Piirainen (2005). The main contribution of this article is the representation of the anger- related metaphors in the selected corpus of the Croatian language according to their frequency of appearance in non-literal expressions selected via MIP procedure. “ANGER IS HEAT” and its two subversions, “ANGER IS A HOT FLUID IN A CONTAINER” and “ANGER IS FIRE” metaphors, were found to be very productive in Croatian, thus providing further evidence in favor of the universal status of these metaphors. The analysis yielded examples of the “ANGER IS HOT AIR IN A CONTAINER” metaphor as well as the use of different colors to describe anger, thus suggesting that cultural development played a role. 

Jelčić Čolakovac, J. (2016). Shared conceptual metaphors between English and Croatian and their effect on idiom learning. In Udier, S. L. & Cergol Kovačević, K. (Eds.), Metodologija i primjena lingvističkih istraživanja: Zbornik radova s međunarodnoga znanstvenog skupa Hrvatskog društva za primijenjenu lingvistiku, 363-376. Zagreb: Srednja Europa.

This paper draws on the conclusions of previous studies (Boers 2011) and some aspects of a larger research study into the use of conceptual metaphors as primary criteria in choosing which idioms should ultimately be taught to EFL/ESL learners. A hypothesis is set forth which argues that Croatian and English idioms that stem from shared conceptual metaphors are examples of idiomatic expressions that should take precedence in EFL/ESL curricula since they are likely to be learned with greater ease and may facilitate the retention of other instances of L2 vocabulary. A list of 24 English idioms was formed and grouped according to the nature of their underlying motivation (metaphor-based or culturally-based). Idioms unknown to the participants (university level EFL learners) were identified by means of a two-part questionnaire (Part 1) and their definitions were attempted by the same participants when the idiomatic examples were provided in context (Part 2). The results were then cross-compared with the conceptual status of each idiom yielding the results which are in favor of accepting the hypothesis on the facilitative effect of conceptual metaphor on idiom learning. 

Jelčić Čolakovac, J. (2014). Croatian EFL learners’ comprehension of idiom use: Context, decomposability and age factors. Jezikoslovlje, 15, 373-393.

There are many factors influencing the comprehension of idiomatic expressions in EFL context. These factors include, among others, age, context, familiarity and decomposability rate (the degree to which an idiom is susceptible to interpretation through simple analysis of the meanings of its individual components). For the purpose of determining how Croatian EFL learners of all levels (Elementary, Secondary, Undergraduate level, Graduate level) process idioms, a study was conducted by using multiple-choice questions and a Likert scale task in order to try and determine which of the above mentioned factors play greater role in idiom comprehension, i.e. if they influence processing to the same extent or if there exists a noticeable difference among them. The purpose of this paper is to set a direction for figurative language teaching in EFL situations by contributing to the existing body of knowledge on what facilitates the comprehension of idiomatic expressions. 


Jelčić Čolakovac, J. & Bogunović, I. (2019). Transfer of meaning in L2 learning environment: Language proficiency, metaphor universality and language dominance as influencing factors. 2nd International Conference on Bilingualism Valletta, Malta.

Jelčić Čolakovac, J. (2017). Up the creek with a paddle: Conceptual metaphors as a tool for teaching culture-specific vocabulary. Third International Symposium on Figurative Thought and Language, Osijek, Croatia.

Jelčić Čolakovac, J. (2017). The representation of the container metaphor in Croatian and its implications for EFL teaching. XXXI. međunarodni znanstveni skup Hrvatskoga društva za primijenjenu lingvistiku "Jezik i njegovi učinci", Rijeka, Croatia.

Jelčić Čolakovac, J. (2016). Turning the tide -Why culturally motivated idioms should be included in EFL curricula. 9th Annual International Conference on Languages & Linguistics, Athens, Greece.

Jelčić Čolakovac, J. (2015). Conceptual metaphor LOVE IS WAR in English and Croatian idioms: A cross-comparative study. 2nd International Symposium on Figurative Thought and Language, Pavia, Italy.

Jelčić Čolakovac, J. (2012). The facilitative effect of metaphor upon memory: how figurative language allows for a more efficient memory of a collective. Re-thinking Humanities and Social Sciences: The Politics Of Memory, Zadar, Croatia, 6.-9.09.2012.