Death in a multicultural society. Metaphor, language and religion in Singapore obituaries

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Obituaries are a tractable source of metaphorical depictions of death, which in turn offer unique insights into the near-universality versus culture and context-specificity of metaphors. In multicultural settings, they can shed further light on the underexplored question of how metaphor use interacts with linguistic and religious identities. This paper is a case study of newspaper obituaries (N = 337) in the multicultural and multilingual context of Singapore. It uses a mixed-methods approach to uncover the types of death-related metaphors across languages and religions, their near-universal and culture-specific aspects, and significant associations between religion and metaphor use/non-use (χ² (2, N = 337) = 84.54, p <0.001, Cramer’s V = 0.501, Log (BF10) = 47.14), language and metaphor use/non-use (χ² (1, N = 337) = 71.2, p <0.001, Cramer’s V = 0.46, Log (BF10) = 42.25), and religion and language of the deceased (χ² (2, N = 337) = 48.11, p <0.001, Cramer’s V = 0.378, Log (BF10) = 19.7). The findings extend prevailing discussion from the substantive contents of metaphors to the intra-societal pragmatics of their use, connecting metaphor explicitly with the construction of religious and linguistic identities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)84-102
Number of pages19
JournalCognitive Linguistic Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019


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