Source Domain of BUILDING as a Frame for Legitimization

Jieyu Chen

Research output: Unpublished conference presentation (presented paper, abstract, poster)Conference presentation (not published in journal/proceeding/book)Academic research


How the oil industry achieves legitimacy in its environmental practice has been studied extensively because the industry faces a dilemma in addressing climate issues. I attempt to examine this issue by studying how oil companies utilize the BUILDING source domain as gain and loss frames for legitimization. Gain and loss frames can create legitimacy because they can ethically position an issue.
I will focus on oil companies in China and the U.S. because these companies are the world’s major emitters. In addition, different economic and national contexts in these two countries can potentially lead to different legitimization strategies. The U.S.’s corpus consists of 47 CSR reports published by 6 American petroleum companies (word count=266,826), and China’s corpus is comprised of 34 CSR reports generated by 4 Chinese petroleum companies (word count=121,751). All of the oil companies in my data are on the Fortune 500 list (2020).
The results showed that Chinese oil companies used significantly more BUILDING metaphors than American oil companies. The most frequent keyword in Chinese CSRs was “build,” highlighting environmental achievements. American CSRs often used the metaphorical verb “support” to show their alignment with environmental policies and the interests of different stakeholders.
The BUILDING source domain was used more often as gain frames in both corpora. The nominal form of “support” was used more frequently as a gain-framed metaphor by Chinese and American oil companies. An investigation of the premodifiers of this metaphor showed that most of them can be subsumed into the category of “Technology” in two corpora. This pattern suggested that Chinese and American oil companies regarded technology as essential for reaching an environmental goal.
In sum, Chinese oil companies used the source domain of BUILDING significantly more than American oil companies when legitimizing their environmental practice. Chinese oil companies tended to use this source domain to demonstrate how metaphorical construction efforts create environmental achievements. On the other hand, American oil companies preferred to use the BUILDING source domain to emphasize their compliance with social norms and stakeholders’ expectations. Both Chinese and American CSRs tended to emphasize how technological support generates benefits. The different usages of the BUILDING source domain show how socio-cultural contexts motivate different ways of legitimizing the environmental practice. Similar usage patterns could be attributable to the nature of the oil industry.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022
EventThe 30th Joint Workshop on Linguistics and Language Processing -
Duration: 26 Mar 2022 → …


ConferenceThe 30th Joint Workshop on Linguistics and Language Processing
Period26/03/22 → …


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