"It's not rocket science": metaphors and idioms in conflictual business meetings

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This study examines the use of metaphors and idioms (MIDs) in two conflictual business encounters from two corpora of spoken business and workplace interactions. As overtly conflictual or aggressive forms of communication are unusual in business encounters, these meetings are anomalous within both corpora. While MIDs have been described as devices employed to develop interpersonal convergence and solidarity in face-to-face conversation (Carter 2004), this study examines their use to create the opposite effect-to mark divergence. All the MIDs in the data were identified and categorized according to type (metaphors, formulae, and anomalous collocations) and junction (evaluation, intimacy, intensity, and discourse). The results showed that the two meetings contained a higher concentration of MIDs than other comparable nonconflictual encounters in the corpora. The MIDs identified performed similar functions in the two meetings and were used most frequently to express intensity. The intimacy function was used to express divergence more frequently than convergence, and often marked highly conflictual or even rude exchanges in the interaction.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-51
Number of pages25
JournalText & Talk - An Interdisciplinary Journal of Language Discourse Communication Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010


  • divergence, business meetings, metaphors, spoken corpora, idioms, conflictual language