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Article

Метафоры старения и старости в обиходно-разговорных дискурсах современной Америки

The paper presents the results of research aimed at revealing individual means of metaphoric conceptualization of aging and old age resorted to by ordinary speakers of contemporary American English. The interpretation of the existential experience of aging is a cognitive process of high complexity, which stems both from subjective factors and a wide variability of conceptual landmarks reflected and reinforced in discursive practices. The heterogeneity of the discourse of aging is accounted for by a complex dynamics of demographic, economic, political, social and other processes that shape significantly differing interpretations of old age and its axiological assessment and contribute to the simultaneous circulation of a wide range of genetically unrelated metaphors. Native speakers master the metaphorical repertoire offered by their culture, adapt it to their cognitive needs and are potentially capable of creating their own metaphorical mappings. The methodological basis of the present research is the theory of metaphorical creativity proposed by Z. Kövecses and the metaphoric landscape theory advanced by J. Lawley and P. Tompkins. The paper describes the experiment conducted on Survey Monkey among native speakers of American English aged 40-80+. The respondents were requested to answer 10 open-ended questions, whose construction met two basic criteria: 1) the presence of a simile marker aimed at preventing the respondents from using simple predicative constructions, and 2) the use of ‘clean language’ (Lawley & Tompkins), which is supposed to prevent the effect of semantic priming.  72 respondents, who took part in the survey, presented 720 answers, 357 (49,58 per cent) of which were identified as metaphorical. The analysis revealed the presence of a considerable number of culturally licensed metaphorical forms, such as phytonymic images (wilting flower, aging tree, dried fruit), alcoholic and gastronomic metaphors (aged wine / cheese), various mechanical imagery (slowing down clock, broken automobile), variations of LIFE IS A JOURNEY metaphor and others. Analysis shows, however, that even when resorting to the traditional conceptual format, respondents are capable of creatively playing with the source domain discovering hidden metaphorical possibilities (aging is ‘driving on empty’, ‘a pothole on the life road’) and offering non-standard verbal representations (aging is a ‘trip’). A particularly telling example of metaphorical creativity is the choice of a source domain when conceptualizing the traditional attributes of old age. Thus,  wisdom traditionally associated with old age is presented as a book (a mystery novel, an encyclopedia, a library, etc.), a computer hard drive, the Google search engine, a treasure and postgraduate education. Of special interest are unique creative metaphors, which include, among others, such forms as: old age is ‘Groundhog Day in Hell’, ‘becoming the Tin Man’, and ‘flat soda’. The analysis of answers presented by individual respondents shows that the typical configuration of the metaphorical landscape of aging and old age includes one or two central metaphors presented in slightly differing conceptual and verbal forms and a number of genetically different isolated metaphors.