MetaNet: An Overview

The MetaNet project seeks to systematically identify and analyze the metaphors that people use to discuss and reason about a broad range of topics and domains. To accomplish these aims, we have developed a system that makes use of a repository of formalized frames and metaphors to automatically detect, categorize, and analyze expressions of metaphor in large-scale text corpora. The publicly accessible version of the repository is available via the MetaNet Wiki. The MetaNet system is currently housed at the International Computer Science Institute in Berkeley, California.

The originating phase of the MetaNet project involved a large team of researchers from ICSI, UC San Diego, University of Southern California, Stanford, and UC Merced, and was funded through the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) agency under its Metaphor Program. The primary objective of the original project was to build a computer system capable of understanding metaphors used in English, Persian, Russian, and Spanish. In addition, a group of cognitive linguists and neuroscientists performed research to test how metaphor affects thinking and emotion, and to evaluate the methodologies and results produced by the computational metaphor system. The people involved in this initial phase of this project are listed in the People section, and some of their publications are listed in the Publications link above. For a more detailed description of this originating phase, MetaNet: A Multilingual Metaphor Repository.

The Understanding of Metaphor in MetaNet

As analyzed in Conceptual Metaphor Theory, metaphors allow language users to exploit their rich and complex knowledge of one domain, such as the physical world, to understand and reason about another, often less structured and/or more abstract domain. Building on the foundation of Conceptual Metaphor Theory, MetaNet has developed formal representations of metaphors as mappings from one domain (the Source domain) to another (the Target domain) , and has built a structured repository containing systematic network of searchable and interrelated metaphors, as well as a network of semantic frames that act as source and target domains of metaphors. In the MetaNet metaphor repository we have been creating a very large compendium of attested metaphors, including time metaphors, mind metaphors, event structure metaphors, emotion metaphors, and morality metaphors. It also includes novel metaphors pertaining to target domains of interest to the project, which have centered on social problems such as issues of poverty, taxation, bureaucracy, governance, gun violence, and cancer. In addition to the searchable encyclopedia of systematically-linked metaphors and the semantic frames that constitute the source and target domains, the MetaNet project has been exploring metaphors in corpus data across four different languages, namely American English, Mexican Spanish, Iranian Persian, and Russian as spoken in Russia. The goal of the MetaNet project has been to build a system that will extract linguistic manifestations of metaphor and automatically interpret them. The diagram shows the system flow, from metaphor database creation and storage, to metaphor extraction from corpus texts, to analysis and querying of extracted data.