Prison language is heavily influenced by its environment and is noteworthy for its use of metaphor and metonymy. This study examined the use of metaphor and metonymy, including metaphtonymy, in prison language and how they are influenced by aspects of the environment. The metaphoric and metonymic expressions were selected from the language of incarcerated people and of correctional officers (COs). Data for this study was collected from the podcast Ear Hustle that is produced from inside San Quentin State Prison in California, USA and has been qualitatively analyzed using grounded theory. Additionally, Conceptual Metaphor Theory (CMT) was used to identify and format metaphor and metonymy found in the data. The conventional metaphors and metonymies and metaphtonymy found in the data were used by both incarcerated people and COs. The expressions were compared to the metaphors discussed by Lakoff and Johnson (1980) in their work on CMT. In this case, conventional metaphors and metonymies were often used in reference to prison structure. However, incarcerated people also use the unique metaphors INCARCERATED PERSON IS AN ANIMAL and PRISON IS A ZOO that are not evident in the speech of COs. This particular difference occurred in the data when the incarcerated individuals have more negative associations with the issue in question than do the COs. COs instead use the metaphor PRISON IS A TOOL, relying more on legal jargon and technical terms. All three of these metaphors are used by prison abolitionists when talking about prison. The results provide insight into what prison conditions are like for incarcerated people, given how prison environment influences language development, as well as the often-complicated relationships between incarcerated people and COs. Furthermore, the results illustrate that other conceptual metaphors can be found in different language varieties beyond the conventionalized ones found in non-prison discourse.
College and Department
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Rampton, Chloe true, "Of Zoos and Tools: Conceptual Metaphor Theory in the Language of Incarcerated People and Correctional Officers" (2021). Theses and Dissertations. 9532.
prison, metaphor, metonymy, metaphtonymy, Conceptual Metaphor Theory, Whorfianism