The OBJECT Metaphor in the Conceptualisation of Cancer in Malay Women’s Narratives

Nur Sabrina Zafiran Mohd Jamil, Sabariah Md Rashid, Zalina Mohd Kasim


Our conceptualisation of life-threatening illness such as cancer is said to be highly metaphorised and often grounded in some fundamental contrastive categories of experience in the physical environment. As such, some studies have revealed the use of different metaphors, such as WAR, JOURNEY and GAME in cancer related discourse. Related to this, the current paper seeks to examine the use of the OBJECT metaphor in Malay women’s narratives on cancer, utilising the framework of Conceptual Metaphor Theory (CMT) as propounded by Lakoff and Johnson (1980). This dimension of metaphor has not been explored before among Malay women specifically on cancer. It illustrates some examples of the relevant metaphorical expressions and discusses how the source domain OBJECT structures the women’s thinking of cancer. Findings of the study indicate that conceiving cancer in terms of a heavy object, an unwanted object, and as a gift provides insights into the women’s reality in coping with this life-threatening illness. The OBJECT metaphor structured in the women’s narratives highlights not only their conception of the disease, but also their expectation and optimism in coping with the illness. Findings of the study could be useful for health professionals and caretakers in that a more effective communication could occur between them and cancer patients, which, in turn, could lead to a better understanding of cancer patients’ experiences.


Cancer, OBJECT Metaphor, Conceptual Metaphors, Conceptual Metaphor Theory

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