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Euphemistic conceptual metaphors in epitaphs from Highgate Cemetery

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Death is a timeless taboo in which psychological, religious and social interdictions coexist. In consequence, human beings feel reluctant to deal with the subject of death using straightforward terms and therefore tend to soften the effect of what they really wish to communicate. With this in mind, it is the aim of this paper to explore the euphemistic language on a sample of epitaphs from the Eastern Highgate Cemetery in London. As figurative language constitutes a potent source for death-related euphemism, the present study proceeds to trace an account of the different conceptual metaphors in epitaphs within the framework of Lakoff and Johnson’s Conceptual Metaphor Theory. The results obtained support the idea that most of the conceptualizations of death observed in the gravestones imply a positive value-judgment of human mortality and aim at assisting those left alive in coping with the pain of loss and the fear of dying.
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Keywords: conceptual metaphor; death taboo; epitaph; euphemism

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2011-01-01

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