Marianna Falcone

Thesis title:

Metaphors in narratives about diabetes: cross-cultural differences and similarities


Type 2 diabetes affects almost 500 million people worldwide and it is among the 10 most common causes of death. The number of people living with diabetes has doubled in the last 20 years and is projected to increase by 25% by 2030 (Saeedi et al., 2019), with type 2 accounting for about 90% of all cases. Research has shown how people with type 2 diabetes “need to gain control over this complex condition in order to successfully self-manage” (Youngson, Cole, Wilby, & Cox, 2015). Nonetheless, only 2 in 5 people in the UK are currently achieving their treatment targets. Personal belief is one of the contributing factors to achieving control over the illness and is often conveyed through metaphors.

Metaphors are a powerful cognitive tool, that can shape people’s attitudes and can influence their ability to cope with illness (Hendricks, Demjén, Semino, & Boroditsky, 2018). Research has shown that the use of different metaphor framings in healthcare can have positive or detrimental effects on patients (Semino, Demjén, & Demmen, 2018). However, not much literature has explored how people with type 2 diabetes metaphorically talk about their experience.

The present study aims to start filling this gap by looking at metaphor use in people’s narratives about living with type 2 diabetes. Data will be collected through qualitative interviews and will focus on experiences of Italian and English patients. By comparing Italian and English data, the research will also investigate whether cultural and/or linguistic differences can motivate and account for different metaphor use. The present project draws on the field of cognitive linguistics and on a rich background of discourse-based studies about illness.

First supervisor:

Gabriella Rundblad


7 – Linguistics, Media & Culture