Metaphors we kill by; rhetoric and conceptual structure in United States Army doctrine

2005 2005

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Abstract (summary)

Analogical thought, thinking of one domain of experience in terms of another, helps us understand new ideas in relation to preexisting knowledge. This dissertation examines five parallel examples of analogical thought in United States Army doctrine in which various target domains are conceptualized in terms of traditional warfare.

The first chapter examines the way in which “information” is explained in terms of a construct called “the cognitive hierarchy,” which is a blend of folk models of thought and the military command structure. Here, “information” is conceived of as a raw material to be refined to a useable state as it is processed by successively higher levels in the hierarchy. The second chapter analyzes the inclusion of “information” into the elements of combat power, a heuristic that staff officers use to plan operations. Unlike the first four elements, firepower, maneuver, leadership, and protection, which have independent but interrelated capabilities, “information” is characterized exclusively in terms of its ability to coordinate the effects of the other four.

The third chapter explores the term “information operations,” a blend of the domains of cognition and communication, and of combat, that “weaponizes” information. Chapter Four analyzes a startling metaphor that represents persuasion as a form of lethal firepower, Finally, the last chapter examines the difficulty of portraying success in peace operations, which comprise both peace enforcement and peacekeeping. Because the event shape of a successful peace operation involves reducing forces, relinquishing power, and withdrawal by the peacekeepers, it conforms to the event shape of a failed attack.

All five chapters share a rich and highly developed source domain, warfare that is used to explain the workings of relatively impoverished target domains, communication and thought. The result is that the target domains are distorted to the point that key elements in them are elided or altered beyond recognition.

This dissertation is unique in that it analyzes not only analogical thought, but also the corporate thought of a large institution that uses it to solve problems in the real world. The resulting actions have far-reaching impacts on both international security and countless lives across the world.

Indexing (details)

0681: Rhetoric
0681: Composition
0290: Linguistics
Identifier / keyword
Language, literature and linguistics; Army; Conceptual structure; Doctrine; Metaphors; Rhetoric; Semantics
Metaphors we kill by; rhetoric and conceptual structure in United States Army doctrine
Brenner, Nannette Valencia Manalo
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 66/06, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
9780542185274, 054218527X
Turner, Mark
University of Maryland, College Park
University location
United States -- Maryland
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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