Rendering the ungraspable graspable: the use of metaphors in Swedish palliative cancer care

Research output: Contribution to journalPublished meeting abstract


Good communication is of utmost importance in all forms of cancer care and especially so in the palliative context. To render the ungraspable graspable, metaphors are frequently used drawing on their capacity to capture the intangible in terms of more familiar experiences. For instance, to die from cancer can be described as ’coming to the end of a life journey’ or ’losing a battle’. Metaphors are largely language and culture specific. Today’s increasingly multicultural societies require particular awareness in order to achieve dignified, individualized palliative cancer care. This project aims to strengthen the scientific foundation for the use of metaphors in Swedish palliative cancer care. A secondary aim is to compare the use of metaphors in Sweden and the UK in order to reveal differences and similarities. Textual data are collected from

a) internet-based blogs, where patients write about their illness-related emotions and experiences while being in palliative care, and from

b) interviews with patients, family and health care professionals, where the focus is to investigate what it means to live a dignified life in palliative care.

The two sets of data are analyzed using both qualitative and quantitative linguistic methods. First, the Pragglejaz procedure, a well-established linguistic method for metaphor identification, is used in order to manually identify metaphorical expressions in the material, develop analytic categories adapted to the Swedish language data and ensure inter-rater reliability. Second, the material is approached by means of corpus linguistic methods. The combination of research methods is inspired by the UK-based MELC project. The data are currently being processed and the first results will be presented at the conference. The project is funded by The Kamprad Family Foundation, Sweden.


  • Charlotte Hommerberg
  • Anna W Gustafsson
  • Eva Benzein
  • Anna Sandgren
  • Elena Semino
  • Veronika Koller
External organisations
  • Linnaeus University
  • Lancaster University
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • General Language Studies and Linguistics
Translated title of the contributionAtt göra det ofattbara fattbart: användningen av metaforer i svensk palliativ cancervård :
Original languageEnglish
Article numberPO248
Number of pages1
JournalPalliative Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2016 May 11
Publication categoryResearch

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