Conceptualizing health: A corpus-based Cultural Linguistic study

Penelope Scott*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The word 'health' is highly polysemous, and many attempts have been made to define its meaning in terms of actual use and to create a workable and even universal concept of health (Balog 1978; Boruchovitch & Mednick 2002). However, though the meaning of 'health' has been debated extensively, as well as the metaphorical conceptualizations of illness (e.g., Sontag 1978), there has been little treatment of how health is metaphorically conceptualized. This article investigates the meaning of the word 'health' in the United States and the United Kingdom, through a search on websites based on an examination of concordances in the Corpus of Global Web-Based English (GloWbE). It focuses on the senses emerging from metaphorical cultural conceptualizations. Recent developments in Conceptual Metaphor Theory (Kövecses 2005; Yu 2009) and Cultural Linguistics (Palmer 1996; Sharifian 2011) have increased the focus on the interaction between cognition and culture. I present an analysis of the conceptual metaphors, proposition schemas, and image schemas that converge to form a cultural model for health within these speech communities revealing, for example, that one model sees health in terms of a manageable valuable commodity, which may contribute to health behaviors such as self-tracking and observation, as discussed by Lupton (2016).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-32
Number of pages32
JournalInternational Journal of Language and Culture
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


  • concordance
  • cultural metaphor
  • cultural schema
  • health
  • semasiology


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