Liliana Cubo de Severino; Daniel Adrián Israel; Víctor Gustavo Zonana
Universidad Nacional de Cuyo


The willingness displayed by Argentine members of the political class to be inserted within the limits of the globalizing process has fostered the development of strategies of cultural and economic integration framed within programs homologous with those of MERCOSUR. This program is set forth in analogy with those already implemented in the northern hemisphere, e.g. those of NAFTA and the EEC. Given the significant contextual differences, impeding the advance of such program in the southernmost tip of South America, there appeared in Argentina - especially in the cultural and economic supplements of the newspapers of national circulation - a type of discourse meant to arouse the interest of citizens in the phenomena presented by globalization. They are textual classes primarily meant for the intellectual and economic elites, but also directed at Argentinian citizens of the middle and upper middle classes. In these texts, metaphors have a very important function: that of creating an "iconographic frame of reference" (Hawkins. 1998) giving a symbolic body to the concept of globalization so that: 1) it may be understood by non-specialists (heuristic function); and 2) the public that make up these elites and Argentinian society in general are persuaded of the eventual advantages or disadvantages of accompanying the process of globalization (argumentative function).

In order to attain these objectives in the present situation, it is necessary to modify the mental models of readers in reference to knowledge of the subject, opinions, emotions beliefs, attitudes. That is to say, the aim is to reconstruct the systems of belief extant in the social memory of Argentines. In the long term, this means transforming their ideology as a group.

The methodology employed by the press and the power groups rests on the structuring of the discourses that induce the creation of contextual models (van Dijk. 1999) in which globalization is presented with positive characteristics. These discourses take as starting point the experiential models of middle of the road Argentinians , and by means of rhetorical resources such as metaphor, hyperbole, euphemism, presumption, implicit statements, etc., they manipulate the system of beliefs underlying these episodic models, so that reading the media modifies the subjective interpretation of the facts the reader makes. And, while it is true that there is a wide gap between individual and social beliefs, the bombardment by the media, an authentic "ideological campaign" with clear persuasive function, suggests the possible modification of the latter.

The pparent intention, as we said, is "making the reader understand" what the phenomenon of globalization is about and the types of behaviour that are expected in a globalized world. This is why the notes, leading articles, jokes, and even the presentation of events in the news appear as textual classes that explain or inform about complex economic problems that are too difficult for the average person to understand.

However, in the texts analyzed, the notion that apparently emerges is that those iconographic frames of reference, and ,consequently, the metaphors used, do not always respond to the conceptual matrices explaining the globalization process.

In the corpus we analyzed, we discovered that ,even in texts having the explicit intention of persuading the reader of the advantages of globalization, the iconographic frames of reference used resort to metaphors that are in open contradiction with the principles of the matrix of the process. They are transparent metaphors belonging to political or economic discourse and that, in the case of Argentinian culture, reflect experiences that are deeply rooted in the members of Argentinian society, already crystallized in linguistic expressions (Dirven. 1990, p. 556); metaphors that are related to the traditional polarization of political power and the distribution of wealth and that have historically characterized the map of Argentinian sociocultural discourse in the representation of Argentina's internal situation (civilization/ barbarism; provinces/ Buenos Aires; federalism/ centralism), or in relation with the sphere of world politics (developed/ developing countries; first world/ third world, etc.).

Contrariwise, in others, the repertory of metaphors would adapt better to the matrix described above, and so it would be better suited to the objective underlying the text.

According to what has been stated, the aims of this paper are:

  1. to identify in a corpus of informative texts chosen at random the metaphors most frequently used in the construction of iconographic frames of reference related to the globalizing process and its effects;
  2. to tell the difference between those metaphors that conform to the logics of globalization and those that do not (because of being rooted in previous models of socioeconomic organization-especially those modern in nature).
  3. to characterize the system of values presumed to exist in them;

d) to measure heuristic and argumentative efficiency analyzing some texts that are highly representative of the corpus used , from the point of view of the writer and the reader.

The development of these objectives will demonstrate how, in the play of discourse, the metaphors of globalization are used rhetorically to give account of the effectiveness (or lack of it) of the process as seen in Argentina, and of their capacity to overcome or to conceal the structural problems still awaiting resolution

The paper we are presenting is structured in the following manner: first, the theoretical frame in its reference to metaphor and globalization will be made explicit; then the corpus of metaphors (collected from newspapers )classified according to their degree of conformity to the conceptual matrices of globalization and to their pertaining to any one semantic field will be presented; thirdly, an editorial note by Dr.Mariano Grondona to exemplify the discursive function of metaphors, from the point of view of the author and that of the readers will be analyzed; finally, the results obtained will be discussed.

2 Methodology

The methodology employed in the development of this paper is as follows:

  1. Descriptive study starting from a random corpus of metaphors collected in texts used for information activities, taken from the economic supplements of two Buenos Aires newspapers, La Nación and Clarín, in January and February, 1998 and 1999. The choice of the papers responds to these reasons: they are the most popular nationwide, and even though their ideological profiles are different, considered historically, nowadays, they belong to the same corporate group, that takes strategic advantage of the difference for marketing motives. The choice of period responds to the fact that, at the time, relations among the members of Mercosur were in crisis due to economic adjustment problems.

2 )Discourse analysis of an editorial note selected because of its illocutionary force.

3) Qualitative analysis of the reception of the editorial note in a stratified sample of readers.

Theoretical framework

  1. Metaphor:


The process of globalization is understood as that describing patterns of socio-cultural relations presupposing a "transit of national and modern identities, territorially based, to other post modern identities of a transterritorial character" (García Canclini. 1995), these identities "are structured not form the logics of the Nation-States, but from that of the markets" (Bernal Meza. 1998). The globalizing process implies important changes in the manner of conceiving key notions such as state, nation, region and consequently also in the manner of acting in the political, economic and cultural world.

These transformations may be characterized by means of the following conceptual matrices:

4. Map of the metaphors collected from the cultural supplements.

Going over the matrices of the globalizing process, the metaphors appearing in the corpus might be classified as:

4.1.Metaphors referring to dynamism and its semantic features.

Metaphors accent dynamism, process, interactivity, flexibility. These values present a positive ixiologization. The negative effects of the process are categorized as transitory, short term and necessary within the globalizing logic that is long term. This idea is embodied in president Carlos Menem's slogan: "We are not doing well, but we are on the right track". From this point of view of interpretation of the process, the right metaphors emphasize dynamism in the process and not its difficulties. Those that are not right emphasize difficulties. Certain semantic fields chosen as basis for metaphors are not right by nature because they involve features contradicting those of the conceptual matrices of globalization.

Climate and nature
Appropriate Non appropriate

-"Not declaring that rain will become worse, it is possible to think we may enjoy more humid weather".

-"This year brings seeds for growth".

-"Founding a relationship prevailing against wind and rain".

"Time for economic drought".

-"Strong winds sometimes more like hurricanes in the movement of capitals".

-"To wait for the storm to subside".

-"To unsaddle the horse until the storm is spent".

Ocean and air travel
Appropriate Non appropriate
-"Private enterprise came to a safe haven".

-"Latin America trusts it will be able to take off very soon".
-"Argentine economy is always at the mercy of what happens far away from its shores, like the captain of a sailing ship who can hardly influence its charted course".

-"Mexico's variable income sank!".

Health, the state of the body
Appropriate Non appropriate

-"The devaluation in Mexico acted like a vaccine in the Argentine economy".

-"The fusion and take over fever changes the international business outlook".

-"Local entities might inject money in the market…

-"Argentina suffered fit of speculation against the system".

-…were it not for its own sloth or lack of fitness to develop modern financial instruments".

-"One of the possible costs of dollarization is the possible risk that Federal Reserve goes crazy".

Games and gambling
Appropriate Non appropriate
-"Joyful and trusty peals inviting to double the odds and beat the best of them".

-"Changing the rules of the game".

-"To kick the ball outside the field".

-"To change markets into a gambling casino".

-"To shuffle the cards and deal anew".

-"A new wrestling match".

Personification and movement
Appropriate Non appropriate
-"The market acted, moved".

-"Argentinean gains are expected to grow".

-"The peso staggered".

-"Investments fled in panic".

-"Recession dragged down an important number of Mexican companies and banks".

Situations of learning as process
Non appropriate

-"Overcoming the Brazilian crisis is a supreme test for Argentina".

-"The Argentinean economy is standing in the corner in punishment".

-"Argentinean economy may lecture on markets and volatility".

-"The Argentines that took note of what the Brazilian minister said gathered provisions that many thought too optimistic".

Non appropriate

-"An invasion of imports".

-"Mercosur should agree on its own safe guarding articles".

-"Lack of development caused crashes".

-"It was a battle with no winners".

-"Three great rivals fight for their lives".

-"Chile and Colombia, they are basically markets acting as a safe haven for the region".

  1. Constitution of an order as a decentralized global network

Metaphors tend to demonstrate that relationships are symmetrical among participants of the process. There is a new order not responding to any previous one, the norms regulating that order are mutually agreed upon among the subjects. The consequence of this new order is, as far as all participants are partners in the system, the notion of peripheral country is less important in the mental model presupposed by the text. The risk is not so much being marginal but being outside the system, being marginal, bur being outside the system. Metaphors disguised as metrical relationships actually showing that Argentina is a sleeping partner obeying rules she has not put forth, and so her position is subordinate. We consider appropriate the metaphors proposing a relation of interdependence. Non appropriate are the ones proposing a subordinate relationship.

Social and family relationships
Appropriate Non appropriate
-"We work as a dating club circulating a catalogue with data cards of concerns in search of partners or trying to agree upon a strategic alliance". -"Brazil is like our big brother".

Computer Science
Non appropriate
-"The planetary culture of the present informs us in a universal language owned by no one that Regis Debray labels "visual esperanto".

-"Now is the time when the screens of the new global computer science village seem to have caught the signal simultaneously: 1996 with falling interest rates from here to Japan".

  1. Multicultural identity

Metaphors tend to restate the modern concept of essentialist or substantialist national identity. The idea of nation as a physical country bound to a territory, a history, a common legal frame loses importance. The notion of region, understood from the point of view of trade is given priority. Those metaphors in the corpus corresponding to La Nacion daily newspaper assign a positive axiologization (appropriate) only to homogeneity and present a negative axiologization (non appropriate) to those features of heterogeneity, idiosyncrasy, national values. In general, the problems delaying the process are attributed not to the system itself, but to any of the partners in it. For this reason, metaphors in this field are mostly non appropriate when they focus their attention in the origin of the problem.

Typical food and drink
Non appropriate

-"The tequila, vodka, caipirinha y cachaca, rice effects".

-"The economy is suffering from a slight hangover".

-"It was too big a draught for Mexico".

Typical dances
Non appropriate
-"Tango, samba effects".

National currency
Appropriate Non appropriate

"Dollarizing the economy is one way of strengthening confidence in the stability achieved by Argentina".

-"Dollarization guarantees stability".

-"Dollarizing means eliminating a source of uncertainty at a minimal cost.

-"National currencies are seen as an obstacle for investors and international corporations".

-"National currency means risk ".

-"Brazil left investors open mouthed with the fearsome adjustments performed on its new currency, the real".

Erasing boundaries

-"The 90's produced a great change: the barriers of world trade fall and capitals begin to flow with no consideration for national boundaries".

-"Mercosur opens up broad highways to integration".

-"An important human stream brings down old fashioned barriers that favor regional integration and will open new horizons".

-"Many Argentinean businessmen have the doors open to invest in Brazil".

  1. Hypotheses

The map described above permits the presentation of the following hypotheses related to the ideological use of metaphors in the discourse of journalistic information about globalization:

  1. The types of metaphors chosen by the author to construct the iconografic frame of reference are indicators of ideology.
  2. The selection of metaphors is motivated by the need to mediate the abstract concept of globalization.
  3. At the same time, mediation is doubly conditioned by: a) the knowledge the author has of the conceptual matrices of globalization; b) by the image the author has of the potential reader.
  4. This twofold restriction will explain the following discursive behaviors: a) choice of a metaphor that is non appropriate with respect to the matrix; b) selection of appropriate metaphors regulated in discourse by means of other rhetorical resources with the aim of inhibiting non desirable (but possible) inferences.

6. Text analysis

The text chosen is "Mercosur, the year of truth", that appeared in La Nacion, on Sunday, February 14, 1999. The author, Dr. Mariano Grondona, frequently writes the leading article for this paper. Besides, Dr. Grondona is widely known in Argentina as a professional linked to the media.

As a character of the media, "Dr. Grondona" presents himself as a member of the Faculty of Universidad de Buenos Aires and other foreign universities. He constructs his professional profile as a professor and mediator of the great systems of political ideas. He has openly expressed his admiration of classical liberalism. This person constructs his public as individuals with a keen critical sense, who analyze reality but still need his mediation to do so.

In accordance with this image, the style of Dr.Grondona's article is clearly meadiational and it is developed as a case of problem resolution. In accordance with this presentation, he starts with a question bringing down the dominant metaphorical and isotopic fields.

What is the difference between football, politics and trade? That, while football and politics are games of "zero sum", trade is a game of net results. In games of "zero sum" if one wins, the other loses. If "Boca" wins, "River" loses. There have been and there are still several candidates to occupy the presidency on December 10, 1999. Only one will win. (Grondona. 1999)

This is a false rhetorical question because it assumes as evident a proposition that is not: "football, politics and trade are games". In the mental model of the Argentinean reader, for whom football is the prototype of games, there are necessarily a winner and a loser. The association of the three activities is not fortuitous because there is a virtual point of logical intersection in the representations Argentine readers have of the three concepts: they are activities subject to hazardous changes. The metaphors developed from this presentation will have the objective of nullifying this stereotyped iconografic frame of reference of the Argentinean public. This strategy is used to see in Brazil, Argentina's traditional competitor, in football as well as in trade, a potential ally (heuristic function). It is also used to convince that this way of conceiving Brazil must be accompanied by a behavior in accordance with the norms of an association (argumentative function).

In order to fulfill this the author introduces within the series a first criterion of disjunction: a positive sum game versus a zero sum game. Thus, he again distributes the members of the series (football, politics, trade) and the socio-political problem he analyzes is contextualized according to another mental model, that of transaction.

What distinguishes trade from football and politics is that the preference of the participants are not identical. If I purchase a car worth $20,000 it will be because, while I prefer having a car and not the $20,000 it costs, the dealer thinks the opposite: he values the $20,000 more than the car. (Grondona. 1999)

This fragment offers a figurative representation of the narrative program TRANSACTION, inhibiting the mental model that associates trade and competition. The reasoning offers a likely discourse, since when speaking of "preferences" the difference between cost value and sale value is overlooked. This increases the illocutionary force of the new iconografic frames of reference. The actors taking part in the process are constructed from now on as exercising their will ("I prefer buying"), and not as exercising power ("I can/cannot buy"). But still the mental model of the transaction is irrelevant in the representation of a globalized order. In the first place, because it is a non continuous short term action. In the second place, because it dissolves when the subjects and the action realize it is not convenient. The model of transaction fulfills a necessary role in the thematic progression: it operates like a hinge making possible the activation of a new mental model, overcoming the above mentioned disadvantages.

But the commercial relationship, that begins as an essentially selfish action, because each one is pursuing his own advantage, with time brings about affinity, friendship among participants.

The German sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies proposed a distinction, now famous, between society and community. In society people associate thinking of themselves above all. In community they feel part of an encompassing whole. The typical example of society is the stock company. The typical example of community is the family. (Grondona. 1999)

This fragment presents a new inhibition of possible but unwanted inferences of the TRANSACTION narrative program. This program is substituted by new mental model that impugns both the short duration of the act and its convenience, unilaterally understood. The mental model of family/community is the one preferred as dominant and to apply to a specific case that has not been mentioned yet: that of the relationship between Argentina and Brazil as partners in Mercosur.

The quote of an authority, fitting with the didactic tone chosen disguises the absence of a logical nexus diminishing the conceptual distance between "transaction" and "family". On the other hand, like every quotation from an authority it increases the illocutionary force of argumentation.

Before he concludes the definite application of the model, the author establishes a new analogy, but now between cases: the EEC as the most fitting example of community, the NAFTA, that in Dr. Grondona's opinion still behaves as a stock company, and finally MERCOSUR, that is midway between the Mexican-American society and the EEC. In Grondona's opinion 1999 is the year of truth for Mercosur because, according to his own words, it still does not know whether it is a stock company or a community. It will be revealed in the course of this crucial year.

After mentioning the different types of society or community, Dr. Grondona enumerates and presents statistical data on the benefits Mercosur has brought to the Argentine economy, benefits that are more favorable to Argentina than to Brazil. Figures are a rhetorical resource to validate his assertion with objective reasoning. However, he shows only one figure: the surplus of Argentine balance of trade between 1995 and 1998, which he ascribes to the existence of Mercosur. The contrast between the figures he explains and those he does not mention (index of increase or decrease of the foreign debt during the same period, GDP, etc.) show an ideological manipulation of "objective" data. This manipulation is still more evident in the way labels the argumentative sequence: "Booming times", giving graphic and thematic emphasis to the positive axiologization of global trade. The subtitle leads the reader to predict the next sequence: "Bad times".

He then goes back to general mental model of the family and exemplifies the expected behaviors according to this new way of conceptualizing trade:

When a new couple marries, the priest or the magistrate wants the newly wed that they will have to be mutually supportive in fortune as well as in adversity, but who thinks about adversity at the moment? They are at a party. If a couple never lived unfortunate days, they would not know the boundaries of the initial compromise. It is only in bad times that they discover if love truly exists. 1999 will be a bad year…". (Grondona. 1999)

In the model "Mercosur = family", Brazil and Argentina are us before them, the rest of the world. If the Argentinean readers are coherent with the mental model, this situation should not lead them to take "mean" but "generous" decisions. The mere relationship presupposes a return to previous mental models (transaction and game) in which Argentina represents us and Brazil them. By means of antithesis and chiasm he tries to persuade the reader that Mercosur is a community already, albeit an emerging community that the benefits it will bring about -in the long term-justify sacrifices in the short term: "…the members of a community think of themselves as parts of a whole and not as separate entities…".

Through the succession of mental models and their metaphorical representation (trade relationships as game, as transaction, as family) and the didactic register of his discourse, the author is trying to modify the contextual mental model of the Argentinean reader. This modification presupposes that before the present problem with Brazil the Argentines will show an attitude and a behavior compatible with the rejected mental models of game and transaction. The sequence of metaphors, of iconographic frames of reference is ideologically oriented in discourse in the defense of a global order assumed as positive.

  1. Tentative final synthesis

The construction of the map of metaphors present in La Nacion and Clarin newspapers, on the one hand, and the analysis of the exemplary text by Mariano Grondona, allow us to declare that metaphors are effectively employed in journalistic discourse in Argentina as instruments to create an iconographic frame of reference giving symbolic body to the concept of globalization.

Such metaphors and the quotations of authority, and statistical data, the use of antithesis, chiasm, cliches, emphasis markers, the selection of a marked vocabulary from an axiological point of view, the use of the pronouns us / them identifying groups, form part of a complex of linguistic resources with a clear persuasive function that is trying to modify the system of social beliefs.

NOTE: This version is of preliminary character. We are processing the data culled in the reader's survey that corresponds to the final section of this paper.


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