Metaphors are often confused with analogies, yet while an analogy neatly maps causal structures between two domains, for example, the ‘wing of a plane’ and the ‘sail of a boat’, a metaphor provides more flexibility in use without being restricted to only the causal or physical mapping. For example, the two concepts in the metaphor ‘The Cafeteria Is An Oasis’ share some key associations yet also provide possibilities for new structure not in a causal mapping.

Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence is both the intelligence of machines and the branch of computer science which aims to create it. Depending on the researcher AI has several branches or only one. Certainly the biggest one is “the study and design of intelligent agents” in which an intelligent agent is an entity that perceives its environment and takes actions to maximize its probability of success. John McCarthy, who coined the term AI in 1956, defines it as “the science and engineering of making intelligent machines”. We locate our research close to McCarthy?s definition as we try to assist humans by generating metaphors, which is naturally difficult for humans as has been impossible for machines so far.

Cognitive linguistic

‘Cognitive’ refers to ‘it happens in our brain’. ‘Linguistic’ reflects the context of ‘language’.


A concept is the individual’s cognitive representation of an object or something intangible. It differs from the word/term, which we use to ?point to? a concept as well as from the real world object. In the language of semiotics the term is the signifier, the form which a sign takes, in this case a combination of letters, that points to the signified, the concept it represents (Chandler 2006). For example, the word car is the three letter combination c-a-r, whereas the concept is what is brought to mind, the vehicle that you drive. Confusion is possible when the same signifier points to more than one concept, when the same word has different meanings. As this is not something we can change, it is something we have to design for. Just as the choice of words to communicate with has to make sense to the people it is intended for, a well chosen metaphor therefore has to be carefully suited to the recipients; a metaphor will not be appropriate for all.

Conceptual design phase

This early phase of the engineering design process few product attributes are determined yet while there are a lot different design options. In this phase the most product characteristics are determined which goes well along with costs. This causes the importance of this early design step.


A domain is a class/cloud of concepts, which are semantically similar.


“A metaphor is a concept which is used in a context where it does not belong to originally” is a working definition which is formulated by Erik Kolb. Metaphors are commonly written with the title case typographical convention Target Is Source (see Figure). Metaphors differ from similes and analogies.


An object is a real world physical object, e.g., a car. In our linguistic definitions of concept and term/word, the object (similar to an immaterial process) is the real ‘thing’ which triggers our concepts.


In linguistics a metaphor that has been explicitly labeled as such is called a simile, typically using the different syntax of ‘like’ or ‘as’, e.g., ‘the paintbrush is like a pump’.


The combination of letters which creates a word is used to point at/signify a concept. In spoken language, we associate sounds with combinations of letters, which then point to certain concepts.