The Target Domain is that whic The Source Domain is opened by 1.  Note the Source and Target Focus on Target Domain. 
Ident The Source Domain is ''opened''

First is the Problem, Topic or Dispute

Target Domain

The Target Domain is that which is being focused on now, the content being discussed. What is of concern is within this domain -- the situation, problem, topic or dispute you face now.

[Alternatively the Target is sometimes called the Topic or Tenor.]

Metaphor, when it is present, is usually well-integrated into the context of the Target. Everything may seem to fit together easily and coherently. You may not, at first, detect any metaphor operating.

To find out if metaphor is present, look for incongruity, figurative use of language, oddness, strangeness, unavailable or inappropriate meaning, or "rule-breaking" given the context of the Target Domain -- something that requires you to bring in additional context or experience to make full sense of the Target.

In the picture shown, you may consider the context (made up of the hammock, the garden, etc) normally to suggest the presence of a person within it -- in which case the dog is incongruous. Or, you may consider the dog to form the context -- in which case its occupancy of a hammock is incongruous.

To be sure, try substituting something congruent (e.g., a person) for the dog. Would this change the meaning or subtract from it?

The incongruence is how you detect the metaphor. The particular word or words can be said to trigger a metaphor or "open" a Source Domain.

Source Domain

The Source Domain is opened by a feature, aspect or device in the Target.

[Alternatively the Source is sometimes called the metaphorical focus or the Vehicle.]



1. Note the Source and Target of Each:

Pick out the words or phrases in each sentence below that are being used figuratively or that, if taken literally, produce inconcruence, strangeness or added meaning from another context. Such words indicate that the Target is understood metaphorically in terms of a Source Domain.

Mediation helps disputants reach a mutual decision.

There were underlying tensions that escalated into polarized conflict.

He made the decision, but will he follow through?

Just when I was getting to the point, he cut me off.

I gave (handed) her everything she wanted.

He has a certain set of beliefs.

They rediscovered their passion for ice cream.

Further reflection can help one learn how to isolate the Target Domain.
a. Remove the incongruous word(s) or substitute other words that are not incongruous, odd or rule-breaking; explore what meanings are still possible.
b. Discuss the context of the Target Domain as it exists without incongruous words; what the context is that makes certain words odd or rule-breaking.

2. Use the same sentences as in the previous exercise. Identify each instance where a distinction is being made or is implied; form questions you might ask to clarify, including how the person makes the distinction. For example: "He made the decision, but will he follow through?" How do we know the decision is made (compared to when it wasn't yet made)? What goes into "following through" and what tells you that it has happened? In the responses to these questions, look for incongrous words or other indications of metaphoric understanding.

Uncovering a Metaphor

Focus on Target Domain.
Identifying figurative language, words the full meaning of which is not available from Target Domain.

Also see note on Detecting a Metaphor in Language in the Main Menu
for further explanation.

For example, look for incongruity, oddness, transgression or rule-breaking in descriptions of the Target Domain. Indications that figurative language is being employed may also be signalled by "so to speak", "if you will", "in a manner of speaking". More often,
however, the figurative language will not be signalled and must be identified by the mediator.

I have described the process of uncovering clients' metaphors as consisting of listening, hearing incongruous language, forming a hypothesis about what metaphor(s) might be operating, and then making statements or asking questions to test the hypotheses. But, if no indication of operating metaphor can be detected, elicitation of a person's metaphor may also be possible (see Operating Metaphor, click on title).

In negotiations regarding parenting time, the Father is proposing more time with the children and the Mother resists, saying that Father "just doesn't see" certain things that the kids need or that may be dangerous. Father responds that he is a totally responsible father. The mediator picks up on Mother's mention of "see" and decides to explore its figurative possibilities. The mediator suggests Father's radar is scanning up here and Mother's is more down there so some of what shows up for Mom ends up below Dad's radar. Mom says, "Exactly!" Dad says he is tracking the kids just fine.

Now the two parents are both using the radar metaphor for the moment but still not understanding each other very well. The mediator wants to be more specific. So he decides to explore a related metaphor that may work better, saying:

"Well, it's not possible to have your lens focused on everything. If you are doing a video of kids' daily activity, what do you try to focus on?"

Both parents apparently accept this shift to a video photography metaphor.

Dad says, "I would want a sky cam."

Mom says, "No, you need to see their faces to know what's going on with them."

This use of metaphor helped these divorcing parents talk more clearly and effectively about what was important to each of them concerning the care of their children.

These parents were in their first session to negotiate their divorce. The Mother spoke emotionally about how her life felt since their separation, her uncertainty about money and how to be a single parent. The Father said they had been separated for two years, it was time to make it official, and have a regular parenting time schedule. They listened tolerantly to each other, but she looked hopelessly away when he spoke. When she spoke, his eyes rolled. They were not communicating very well.

Mom says: "The kids need me at home. There's so much I have to do to have food in the house and to get them off to their activities. And now so much uncertainty about money coming in, being all alone as a parent…"

The mediator (detecting the metaphor of a container with firm boundaries) responded: "Are you pretty confined inside the home, can't see where you will be tomorrow because of today?"

Mom responds: "Yes." Although Dad doesn't speak, he is now paying attention.

Dad says: "Let's get on with the divorce, splitting up stuff, deciding on the parenting schedule…"

The mediator (detecting a journey metaphor with distinct points along the way) responds: "So you're looking down the road and ready to make decisions about each step you need to take so you can move on?"

Dad nods; Mom also seems more comprehending. The mediator addresses Dad: "In your mind you're already on the road. Now look back to where one starts from and what preparations are needed."

The mediator turns to Mother: "If, for a moment, you look out from where you are now, past today, can you see down the road…handling these decisions, …?"

The mediator has responded to each client in terms of the metaphor detected for each, received affirmation, and begun to test an extension of the journey metaphor that might find useful. As the session continued both clients began to pay more focused attention to what the other was saying and to use more common terminology.

Source Domain

The Source Domain is "opened" by a feature, aspect or device in the Target.

Identify the "incongruous" word or words:

"He has a certain set of beliefs."



follow through

getting to the point cut me off

more ex

substitute congruous


Substitute "congruous" words.

Further reflection can help us learn to isolate the Target Domain: