Metonymy in Language About Organizations: A Corpus-Based Study of Company Names

21 Pages Posted: 11 Jan 2008


In this paper, I examine the use of metonymies in people's talk about organizations. Drawing upon a corpus of natural talk extracted from the British National Corpus (BNC) I identify recurring categories of metonymies that appear to be a central part of people's talk about organizations. These categories of metonymies involve substitutions where an organization stands in for its members, its products, its facilities, its stock or shares or a company-related event. I also found that metonymies in each of these categories are used as basic metonymic expressions that are only partially connected to metaphorical expressions and interpretations of organizations. Where those connections exist, the use of metonymies follows a metaphor-from-metonymy linguistic pattern (where a metaphorical meaning arises from the use of a metonymy) rather than a metonymy-within-metaphor pattern (where a metonymy is part of a metaphorical expression). I elaborate on the implications of these findings for our understanding of how organizations are discursively constructed and understood through metonymic language.

Suggested Citation

Cornelissen, Joep P., Metonymy in Language About Organizations: A Corpus-Based Study of Company Names. Journal of Management Studies, Vol. 45, Issue 1, pp. 79-99, January 2008. Available at SSRN: or

Joep P. Cornelissen (Contact Author)


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