Cognitive-Discursive Analysis of the Idiom “Glass Ceiling” in American Social Media

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Anna A. Konstantinova

Doctor of Philology, Professor at the Chair of Foreign Languages № 2, Institute of Fundamental Sciences, Kuban State Technological University, Krasnodar, Russia


Section: Media Language

This paper discusses the results of a cognitive-discursive study of the idiom "glass ceiling", which has retained popularity in American socio-political discourse for more than four decades. According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the phrase means “an intangible barrier within a hierarchy that prevents women or minorities from obtaining upper-level positions”. The author of the paper studied its linguistic and cognitive-discursive features with a special focus on its performance as a discursive “guide” for interpreting the socio-political phenomenon of gender inequality in the professional sphere. The empirical material is made up of posts, political cartoons and memes published оn social media by American women's rights activists and online communities. The author suggested a three-profile approach to the study of the phrase “glass ceiling”. The linguistic profile includes the aspects of its origin, definition as well as syntagmatic and paradigmatic relations. As can be seen from the linguistic profile, "glass ceiling" is a modern idiom that is currently being recycled in discourse in its derivative forms and creative modifications. As the “cognitive profile” of the idiom demonstrates, it encapsulates a universal metaphorical concept that makes the phrase and its derivatives efficient tools for conveying socially significant knowledge. The interplay of verbal and visual aspects observed in the sampled examples is exploited by the authors of the media texts under consideration for framing the issue of gender inequality in the workplace. The following media frames have been singled out: the glass ceiling is a real obstacle; the glass ceiling is created by men; the glass ceiling can be broken; breaking the glass ceiling is potentially dangerous; successful glass ceiling breakers are superheroines; the figures of H. Clinton and K. Harris are the epitomes of female success. The discursive profile unveiled the diversity of the idiom. The author of the paper can conclude that the prevalent creative use of the idiom in discourse arises from the current socio-political environment and reflects the necessity to name the significant changes taking place in the USA.

Keywords: gender inequality, idiom “glass ceiling”, creolized texts, feminist movement, social media, media framing
DOI: 10.30547/vestnik.journ.2.2022.111135


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