London: Intelligence officials in the US are developing a computer software that will analyse the various metaphors used by foreigners during conversations.
The Metaphor Program will “reveal the underlying beliefs and world-views of members of a culture” by examining the subtle differences in their choice of metaphors.
It will take out figures of speech from vast numbers of statements by Farsi, Russian, Spanish and English speakers, label them with precise meanings, and store all this in a computerised “metaphor repository”.
Next, analysts will compare real-life statements against the database to predict the intentions of people who may represent a threat to the US or who are involved in international conflicts.
Dr Heather McCallum-Bayliss, the project chief, presented the program to companies bidding to take part.
She suggested words used by Israelis and Palestinians to describe each other, and by Indians and Pakistanis to describe Britain.
As an example, “you have to find your own way” is neutral and associated with a journey, she said, while “you have to fight for what you want” is negative and associated with a struggle.
She said metaphors also influence those who hear them, hinting that the US may be interested in using the system to analyse the precise language used by extremist leaders.
“It would help analysts, who have to go through piles and piles of documents, to get beyond the literal meaning of translated material and take the temperature of a place and time,” the Telegraph quoted an executive from a linguistics firm seeking to take part, as saying.