Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Cecil Garmon, Judith Hoover, Sally Ray

Degree Program

Department of Communication

Degree Type

Master of Arts


This study was undertaken to determine the dominant cultural metaphors at work in American and Japanese organizational culture, to examine the ways in which each society interprets these metaphors, and to assess the importance of the metaphors relative to intercultural communication. Using a combination of qualitative content analysis, rhetorical criticism, contextual analysis, and non-participant observation, two of the most dominant metaphors in both cultures, business-as-war and business-as-family, were discovered and examined. The research data comes from a variety of books, scholarly and popular articles, pamphlets, unpublished papers, films, and miscellaneous documents. These materials cover many disciplines: communication, history, popular culture, sociology, psychology, business management, and literature. Additional written and verbal information obtained from personal interviews conducted at a Japanese-owned American-staffed manufacturing facility supplements these materials.

By applying Osborn's (1967) theory of "archetypal metaphors," or metaphors which strike deep into the human subconscious, Gozzi's (1990b) concept of "minimetaphors" which arise from these archetypal metaphors. and Hall and Trager's (Hall, 1973) "major triad" (formal, Informal, and technical) of behavioral modes, the following conclusions were derived (1) many metaphors appear in both societies, but the familial and military metaphors dominate the business cultures, (2) viewing business as a war developed out of the violent histories of both cultures and perpetuates harmful attitudes, (3) viewing business as a family developed out of the homogeneity of the Japanese culture, but it did not develop as readily in the more heterogeneous United States. (4) each society interprets these metaphors in different ways, making them culturally unique but not culturally exclusive, (5) different interpretations may arise from the ways in which the cultures transmit the metaphors, (6) many of the minimetaphors associated with both of these archetypes no longer refer to their original meanings, and (7) multinational corporations will transmit their own unique cultural metaphors to their foreign employees.


Communication | International and Intercultural Communication | Organizational Communication | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social Influence and Political Communication