Fire, Poison, and Black Tears

Metaphors of Emotion in Rebétiko

Marianna Smaragdi

149 SEK

8 in stock

SKU: 978-91-7473-363-1 Category:


This dissertation is a study of metaphors of emotion in rebétiko song texts. Rebétiko is a major popular-music style of modern Greece, consisting of melancholic songs full of sorrow, disappointment, and misfortune, as well as passion and romance, but also of cheerful songs of revelry and a carefree attitude to life. The genre developed in the Greek-speaking world and its diaspora in the early twentieth century. Its roots can be traced to mainland Greece, Asia Minor, and the Greek islands, but the musical form has been broadly influenced by many different cultures and other musical traditions. The enduring popularity that rebétiko enjoys among successive generations of Greek-speakers suggests that it expresses what might be termed ‘the Greek spirit and Greek mentality’ to a significant extent.

The basic thesis advanced and documented here is that the lyrics of rebétiko songs are highly metaphorical and that the character of their metaphors is distinctly emotional. Metaphors of emotion in rebétiko are examined in the light of the theories of conceptual metaphor developed by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson from 1980 onwards and subsequently elaborated in respect of emotion metaphors by Zóltan Kövecses. In the theories of the latter, emotions are perceived as forces. This dissertation tests the applicability of these theories to metaphors of emotion commonly encountered in rebétiko song texts. It investigates the interpretation of certain frequently recurring words and phrases as literal or as metaphorical. The analysis examines whether the various metaphors encountered are conventional or creative, and universal or culture-specific.

The corpus of rebétiko song texts analysed in this dissertation was compiled specifically for this purpose from sources representing various time periods and thematic subcategories. Words and phrases were collected from multiple contexts, in order to observe their typical behaviour, and categorised into metaphorical source domains involving force.

This dissertation thus confirms that metaphors of emotion are of crucial significance to the poetry of the emotionally charged genre which is rebétiko.

Additional information

Weight 484 g
Dimensions 13 × 170 × 240 mm


Number of pages


Publication year