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In general, a metamodel is a model which describes a model.

The metamodel in Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is a model of (primarily) linguistic models that people have.

Put simply, the meta-model is a set of language patterns (from Virginia Satir, Fritz Perls and Transformational syntax) designed to challenge limits to a person's map of the world (Grinder & Bostic, 2001). Effectively the meta-model can be reduced to asking "What specifically", or "How specifically?" to challenge unspecified nouns or verbs. Other challenges are directed at distortions, generalizations or deletions in the speaker's language (Bandler & Grinder, 1975a Ch3). The reverse set of the meta-model is the Milton-model; a collection of artfully vague language patterns elicited from the work of Milton Erickson (Bandler & Grinder, 1975b). Together these models form the basis for the all other NLP models.

The following examples are mainly derived from within a therapeutic context, however, it is also claimed that these same patterns can be noticed and applied to any context.


Distortion: Semantic Well-formedness

Example 1: Presuppositions

  • Speaker: My son is as Lazy as my Husband
  • Challenge: Am I to assume that your Husband is Lazy?

Example 2: Cause and Effect (x means y, or x makes me y)

  • Example Speaker: That news makes me angry
  • Challenge: How, specifically, does the news make you angry?


Example: Lack of Referential Index (never, nobody, everybody, all, ...)

  • Speaker: Nobody pays attention to anything I say.
  • Challenge: Who specifically doesn't pay attention to you?


Example: Comparatives and Superlatives (best, worst, ...)

  • Speaker: That was the best plan
  • Challenged: Compared to what?

(src: Bandler & Grinder, 1975a Ch3 & Ch4)

Its roots can be traced back to the work of Noam Chomsky Transformational Grammar and even further to the nominalistic tradition of William of Ockham.

An effort unrelated by origin but going in the same direction of improving clarity of communication is the constructed language Loglan (and its close cousin, Lojban).

See also


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