Book

Understanding Figurative Language

Sam Glucksberg

Published in print August 2001 | ISBN: 9780195111095
Published online January 2008 | e-ISBN: 9780199872107 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195111095.001.0001

Series: Oxford Psychology Series

Understanding Figurative Language

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The book presents a comprehensive account of how people understand metaphors and idioms in everyday discourse. Traditionally, figurative language has been considered to be derived from and more complex than literal language. The book presents an alternative view, arguing that figurative language makes use of the same kinds of linguistic and pragmatic operations that are used for literal language. A new theory of metaphor comprehension integrates linguistic, philosophical, and psychological perspectives to account for figurative language use. The theory's central tenet is that everyday conversational metaphors are used spontaneously to create new concepts and categories. Metaphor is special only in the sense that metaphorical categories are salient examples of the things that they represent. These categories get their names from the best examples of those categories. Thus, the literal “shark” can be a metaphor for any vicious and predatory creature. Because the same term, “shark”, is used for both its literal referent and for the metaphorical category, as in “my lawyer is a shark”, such terms have dual-reference. In this way, metaphors simultaneously refer to the abstract metaphorical category and to the most salient literal exemplar of that category, as in the expression “boys (literal) will be boys (metaphorical)”. The book concludes with a comprehensive treatment of idiom use, and an analysis and critique (written by Matthew McGlone) of conceptual metaphor in the context of how people understand both conventional and novel figurative expressions.

Keywords: categories; concepts; conceptual metaphor; dual-reference; linguistics; metaphorical categories; pragmatics; reference; Theory of Metaphor Comprehension

Book.  144 pages.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Cognitive Psychology

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Table of Contents

Metaphor The Central Trope in Understanding Figurative Language

Chapter

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Beyond the Literal in Understanding Figurative Language

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Beyond Similarity in Understanding Figurative Language

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Beyond Comparison Property Attribution in Understanding Figurative Language

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Idioms From Metaphors to “Just Long Words”? in Understanding Figurative Language

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Concepts as Metaphors in Understanding Figurative Language

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