Klaus-Uwe Panther and Linda L. Thornburg

in The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Linguistics

Published in print June 2010 | ISBN: 9780199738632
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks


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Metonymy is a cognitive phenomenon—not just a figure of speech—with a considerable role in the organization of meaning (semantics), utterance production and interpretation (pragmatics), and even grammatical structure. The same metonymic principles that relate different senses of a word serve to create and retrieve novel meanings in actual language use. The interpretation of grammatical structure (construction meaning) seems to be sensitive to metonymic principles. Furthermore, metonymic processes play a crucial role in semantic change and in grammaticalization. This article discusses the rhetorical tradition as well as various cognitive linguistic approaches to metonymy. It presents a working definition of metonymy and reports some work that demonstrates the interaction of metonymy with metaphor and the experiential grounding of metonymy. It also considers the role of metonymy in referential, predicational, propositional, and illocutionary acts; examines metonymy in relation to pragmatic inferencing, that is, implicature and explicature; and looks at some of its discourse-pragmatic functions. Finally, the article explores the role of metonymy in language production, comprehension, and acquisition.

Keywords: metonymy; language production; semantics; pragmatics; grammatical structure; semantic change; grammaticalization; metaphor; implicature; explicature

Article.  12212 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Semantics

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