Review: Josef Stern, Metaphor in Context [Book Review]

Noûs 39 (4):715-731 (2005)
Abstract
Metaphor is a crucially context-dependent linguistic phenomenon. This fact was not clearly recognized until some time in the 1970’s. Until then, most theorists assumed that a sentence must have a fixed set of metaphorical meanings, if it had any at all. Often, they also assumed that metaphoricity was the product of grammatical deviance, in the form of a category mistake. To compensate for this deviance, they thought, at least one of the sentence’s constituent terms underwent a meaning-changing ‘metaphorical twist’, which deleted the objectionable selection restriction or semantic marker (e.g., Levin 1977) or turned one of the term’s fixed set of connotations into its denotation (e.g., Beardsley 1962). This situation changed as theorists began to pay more serious attention to how metaphors actually function. First, it was pointed out that not all sentences used metaphorically are logically or even pragmatically absurd (Cohen 1975). Second, it became increasingly obvious that in the context of different sentences, and in the context of the same sentence as uttered by different speakers on different occasions, the same word could be used metaphorically to express many, very different meanings. Semantic theories became increasingly bloated as theorists attempted to encompass all this variety within the lexicon. Eventually, semantic theories of metaphor were largely abandoned. Instead, theorists generally maintained either that metaphors are a type of speaker meaning, on which a speaker says one thing in order to mean something else (e.g., Grice 1975, Searle 1979), or else that metaphors don’t have any distinctive ‘meaning’ at all, but simply cause certain distinctive effects in their hearers (e.g., Davidson 1984, Rorty 1987). Philosophers of language have devoted much energy in the last 30 years to investigating the various ways in which context can affect communicated..
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Citations of this work BETA
Ofra Magidor (2009). Category Mistakes Are Meaningful. Linguistics and Philosophy 32 (6):553-581.
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