Graduate studies at Western
|Abstract||Metaphor appears to be a paradigmatically pragmatic phenomenon. It involves a gap between the conventional meaning of words and their occasion-specific use, of precisely the kind that motivates distinguishing pragmatics from semantics. This assumption is so widespread that it has received little explicit justification, but at least two obvious considerations can be offered in its support. First, metaphorical interpretation is importantly parasitic on literal meaning. If a hearer doesn’t know the literal meanings of the relevant expressions, she will only accidentally succeed in interpreting an utterance metaphorically. In children, the general ability to comprehend and to knowingly produce metaphors (especially those based on abstract similarities) develops later than the capacity for literal speech (Vosniadou 1987). Moreover, various cognitive and brain disorders, such as autism (Happé 1995), schizophrenia (Langdon et al. 2002), and lesions in the right hemisphere (Brownell et al. 1990) significantly impair metaphorical comprehension, while there are no converse cases of impairment in literal comprehension with preserved capacity to interpret metaphors. Second, metaphorical interpretation depends not just on knowledge of the conventional meanings of the words uttered and their mode of combination, but also on substantive and wide-ranging presuppositions (real or mutually pretended) about the referents of the relevant expressions. As a result, the same sentence can receive dramatically different metaphorical interpretations in distinct contexts. For instance, sentence (1).|
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