What is said by a metaphor: the role of salience and conventionality

Pragmatics and Cognition 21 (2):304-328 (2013)
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Contextualist theorists have recently defended the views (a) that metaphor-processing can be treated on a par with other meaning changes, such as narrowing or transfer, and (b) that metaphorical contents enter into “what is said” by an utterance. We do not dispute claim (a) but consider that claim (b) is problematic. Contextualist theorists seem to leave in the hands of context the explanation about why it is that some meaning changes are directly processed, and thus plausibly form part of “what is said”, while some others are not. While granting the role of context in this respect, we contend that there are that there are elements that play an instrumental role in providing direct access to the metaphorical content, namely, the conventionality of the expressions and the salience of the concepts involved. We will start by criticizing Recanati’s and Relevance Theory’s accounts of metaphor. Then we examine the claims of Carston’s and Giora’s two-process accounts that set the stage for a revision of the main elements involved, namely, the properties of conventionality and salience. Finally we examine a number of representative examples, explaining why some cases involve a direct access to the metaphorical content and others require an intermediate non-figurative interpretation.

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Author Profiles

Fernando Martinez-Manrique
Universidad de Granada
Agustin Vicente
University of the Basque Country

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References found in this work

Metaphors we live by.George Lakoff & Mark Johnson - 1980 - Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Edited by Mark Johnson.
Literal Meaning.François Récanati - 2002 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
Logic and Conversation.H. P. Grice - 1975 - In Donald Davidson (ed.), The logic of grammar. Encino, Calif.: Dickenson Pub. Co.. pp. 64-75.

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