Effects and Meaning: Metaphors as Implicit Speech Acts

Dissertation, University of Kansas (2014)

Abstract
In this paper I show that the typical accounts of meaning do not provide us with what is most important about metaphors. The meaning of a metaphorical utterance is nothing more than what it says. What is important about metaphors looks more like effects, the realizations of significant or surprising similarities between objects they inspire in their interpreters. The effects may vary from interpreter to interpreter or even between interpretations done by the same interpreter at different times as long as there is something like a family resemblance among the core similarities noticed in each case. The use of a metaphor requires exploiting Grice's maxims of conversation and following certain conventions that parallel those required of other speech acts. Metaphors are best categorized as implicit speech acts because they rely on the illocutionary act of the utterance in the same way that jokes or insults do. What a metaphor communicates is more important than what it says.
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