Philosophical Studies 178 (1):113-132 (2021)

Megan Henricks Stotts
McMaster University
There is a long philosophical tradition of skepticism about the possibility of adequate paraphrases for metaphorical utterances. And even among those who favor paraphrasability, there is a tendency to think that paraphrases of metaphorical utterances may themselves have to be non-literal. I argue that even the most evocative and open-ended metaphorical utterances can be literally and adequately paraphrased, once we recognize that they are actually indirect speech acts—specifically, indirect directives that command the hearer to engage in an open-ended comparison. This leads to an overall picture in which trite, unevocative metaphorical utterances admit of just straightforward, usually non-directive literal paraphrases, while the most evocative metaphorical utterances admit of only indirect directive paraphrases, and metaphorical utterances in a third category admit of two literal paraphrases, one of which is straightforward and usually non-directive, and the other of which takes the indirect directive form. This argument for literal paraphrasability is intended to demystify metaphor, but not to undercut metaphor’s tremendous value as a communicative device.
Keywords metaphor  paraphrase  Donald Davidson  Paul Grice  indirect speech acts
Categories (categorize this paper)
Reprint years 2021
DOI 10.1007/s11098-020-01423-0
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Translate to english
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 63,339
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Studies in the Way of Words.H. P. Grice - 1989 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Linguistic Behaviour.Jonathan Bennett - 1976 - Cambridge University Press.

View all 32 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

The Inadequacy of Paraphrase is the Dogma of Metaphor.Mark Phelan - 2010 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 91 (4):481-506.
The Inadequacy of Paraphrase is the Dogma of Metaphor.Mark Phelan - 2010 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 91 (4):481-506.
A Deflationary Account of Metaphor.Dan Sperber & Deirdre Wilson - 2008 - In Ray Gibbs (ed.), The Cambridge Handbook of Metaphor and Thought. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 84-105.
The Identification of Metaphor.Eva Feder Kittay - 1984 - Synthese 58 (2):153-202.
Inferring Content: Metaphor and Malapropism.Zsófia Zvolenszky - 2015 - Croatian Journal of Philosophy 55 (44):163–182.
A Defense of Davidson's Theory of Metaphor.Robert Bower Horner - 1999 - Dissertation, University of Miami
Ironic Metaphor Interpretation.Mihaela Popa - 2010 - Toronto Working Papers in Linguistics 33:1-17.
Comunicación y metáfora.E. Soria - 2003 - Análisis Filosófico 23 (2):167-192.
Extending the Metaphor: Lessons for Language.M. Lynne Tirrell - 1986 - Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh


Added to PP index

Total views
36 ( #300,040 of 2,448,753 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
2 ( #301,105 of 2,448,753 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes