On Our Mind: Salience, Context, and Figurative Language

On Our Mind: Salience, Context, and Figurative Language

On Our Mind: Salience, Context, and Figurative Language

On Our Mind: Salience, Context, and Figurative Language

Synopsis

How do we learn to produce and comprehend non-literal language? Competing theories have only partially accounted for the variety of language comprehension evoked in metaphor, irony, and jokes. Rachel Giora has developed a novel and comprehensive theory, the Graded Salience Hypothesis, to explain figuative language comprehension. Giora contends that the salience of meanings (i.e., the cognitive priority we ascribe to words encoded in our mental lexicon) has the primary role inlanguage comprehension and production.

Excerpt

This book has been fun to write. It is not an individual enterprise. Some of my best friends have had a hand in shaping my ideas and nourishing the thoughts I tried to flesh out here. Whether they like it or not, I do hold them accountable. The list is long and unordered. I am especially indebted to Efrat Ben-Menachem, who first introduced me to the pleasures of researching. My dearest friends and colleagues—Mira Ariel, Asa Kasher, Tanya Reinhart, and Yeshayahu Shen—are particularly culpable. They are among the people who influenced me most, not the least by being such caustic critics, yet relentlessly helpful.

A great portion of this book was written while I was on my sabbatical in Santa Cruz, visiting with Ray Gibbs. Being in Santa Cruz was a marvelous experience. It allowed me, among other things, to share my thoughts with Ray, who is a most wonderful person and an admirable colleague and mentor. I cherish the countless hours we spent talking about our views and differences and about the topics that pervade the field. Ray Gibbs has been and still is a great source of inspiration, and his ideas certainly are reflected in my work. My Santa Cruzian experience also included my very dear friends Adam Ussishkin and Andrew Wedel, who always lent me their linguistic ear and never failed to be supportive and critical.

I have also benefited greatly from invaluable discussions with Ofer Fein— a colleague and co-author for several years—and from discussions and very valuable comments by Salvatore Attardo, Brian Bowdle, Hugh Bredin, Dan Chiappe, Herb Clark, Herb Colston, Seana Coulston, Carmen Curcó, Jack Du Bois, Steven Frisson, Dedre Gentner, Morton Gernsbacher, Paul Hopper, Dick Janney, Albert Katz, John Kennedy, Boaz Keysar, Teenie Matlock, Hoang Vu, Ellen Winner, Francisco Yus, Eran Zaidel, four anonymous reviews of this . . .

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