1

METAPHORICAL AND LITERAL LANGUAGE

1.1. INTRODUCTION

In this chapter we’re going to look at the distinction between literal language use and metaphorical language use. Our general conclusion will be that the distinction is often a matter of degree, and that literal language processing depends on, and has built into it, the same kinds of mental processes that we associate with metaphor. Metaphoricity has a number of dimensions, such as contradictoriness, inexplicitness of comparison, conventionality and distance of transfer, and this chapter concentrates on the last two.

To understand the continuum between metaphorical and literal language, the approximative nature of communication and the general fuzziness of linguistic concepts we need to understand how communication works. So let’s begin with a simple provisional model of linguistic communication in five stages (Figure 1.1).

Suppose a speaker wishes to describe something in the real world to a hearer. The discourse process has a starting point (A), a physically observable state of affairs which already exists in the actual world. By means of perception and cognition (1) we pass to (B), which is the speaker’s thought, something which is mental and therefore not directly

Figure 1.1 A simple model of linguistic communication

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The Language of Metaphors
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations ix
  • Tables x
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Abbreviations xv
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Metaphorical and Literal Language 14
  • 2 - Metaphor and the Dictionary 41
  • 3 - Metaphor and the Dictionary 82
  • 4 - How Different Kinds of Metaphors Work 107
  • 5 - Relevance Theory and the Functions of Metaphor 137
  • 6 - The Signalling of Metaphor 168
  • 7 - The Specification of Topics 198
  • 8 - The Specification of Grounds 229
  • 9 - The Interplay of Metaphors 255
  • 10 - Metaphor in Its Social Context 283
  • Notes 329
  • References 335
  • Texts Used for Examples and Analysis (and Abbreviations Used in References) 342
  • Index 347
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