In this study I lest the prevalent Claims among contemporary psycholinguists that understanding metaphor does not involve a special process, and that it is essentially identical to understanding literal language. Particularly, I examine the claims that figurative language does not involve processing the surface literal meaning (e.g., Gibbs 1984), and that its comprehension is not processing-intensive, because it does not involve a trigger (e.g., Keysar 1989). A critique, review and reinterpretation ofa number of contemporary researches on literal and figurative language reveal that figurative and literal language use are governed by a general principle of salience: Salient meanings (e.g., conventional frequent, familiär, enhanced by prior context) are processed first. Thus, for example, when the most salient meaning is intended (äs in, e.g., the figurative meaning of conventional Idioms), it is accessed directly, without having toprocess the less salient (literal) meaning first (Gibbs 1980). However, when a less rather than a more salient meaning is intended (e.g., the metaphoric meaning ofnovel metaphors, the literal meaning of conventional Idioms, or a novel Interpretation ofa highly conventional literal expression) comprehension seems to involve a sequential process, upon which the more salient meaning is processed initially, before the intended meaning is derived
Cognitive Linguistics – de Gruyter
Published: Jan 1, 1997
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