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Cognitive Semiotics

Editor-in-Chief: Bundgaard, Peer F.

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Metaphor, Lexical Concepts, and Figurative Meaning Construction

1School of Linguistics & English Language, Main Arts Building, Bangor University, College Road, Bangor, Gwynedd, LL31 9PG, UK,

Citation Information: Cognitive Semiotics. Volume 5, Issue 1-2, Pages 73–107, ISSN (Online) 2235-2066, ISSN (Print) , DOI: 10.1515/cogsem.2013.5.12.73, October 2013

Publication History

Published Online:
2013-10-31

This paper addresses the status and significance of conceptual metaphor as an explanatory theoretical construct giving rise to figurative language. While conceptual metaphor has sometimes been presented as the most important element in this process (e.g., Lakoff 2008; Lakoff & Johnson 1999), I argue that conceptual metaphor is but one component - albeit a significant one - in figurative meaning construction. I contend that, while conceptual metaphors inhere in the conceptual system, there is a class of metaphor - discourse metaphor - that emerges and evolves in and through language use and inheres in the linguistic system. Indeed, the cognitive units associated with discourse metaphors and other linguistic expressions I refer to as lexical concepts. I introduce LCCM theory (Evans 2009b, 2010b, 2013) and suggest that lexical concepts provide access to non-linguistic knowledge representations - cognitive models - which can be structured in terms of conceptual metaphors. One aim of LCCM theory is to provide an account of the role of conceptual metaphors and the way they interact with other types of linguistic and conceptual knowledge structures in figurative meaning construction. The paper illustrates how lexical concepts in figurative meaning construction facilitate access both to conceptual metaphors and a specific type of inference - semantic affordances (Evans 2010b) - which arise from cognitive models. It is the combination of these types of knowledge representation that give rise to figurative meaning construction in the examples considered here, rather than conceptual metaphors alone. This perspective provides, I suggest, the promise of building towards a joined-up account of figurative meaning construction.

Keywords : Conceptual metaphor; Conceptual Metaphor Theory; lexical concept; discourse metaphor; LCCM theory; figurative language construction; semantic affordance

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