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BY 3.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter 2018

Words making love together: Dynamics of metaphoric creativity

From the book Cultures and Traditions of Wordplay and Wordplay Research

  • Raymond W. Gibbs Jr.


Metaphor is one form of language in which people engage in significant word play. For the most part, scholars assume that each novel metaphor arises from specific rhetorical and pragmatic goals, such as to be creative, polite, vivid, and memorable. In this way, creative metaphor use is a conscious, deliberate act that is intended to be seen as such by listeners and readers. My claim is that this view of metaphorical creativity is overly simplistic and ignores many of the factors, ranging from cultural to bodily influences, which actually shape the automatic, less conscious creation and use of metaphor. I describe various psycholinguistic, linguistic and literary studies that offer support for this expanded view of metaphoric creativity. From consideration of the interacting constraints that gives rise to novel metaphorical discourse, I outline a model of dynamic word play, more generally. This approach offers a more comprehensive, psychologically realistic view of what people really are doing when both mundane and poetic metaphors burst forth in thought and communication.

© 2018 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Munich/Boston
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