Skip to content
Open Access Published by De Gruyter Mouton October 4, 2011

Inferring Pragmatic Messages from Metaphor

  • Raymond Gibbs , Markus Tendahl and Lacey Okonski
From the journal Lodz Papers in Pragmatics

Inferring Pragmatic Messages from Metaphor

When speakers utter metaphors, such as "Lawyers are also sharks," they often intend to communicate messages beyond those expressed by the metaphorical meaning of these expressions. For instance, in some circumstances, a speaker may state "Lawyers are also sharks" to strengthen a previous speaker's negative beliefs about lawyers, to add new information about lawyers to listeners to some context, or even to contradict a previous speaker's positive assertions about lawyers. In each case, speaking metaphorically communicates one of these three social messages that are relevant to the ongoing discourse. At the same time, speaking metaphorically may express other social and affective information that is more difficult to convey using non-metaphorical speech, such as "Lawyers are also aggressive." We report the results of three experiments demonstrating that people infer different pragmatic messages from metaphors in varying social situations and that many metaphors can express additional pragmatic and rhetorical meanings beyond those conveyed by non-metaphorical language. These findings demonstrate the importance of trade-offs between cognitive effort and cognitive effects in pragmatic theories of metaphor use and understanding.

References

Bernsten, Dorthe and John Kennedy. 1996. Unresolved contradictions specifying attitudes — in metaphor, irony, understatement, and tautology. Poetics, 24, 13-29.Search in Google Scholar

Bowdle, Brian and Dedre Gentner. 2005. The career of metaphor. Psychological Review, 112, 193-216.Search in Google Scholar

Colston, Herbert and Albert Katz. (Eds.) 2005. Figurative language comprehension: Social and cultural influences. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.10.4324/9781410611628Search in Google Scholar

Gibbs, Raymond. 1994. The poetics of mind: Figurative thought, language, and understanding. New York: Cambridge University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Gibbs, Raymond. 2002. A new look at literal meaning in understanding what is said and implicated. Journal of Pragmatics, 34, 457-486.Search in Google Scholar

Gibbs, Raymond. (Ed.) 2008. The Cambridge handbook of metaphor and thought. New York: Cambridge University Press.10.1017/CBO9780511816802Search in Google Scholar

Gibbs, Raymond and Herbert Colston. (Eds.) 2007. Irony in language and thought: A cognitive science reader. Mahwah, NJ: Elrbaum.10.4324/9781410616685Search in Google Scholar

Gibbs, Raymond and Herbert Colston. In press. Interpreting figurative meaning. New York: Cambridge University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Gibbs, Raymond and Markus Tendahl. 2006. Cognitive effort and effects in metaphor comprehension: Relevance theory and psycholinguistics. Mind & Language, 21, 379-403.Search in Google Scholar

Glucksberg, Sam 2001. Understanding figurative language: From metaphors to idioms. New York: Oxford University Press.10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195111095.001.0001Search in Google Scholar

Hamblin, Jennifer and Raymond Gibbs. 2003. Processing the meanings of what speakers say and implicate. Discourse Processes, 35, 59-80.Search in Google Scholar

Noveck, Ira, Mary Bianco, Alan Castry. 2001. The costs and benefits of metaphor. Metaphor and Symbol 16, 109-121.Search in Google Scholar

Sperber, Dan and Deirdre Wilson. 1995. Relevance: Cognition and communication. New York: Blackwell.Search in Google Scholar

Tendahl, Markus. 2009. A hybrid theory of metaphor: Relevance theory and cognitive linguistics. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.10.1057/9780230244313Search in Google Scholar

Tendahl, Markus and Raymond Gibbs. 2008. Complementary perspectives on metaphor: Cognitive linguistics and relevance theory. Journal of Pragmatics, 40, 1823-1864.Search in Google Scholar

Watts, Richard. 2003. Politeness. New York: Cambridge University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Wilson, Deidre and Dan Sperber 2004 Relevance theory. In L. Horn & G. Ward (Eds.) The handbook of pragmatics (pp. 607-632). Oxford, Blackwell.Search in Google Scholar

Witte, Kim. 1992. Putting the fear back into fear appeals: The extended parallel process model. Communication Monographs, 59, 329-349.Search in Google Scholar

Published Online: 2011-10-4
Published in Print: 2011-1-1

This content is open access.

Downloaded on 5.3.2024 from https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/10.2478/v10016-011-0002-9/html
Scroll to top button