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Cognitive Linguistics

Editor-in-Chief: Newman, John

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Volume 17, Issue 3


On explaining metonymy: Comment on Peirsman and Geeraerts, “Metonymy as a prototypical category”

William Croft
Published Online: 2006-10-18 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/COG.2006.008


In their article in this issue of Cognitive Linguistics, Piersman and Geeraerts (henceforth P and G), consider a very wide range of semantic shifts to be instances of metonymy. P and G propose a single conceptual process to account for all of these supposed metonymic semantic shifts, namely contiguity. P and G provide a prototype definition of contiguity. In great detail, P and G classify the range of examples of metonymy in their article according to three ‘dimensions’ of prototypicality: strength of contact, degree of boundedness and domain (from space to time to spatiotemporal and ‘categorical’ domain). In this comment, I argue that contiguity is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for metonymy, even granting the prototype definition of contiguity provided by P and G; that association, analyzed in terms of domain highlighting (Croft 1993, 2002) provides a valid necessary condition; and that many examples taken by P and G (and other cognitive linguists) to be metonymy are better explained in terms of other theoretical constructs developed in cognitive linguistics.

About the article

Received: 2006-03-01

Accepted: 2006-04-01

Published Online: 2006-10-18

Published in Print: 2006-10-01

Citation Information: Cognitive Linguistics, Volume 17, Issue 3, Pages 317–326, ISSN (Online) 1613-3641, ISSN (Print) 0936-5907, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/COG.2006.008.

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