Chapter published in:Producing Figurative Expression: Theoretical, experimental and practical perspectives
Edited by John Barnden and Andrew Gargett
[Figurative Thought and Language 10] 2020
► pp. 85–104
Metaphor production and metaphor interpretation
Metaphor production and interpretation are intricately connected: the former has the latter as its ostensive target; however, interpretation processes can trigger new metaphor formulations which were unforeseen by the original speaker and would have to count as new productions. This paper looks at corpus- and survey-based evidence of innovative interpretative metaphor use that changes the default meanings of established figurative constructions. Specifically, we look at interpretation-induced changes in the meaning of corporeal metaphors, on the basis of a (1) corpus of British political discourse and (2) a questionnaire survey of more than 1000 respondents from 31 linguistic backgrounds in 10 countries.The corpus-based evidence presented in the first part consists of metaphor-production data that show how situational variation in metaphor use can over time create a semantic-pragmatic drift that changes the dominant meaning of a conventional metaphor expression, thus illustrating diachronic variation. The questionnaire survey, which forms the material for the second part reveals four distinct models for body-focused readings (i.e. nation as geobody, as hierarchical functional whole, as part of speaker’s body, as part of larger body), plus further person-focused readings. These data show synchronic variation.By highlighting significant variation, both data sets put in question the standard theory model of ‘automatic’ metaphor processing and extension. Instead, they indicate a strong production element in metaphor interpretation – and of interpretive aspects in metaphor production.
Keywords: creativity, corpus, discourse history, interpretation, metaphor production, metaphor reception, nation as body/ person, questionnaire survey, variation
Published online: 17 December 2020
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