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. 511–532
Metaphor as sign and as symbol
Metaphors come as second nature to users of language because they are so often the norm. We trade in them deftly, to the point of seeming indifference to, and sometimes even ignorance of, their figurative natures. But the opposite is also true, since words that are offered with the plainest of intentions can be granted a metaphorical significance by those who wish to perceive it. In this paper we contribute to the debate about deliberate metaphors by exploring a related concept, the potential metaphor. Any text that supports a non-literal interpretation is a potential metaphor, regardless of its author’s avowed intentions. We build on this distinction to model the mechanical generation of metaphors as an opportunistic process, whereby potential metaphors are converted into deliberate metaphors. We argue that the distinction between potential and deliberate is mirrored in that between signs and symbols, and demonstrate how this understanding leads to a more nuanced basis for generating and interpreting metaphors on a machine.
Keywords: signs, symbols, deliberate metaphors, potential metaphors
Published online: 17 December 2020
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