Article published in:Semblance and Signification
Edited by Pascal Michelucci, Olga Fischer and Christina Ljungberg
[Iconicity in Language and Literature 10] 2011
► pp. 173–190
The farmers sowed seeds and hopes
Element order in metaphorical phrases
Conceptual prominence plays an important role in determining word order in metaphorical sentences: conceptually prominent items tend to precede less prominent ones. In: ‘the farmers sowed seeds and hopes’ the order of the two noun in the conjunctive noun phrase (seeds and hopes) seems more natural than its inverse (hopes and seeds) since seeds (the more concrete noun) is conceptually more prominent than hopes. This linear precedence of prominent items iconically mirrors their ‘cognitive precedence’, namely, the fact that they are retrieved from memory before less prominent counterparts (Kelly et al. 1986, Osgood & Bock 1977). Three factors contributing to conceptual prominence affect word abstractness: ordering – concrete terms tend to precede more abstract ones; animacy – animate terms tend to precede non-animate ones; and salience – salient terms tend to precede less salient ones. We discuss the findings of a series of psychological experiments and corpus studies that lend support to this argument.
Published online: 23 November 2011