Publication details [#13174]

Rubio Fernández, Paula, Chris Cummins and Ye Tian. 2016. "Are single and extended metaphors processed differently? A test of two Relevance-Theoretic accounts". Journal of Pragmatics 96 : 15–28. 14 pp.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Place, Publisher
Amsterdam: Elsevier


The paper presents the result of three experiments comparing the interpretation of the same target expressions across literal, single-metaphorical and extended-metaphorical contexts, using self-paced reading (Experiment 1), eye-tracking during natural reading (Experiment 2) and cued recall (Experiment 3), in order to assess Carston’s (2010) hypothesis that metaphors can be processed in two different ways. Her Relevance-theoretic account proposes that single metaphors are interpreted by a local pragmatic process of meaning adjustment leading to the construction of an ad hoc concept. By contrast, in extended metaphorical passages the literal meaning of the whole passage is metarepresented and seen as an ‘imaginary world’ and the intended figurative implications are derived later in the processing. Results offer initial support to Carston’s distinction, although additional experimental work is needed to increase our understanding of the similarities and differences between the interpretation and processing of different figurative uses, single and extended.