Publication details [#14183]

Wimmer, Lena, Ursula Christmann and Elisabeth Ihmels. 2016. Non-conventional figurative language as aesthetics of everyday communication. Metaphor and the Social World 6 (2) : 243–275. 33 pp.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Place, Publisher
Amsterdam: John Benjamins


This study focuses on the emotional aesthetic appreciation of figurative language, a dimension which has often been neglected in experimental psycholinguistics. Our goal was to demonstrate that non-conventional figurative utterances are evaluated as more aesthetically pleasing although they are cognitively more demanding than conventional rhetorical figures. This hypothesis was tested for three main types of figurative language (metaphors, irony and idioms) in three separate surveys. Participants assessed utterances by means of a questionnaire which comprised several semantic differential items. The postulated covariation of non-conventionality and cognitive effort as well as of non-conventionality and aesthetics could be clearly established for metaphors and for irony. For idioms we could only partially provide this evidence. However, in a combined sample for all figurative language forms (compiled from the three studies) the main hypothesis was again confirmed. Thus, the results demonstrate that non-conventional variants of figurative language must be considered as the core of figurative aesthetics. Furthermore, our exploratory data gave evidence of an aesthetic paradox: the cognitive costs of understanding conventional figurative language reduce aesthetic pleasure, while in the case of non-conventional rhetoric figures the enhanced cognitive effort is accompanied by an increase in aesthetic pleasure.