Publication details [#2750]

Boswell, D. A. 1986. Speakers' intentions: Constraints on metaphor comprehension. Bakhtiniana: Revista de Estudos do Discurso 1 (3) : 153–170. 18 pp.


This article presents a series of studies demonstrating the effects of speakers' intentional designs on listeners' construal of decontextualized metaphors. In combining a set of poets' metaphors with a set of syntactically isomorphic, randomly generated metaphors, I was able to observe the effects of the metaphor designs in subjects' responses to the entire stimulus set. I observed the facilitating effects of the poets' designs in the subjects' intuitions of greater meaningfulness (Study 1) and in their reports concerning ease of interpretation (Study 2). The participants were equally willing to interpret both types of metaphors (Analysis 1). Judges' evaluations of the subjects' interpretations revealed no effect of speakers' designs on subjects' interpretive style (Analysis 2), whereas the impact of the designs on the semantic content of subjects' productions was found to reduce the number of different interpretations generated by different subjects (Analysis 3). The results of these studies extend the contextualist approach to language processing by suggesting that the way in which speakers enhance communicative success is through the introduction of specifying designs. Speakers use intentional designs to direct listeners' inferences. This view does not rely on the Fregian assumption of fixed lexical meanings. (D.A. Boswell)