Publication details [#4465]

Fass, Dan C. 1991. Met*: A method for discriminating metonymy and metaphor by computer. Computational Linguistics 17 (1) : 49–90. 42 pp. URL


The met* method distinguishes selected examples of metonymy from metaphor and from literalness and anomaly in short English sentences. In the met* method, literalness is distinguished because it satisfies contextual constraints that the nonliteral others all violate. Metonymy is discriminated from metaphor and anomaly in a way that [1] supports Lakoff and Johnson's (1980) view that in metonymy one entity stands for another whereas in metaphor one entity is viewed as another, [2] permits chains of metonymies (Reddy 1979), and [3] allows metonymies to co-occur with instances of either literalness, metaphor, or anomaly. Metaphor is distinguished from anomaly because the former contains a relevant analogy, unlike the latter. The met* method is part of Collative Semantics, a semantics for natural language processing, and has been implemented in a computer program called meta5. Some examples of meta5's analysis of metaphor and metonymy are given. The met* method is compared with approaches from artificial intelligence, linguistics, philosophy, and psychology. (Dan Fass)