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Speaking figuratively

Speaking figuratively AbstractThis article addresses two forms of artful language: similes and metaphors. It argues that their artful quality arises from a deliberate omission of information, requiring the listener to fill in the missing parts. Sentences of the form ‘A is like B’ have two uses: as plain comparisons (called similatives) stating that two individuals (item A and item B) are comparable and share properties, and as similes, which are intended as assertions that A is “B-like” in some way. The simile’s absent information is tacit assumptions about its second member, B. As a result, similatives and similes behave differently and have distinct syntactic interpretations. The absent information in a metaphor of the form ‘A is a B’ is a tacit analogy, A:X::B:Y. As such, a metaphor asserts a parallel between two unstated relations, not its two identified items. The tacit members X and Y create the structural framework for the metaphor. Because metaphors use different tacit information than similes do, the two forms require distinct interpretations. It is also shown here that the literal truth of similes and metaphors is irrelevant to their interpretations. Nevertheless, artful statements can be used to make true or false assertions. Their truth is determined by taking their absent information into account. Furthermore, similes and metaphors can meaningfully use negation, as plain statements can. Patterns in simile and metaphor usage reveal that there are predictable processes behind their creation and systematic methods to their interpretations. Once these are identified, the linguistic contributions of similes and metaphors become clear. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png International Review of Pragmatics Brill

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Publisher
Brill
Copyright
Copyright © Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands
ISSN
1877-3095
eISSN
1877-3109
DOI
10.1163/18773109-01102103
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

AbstractThis article addresses two forms of artful language: similes and metaphors. It argues that their artful quality arises from a deliberate omission of information, requiring the listener to fill in the missing parts. Sentences of the form ‘A is like B’ have two uses: as plain comparisons (called similatives) stating that two individuals (item A and item B) are comparable and share properties, and as similes, which are intended as assertions that A is “B-like” in some way. The simile’s absent information is tacit assumptions about its second member, B. As a result, similatives and similes behave differently and have distinct syntactic interpretations. The absent information in a metaphor of the form ‘A is a B’ is a tacit analogy, A:X::B:Y. As such, a metaphor asserts a parallel between two unstated relations, not its two identified items. The tacit members X and Y create the structural framework for the metaphor. Because metaphors use different tacit information than similes do, the two forms require distinct interpretations. It is also shown here that the literal truth of similes and metaphors is irrelevant to their interpretations. Nevertheless, artful statements can be used to make true or false assertions. Their truth is determined by taking their absent information into account. Furthermore, similes and metaphors can meaningfully use negation, as plain statements can. Patterns in simile and metaphor usage reveal that there are predictable processes behind their creation and systematic methods to their interpretations. Once these are identified, the linguistic contributions of similes and metaphors become clear.

Journal

International Review of PragmaticsBrill

Published: May 14, 2019

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