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Metaphor and simile

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Abstract

Do understanders use comparison or categorization in understanding simileand/or metaphor? I claim that the intense debate about this has been misguided,partly because of the obscurity of the distinction between comparisonand categorization, and partly because of a frequent, misleading characterizationof comparison theory as casting (a type of) metaphor as elliptical simile.Instead, it is more fruitful to consider a theoretical space defined by variousprocessing dimensions that cut across comparison and categorization. I proposethree dimensions here: Target/Source Contribution Disparity, Target/SourceMediator-Preservation Degree, and Target/Source Mediator-Carefulness.Experimental results adduced in the debate are not necessarily resolvingwhether categorization or comparison is being used but rather where the understandingprocess is positioned on the dimensions. Comparison and categorizationcan both supply whatever positioning is required. In addition, where aparticular act of metaphor/simile understanding is placed on the dimensionsis not purely a matter of linguistic form and general cognitive considerations,but can also be importantly affected by the communicative context and matterssuch as familiarity that depend on communication history.

References

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