Towards a model of metaphorical understanding

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I elaborate and contrast propositional and imagistic components of the meaningassociated with metaphors. Considering some examples, I argue for a spreadingactivation model for representing the propositional component of the meaning.Then, based on recent behavioral and brain-imaging studies, I elaborateon a sensorimotor account of imagery, and argue that imagistic meaning is notpeculiar to metaphor, but can play a key role in so-called literal utterances aswell. I then propose an image-creating mechanism, which works in the oppositedirection to the abstraction mechanism, to model the comprehension of certainmetaphors. This is followed by some brief comments on how to incorporate thenotion of correctness within this model. Finally, I argue for a unified accountof understanding so that the same process models literal as well as metaphorcomprehension. I argue that it is not the process of understanding that separatesthe metaphorical from the literal, but the nature of the activation pattern thatresults from the process.


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