image of Processing and appreciation of literary metaphors in English as a foreign language
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Experimental research on the processing of literary metaphors in a foreign language (L2) is scarce, as well as research on how non-native speakers perceive the aesthetic value of such metaphors. The paper aims to gain a deeper insight into the topic.

The team experiment was conducted in 2022 at the University of Warsaw. The methodology consisted of both online (eye tracking) and offline (comprehension tests, appreciation ratings) methods. The following research questions were formulated: (a) How do we process literary metaphors in L2? (b) Is their processing cognitively demanding? (c) How well do people understand literary metaphors in a foreign language? (d) How do we evaluate their aesthetic value? The participants were Polish EFL students (English level B2 and higher) who were given an excerpt from “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde. The experimental group read the original text with metaphors, and the control group read an adapted text where metaphors were rewritten in plain language.

(1) Non-native readers process metaphors significantly slower than they do non-metaphorical expressions (a three-stage model of metaphor processing in L2). (2) All eye-tracking parameters were much higher for metaphors, indicating increased cognitive load. (3) Non-native readers rate the aesthetic value of metaphors in L2 higher than they do the corresponding non-metaphorical expressions. In addition, the more aesthetically appreciated the metaphor was for the respondents, the more time they spent on its reading.

The processing of literary metaphors in L2 is associated with increased cognitive load and enhanced aesthetic evaluation.


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