30 October – Clarissa de Vries & Veronika Vadinova

Sensitivity for deliberate metaphors in narrative reading: an eye-tracking study – Clarissa de Vries

The introduction of Deliberate Metaphor Theory (DMT; Steen, 2008, 2017) provoked an intense debate among metaphor researchers about the distinction between deliberate and non-deliberate metaphors (e.g., Deignan, 2011; Müller, 2011; Gibbs & Chen, 2017; Steen, 2017). A key question is whether deliberate and non-deliberate metaphors are processed differently. To address this, we used eye-tracking as an indicator of mental processing, and combined this with a corpus-analytical approach to identify deliberate metaphors in literary stories (Reijnierse et al., 2018). We investigated whether gaze durations for deliberate versus non-deliberate (versus non-metaphorical) metaphors differ in literary reading, and also explored interactions between a possible metaphor effect and the individual reading experience.

Our results show that participants slowed down more for deliberate metaphors than for non-deliberate metaphors (and non-metaphorical words). This indicates that deliberate metaphors take more time to process and thus provides empirical support for Deliberate Metaphor Theory. It also appears that there are individual differences in sensitivity for the metaphor effect: readers who were more absorbed into the story world and who had a higher appreciation of the stories, were slowed down less by metaphors than readers who reported lower absorption and appreciation.

During my talk I would like to discuss the findings and implications of this first study, and invite you to consider the implications of combining corpus-analytical and psycholinguistic approaches to (deliberate) metaphor processing.

Deliberate Metaphor Theory: eye-tracking study – Veronika Vadinova

Background: Deliberate metaphor theory (DMT) posits that most metaphors are not used as metaphors by speakers (non-deliberate metaphors) and only a small portion of metaphors in language are used as metaphors by speakers (deliberate metaphors). Consequently, the underlying processing mechanisms are different: deliberate metaphors trigger metaphorical processing (domain comparison), while non-deliberate metaphors do not trigger metaphorical processing and are relegated to other non-metaphorical mechanisms (i.e. lexical disambiguation). Scarce experimental work has been undertaken to support DMT. Eye-tracking is a suitable technique that has been recently used in metaphor studies in order to identify sources of processing difficulties (Columbus et al., 2015; Olkoniemi, Ranta & Kaakinen, 2016; Ashby, Roncero, Almeida & Agauas, 2017).

Aims: We investigated a) how familiar and unfamiliar verbal metaphors are processed in relation to context deliberateness and b) the trajectory of processing as revealed by eye fixation durations and eye fixation patterns.

Methods: Stimuli consisted of short narratives with 2 x 2 design. 10 metaphorical counter-pairs differing in familiarity were selected (i.e. blossom with love- blossom with hatred) and each was presented in both deliberately biased and non-deliberately biased contexts. 14 native English speakers completed a reading experiment in 2 sessions. Their eye-movements were recorded (fixations, re-fixations and regressions) and analysed.

Results and discussion: The results of this study confirmed our predictions and an interaction effect of deliberateness and familiarity was encountered: familiar metaphorical verbs are read slower in a deliberately biased context thank in a non-deliberately biased context. We argue that this is caused by distinct processing mechanisms: deliberately biased context activates metaphorical processing, which necessitates activation of both source and target domains and is therefore more time-consuming; non-deliberately biased context does not activate metaphorical processing and mechanisms such as lexical disambiguation are available to the reader, leading to shorter reading times. Most reasonable avenues for future research that could contribute to current understanding of metaphor processing are introduced.