6 February – Andreas Heise

Solving the paradox of metaphor all over again

If metaphors involve a cross-domain mapping, then most metaphors are not processed as metaphors during comprehension. This is the paradox of metaphor. In order to dissolve this paradox, Gerard Steen distinguishes three different levels of analysis with respect to metaphor: metaphor in thought, metaphor in language, and metaphor in communication. In my talk, I want to examine this solution from a philosophical perspective. First, I shall raise the question whether these three levels are mutually independent of each other. By focusing on the level of communication, I am going to argue that this is not evidently the case. Under the assumption that Steen’s solution does, however, require the three levels of analysis to be independent of each other, this would seem to put pressure on his solution to the paradox. In a second step, I will hence propose an alternative solution to the paradox of metaphor. My own proposal makes use of three variables that need to be taken into account when answering the question whether some sentence will be processed as metaphor, these being: expectations of relevance, linguistic competence, and conceptual competence. Theorists of metaphor score naturally high on all these three counts, unlike the average language user. In my view, keeping track of these three variables is all that is needed in order to explain variation across language users as regards the processing of sentences as metaphor.

Potgieterszaal, University Library
Singel 421-427
1012 WP Amsterdam