Prof. Robyn Carston (University College of London, Division of Psychology and Language Sciences) talar under rubriken "The metaphorical use of language – how distinctive is it?".

Tid och plats: Torsdag 7 maj 2009, kl. 16-18, i C 307


In recent work within the Relevance Theory framework, a ‘deflationary’ account of metaphor has been developed (Sperber & Wilson 2008; Wilson & Carston 2008). This embodies three interrelated claims: (a) metaphorical use is a kind of loose use and is on a continuum with literal uses, approximations, and hyperboles, with no clear cut-off points between them; (b) metaphorical uses of words/phrases, like the other uses mentioned, contribute their meaning to the proposition explicitly communicated; (c) the understanding of metaphorical uses involves just the same mechanisms and/or processes as are employed in the other kinds of interpretation. This is a bold hypothesis, which runs counter to strong intuitions many people have that metaphor is a distinctive use of language, with special properties. For instance, even a fairly ordinary case of metaphorical use such as ‘boiling’ in ‘the water is boiling’ seems to demonstrate a discontinuity with literal, approximate or hyperbolic interpretations of the same word. For the three latter uses, the issue of temperature is central, but not so for the metaphorical use where the focus is on such properties as the way the water looks and sounds. In this paper, I explore the implications of the deflationary account and its compatibility with widespread intuitions concerning the special, evocative, imagistic nature of metaphor.

Sperber, D. & Wilson, D. 2008. A deflationary account of metaphors’. In R. Gibbs (ed.), The Cambridge Handbook of Metaphor and Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 84-105.

Wilson, D. & Carston, R. 2008. Metaphor and the ‘emergent property’ problem: A relevance-theoretic treatment’. The Baltic International Yearbook of Cognition, Logic and Communication, vol. 3: A Figure of Speech. New Prairie Press. Available at: