The class-inclusion view gains support from the finding that metaphor-irrelevant information is actively inhibited during the comprehension process ibid. More often than not, this relationship involves non-central features or connotations, of the source or target domain. Most importantly, the successful comprehension of metaphor requires that the listener attends to the knowledge of the source and target domain that they share with the speaker, and this information can include obscure connotations of both domains.
This means that, in order to interpret a metaphor, one must be aware of a wide range of connotations for both the source and target domains, and identify those that are being referred to by that particular speaker in that particular context. However, when language learners interpret metaphors, difficulties may arise from the fact that they may have different sets of connotations from their native speaker interlocutors, and that even when they do have similar sets of connotations, they may transfer the wrong ones. They need to access a wide range of connotations for the source domain, and use the context to help them decide which are the most relevant.
These might be, for example, that companies need to identify and focus on particular customers. Students may also lack the necessary cultural knowledge to help them understand metaphors. This presumably reflects the presence of Christianity in their cultural mindset. Individuals from non-Christian cultures may interpret such a metaphor somewhat differently. It would also be interesting to discover at what point they try to use the context to refine their search.
Do they rely on the context right from the beginning, or do they first try out a number of possible interpretations, then use the context to help them decide between them? And what factors lead them to adopt different strategies? In order to answer these questions, I carried out an exploratory study in which I observed the metaphor interpretation strategies used by a group of four students. The study is described in section 3 below. All of these students were language teachers themselves and were attending a hour course in spoken English. The classes therefore combined language practice with teacher training.
During the classes, I regularly introduced metaphoric expressions, and observed the students work out their meaning. All of the sessions were videoed so as to gain access to visual, as well as verbal indicators of their metaphor comprehension strategies. After the classes, I watched and transcribed the video tapes in order to reproduce the discussions that the students had about the metaphors. This technique is slightly limited, as the students are unlikely to verbalise all of the mental processes in which they are engaging.
On the other hand, the fact that they are working out the meaning as a group means that they are obliged to share their thought processes to a significant degree. These are particularly interesting cases as they show that there was considerable variation in the strategies used. The group discussion was as follows cf. However, when the students looked more closely at the context, they were able to think of other aspects of a cradle that might explain its use in this context the fact that it rocks, and that it has high sides.
Interestingly, there was a lot of miming during this discussion, which appeared to help the students to work out the meaning of the metaphor. This suggests that they might have been employing some kind of imagery in order to help them understand the metaphor. In other words, we tend to think about abstract concepts in terms of corresponding physical processes. For example, we think of going forward in time in terms of physically moving forward, and this relationship is often reflected in the types of gestures that people use when talking about future events.
The mime observed in this example suggests that the student was actually experiencing a rocking motion, and that this was helping him to work out the meaning of the metaphor. However, when asked to explore the metaphor in more depth, he was able to deepen his understanding of the expression.
How to Use the Persuasive Power of Metaphors
When he placed one hand alternately on top of the other, he was probably trying to convey the idea of equal weighting. This less central feature of coin tossing is highly relevant to the target domain. Thus the student appears to have activated his knowledge of the target domain, and fitted associations of the source domain into this knowledge framework. This approach appears to correspond to the class-inclusion model where the two domains of a metaphor are put into a single category containing the attributes that they both share. This is somewhat surprising given the number of interpretations that they could have made behave as messily as a pig; smell like a pig, and so on.
Presumably they were able to work out the meaning quickly because of the presence of strong contextual clues. They knew that the people participating in the dialogue were eating cakes and chocolate, and that the topic of conversation had previously revolved around food. This use of the context to limit the number of possible interpretations appears to correspond to the class inclusion model.
He then used mime in an attempt to work out the meaning. This student had picked up on the idea that a skirt is an outer-garment and that it goes round the knees. He then transferred this idea to the context of teaching. In this example, a more salient meaning of skirt was suggested first a garment that stretches from waist to knees , then a less central meaning was suggested an outer garment with a circular hem as the students attempted to relate the expression to the context.
This strategy appears to correspond to the graded salience hypothesis. Inferring the meaning of idioms such as this from their more literal source domains is likely to be a useful language learning strategy. If language learners are able to do this sort of thing for themselves, then this should enable them to work more autonomously and to process the target language at a deeper cognitive level. I began by giving each of the students an idiom, along with its correct meaning.
I then asked each student to think of two made-up meanings for that idiom. I asked them to read out all three possible meanings to the other members of the group, who had to guess the correct meaning. The same is true of the actual meaning of the expression a bad person pretending to be a good person. This interpretation, like those given by the students appears to involve emergent features, arising as a result of the juxtaposition of the source and target domains. It would be simplistic to say that there was a one-to-one relationship between each of the strategies outlined above, and the five theories of metaphor interpretation.
One strategy may reflect more than one theory of interpretation, and one theory of interpretation may be manifested in more than one strategy. Nevertheless, the findings in this study do suggest that the students tended to use not just one strategy but a range of strategies, to work out the meanings of these metaphors.
In other words, the students accessed the most salient features of the source domain first, and then attempted to apply them to the context. In other words, they used the context as a defining framework within which to look for relevant features of the source domain. These findings lend support to both theories of metaphor interpretation, and suggest that the strategies employed by language learners are determined by the richness of the contextual clues.
Become a Master of Metaphor and Multiply Your Blogging Effectiveness
They simply had to infer a target domain for themselves. However, they may have used previous examples in the activity to infer that the expression was probably used to talk about the usually negative traits of people. In this way, the students may have provided their own contextual clues as to the possible nature of the target domain.
The fact that the students identified so many emergent features in this example may have been a by-product of their search for an appropriate target domain.
II. Examples of Metaphor
The presence of emergent features in their interpretations and in the actual meaning of the expression demonstrates how important it is, when interpreting metaphors, to go beyond the immediately obvious characteristics of the source and target domains. Once he had learned its meaning, he did not need to engage in metaphoric thinking in order to retrieve it. However, when pushed to explore the metaphorical relationship between the ideas further, he was able to develop a much richer understanding of the expression.
Often, a simple gesture was enough to trigger quite a sophisticated understanding of a metaphor. This suggests that it may be worthwhile encouraging students to use gesture more when working out the meaning of figurative language, and to watch their peers closely in order to pick up involuntary gestures, which might provide clues as to the meaning of the vocabulary.
If, as I said above, the use of such gestures does reflect embodied cognition, then this should prove to be a powerful learning strategy. By attending to this body language students may gain better access to the embodied schemata that lie behind the expressions see Johnson Teachers should encourage their students to use both clues in the context and the intrinsic features of the source domain when working out the meaning of metaphors.
They should also encourage them to look beyond what is immediately obvious, in order to identify any relevant emergent features. Black, M. Models and Metaphors. Boers, F. Cameron, L. Metaphor in Educational Discourse. London: Continuum Press. Carter, R. Exploring Spoken English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. How to use a word that literally drives some people nuts.
The awkward case of 'his or her'. Test your knowledge of words related to the season of longer days and vacations. Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words? Definition of metaphor. Other Words from metaphor Synonyms What is metaphor? Simile vs. Metaphor Example Sentences Learn More about metaphor. Synonyms for metaphor Synonyms conceit Visit the Thesaurus for More. What is metaphor? The metaphor of an iron horse for a train, for example, is the elaborate central concept of one of Emily Dickinson's poems—though neither iron horse nor train appears in the poem, the first and final stanzas of which are: I like to see it lap the Miles— And lick the Valleys up— And stop to feed itself at Tanks— And then—prodigious step … And neigh like Boanerges— Then—prompter than a Star Stop—docile and omnipotent At it's own stable door— A mixed metaphor is the linking of two or more elements that don't go together logically.
Metaphor Many people have trouble distinguishing between simile and metaphor. Examples of metaphor in a Sentence You see, menudo is our chicken soup for the body and soul, our metaphor for bread-and-butter issues. Her poems include many imaginative metaphors. Recent Examples on the Web The zombie metaphor is eminently malleable, the amorphous horde a putty to be shaped into any sociocultural commentary. First Known Use of metaphor 15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1. Learn More about metaphor. Resources for metaphor Time Traveler!
Become a Master of Metaphor and Multiply Your Blogging Effectiveness
Explore the year a word first appeared. Watch More on metaphor. From the Editors at Merriam-Webster. Hyperbole, and Other Fancy Rhetorical Trending: Metaphor Trending: Metaphor As students prepare for exams at the end of the semester Dictionary Entries near metaphor metaphone metaphonic metaphony metaphor metaphorically metaphorist metaphorize.
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Time Traveler for metaphor The first known use of metaphor was in the 15th century See more words from the same century. English Language Learners Definition of metaphor. Kids Definition of metaphor. Comments on metaphor What made you want to look up metaphor? Get Word of the Day daily email! Test Your Vocabulary. Love words? Need even more definitions? Words at Play 'Trooper' vs. Ask the Editors On Contractions of Multiple Words You all would not have guessed some of these A Look at Uncommon Onomatopoeia Some imitative words are more surprising than others Literally How to use a word that literally drives some people nuts.
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