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LINGUIST List 17.1856

Thu Jun 22 2006

Diss: Cognitive Science/Syntax: Sullivan: 'Grammar in Metaphor'

Editor for this issue: Meredith Valant <meredithlinguistlist.org>

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        1.    Karen Sullivan, Grammar in Metaphor

Message 1: Grammar in Metaphor
Date: 19-Jun-2006
From: Karen Sullivan <ksullberkeley.edu>
Subject: Grammar in Metaphor

Institution: University of California, Berkeley
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2007

Author: Karen Sullivan

Dissertation Title: Grammar in Metaphor

Linguistic Field(s): Cognitive Science

Subject Language(s): English (eng)
                            Finnish (fin)
                            German, Standard (deu)

Dissertation Director:
Gary B Holland
George P. Lakoff
John Lindow
Richard A. Rhodes
Eve E. Sweetser

Dissertation Abstract:

The conceptual metaphor revolution inspired by Lakoff and Johnson (1980)
continues to give us a clearer picture of the conceptual structure of
metaphor with every passing year. But even as we uncover the intricacies of
conceptual metaphor, metaphoric language becomes more and more of a
mystery. How can a speaker, using language, communicate the conceptual
complexities of a metaphor to a hearer?

In this paper I use the tools of Construction Grammar to argue that lexical
items and grammatical constructions each have distinct and well-defined
roles in communicating metaphoric meaning. Constructions have constraints
that determine which words in the construction can come from the source
domain of a given metaphor, and which from the metaphoric target domain.
These constraints are regular, ubiquitous, and combine compositionally.

Most constructions used in metaphor can be categorized into a few classes:
domain constructions (in which the head evokes the metaphoric source domain
and the modifier evokes the target domain, as in 'spiritual wealth'),
predicating modifier-head constructions (in which the head evokes the
target domain and the predicating modifier evokes the source domain, as in
'brilliant idea' or 'reason brilliantly'), head-argument constructions
(where the head evokes the source domain and one or more arguments evoke
the target, as in 'stocks soared'); and XP-PP constructions (in which the
head evokes the source, and an NP within the PP evokes the target, as in
'barriers between religions').

In addition to these basic types, this paper discusses resultative and
idiomatic constructions; anaphoric, imperative, 'tough', control, and
raising constructions; and techniques of metaphor evocation that are
usually limited to literary genres, such as parallelism and 'negation of
the literal'. The paper aims to present a complete survey of
constructional types used in metaphoric language in English, German and

The constructional systematicity of metaphoric language has implications
for several fields: cognitive linguistics, which relies on metaphoric
language as its primary source of data on conceptual metaphor; natural
language technologies (such as AI, search engines, and translation
software) which can improve computer recognition and comprehension of
metaphoric language; Construction Grammar, which can refine its
understanding of constructional meaning; and cognitive stylistics, in which
the intent and comprehension of literary metaphor can be more precisely

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