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Non-literal Language Use and Part-Whole Relations


Jan Rijkhoff


Pages 382 - 383



Traditionally a distinction is made between the literal and the nonliteral or figurative use of language (but cf. Ortony ed. 1979; Lakoff & Johnson 1980; 1999; Panther et al. 2009). The two major strategies employed to extend the basic, literal meaning of a word are metaphor and metonymy. Metaphor is based on analogy and essentially involves the transfer of certain features from one conceptual domain to another (e.g. ‘John is a pig’ or ‘She was consumed with rage’). Metonymy (from Greek metónymia ‘substitution of a name for another name’), on the other hand, relies on an (often conventional cultural) association between two components within a single domain (Cruse 2004: 209-212), as in ‘The suits on Wall Street walked off with most of our savings’ (where ‘the suits’ stand for business people), ‘The kettle is boiling’ (an associative connection between the container and its typical contents) or ‘The ham sandwich is waiting for his check’ (an association between the customer and the item that he ordered; Lakoff & Johnson 1980: 35).




1Department of Linguistics, Aarhus University



1 Burke, K., (1945), A Grammar of Motives, New York: Prentice Hall.

2 Cruse, A., (2004), Meaning in Language: An Introduction to Semantics and Pragmatics (2nd edition), Oxford: Oxford University Press.

3 Fass, D., (1997), Processing Metonymy and Metaphor, Greenwich CT: Ablex.

4 Hilpert, M., (2007), “Chained Metonymies in Lexicon and Grammar: a Cross-linguistic Perspective on Body-part terms” in Radden, G. et al. (eds.), Aspects of Meaning Construction, Amsterdam and Philadelphia: Benjamins, 77-98.

5 Lakoff, G.; Johnson, M., (1980), Metaphors we live by, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

6 Lakoff, G.; Johnson, M., (1999), Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and its Challenge to Western Thought, New York: Basic Books.

7 Ortony, A. (ed.), 1979, Metaphor and Thought, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

8 Reddy, M. J., (1979), “The Conduit Metaphor: A Case of Frame Conflict in our Language about Language”, in Ortony, A. (ed.), Metaphor and Thought, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 284-310.

9 Panther, K.-U.; Thornburg, L. L.; Barcelona, A. (eds.), (2009), Metonymy and Metaphor in Grammar, Amsterdam and Philadelphia: Benjamins.

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