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Recent developments in metaphor theory: Are the new views rival ones?

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Several scholars have proposed alternative views to conceptual metaphor theory (see, for example, Ortony, 1993; Barnden, 2006; Wilson and Carston, 2006, 2008; Vega, 2007; Gibbs, 2008). How are the modified, refined, and alternative theories related to each other and standard conceptual metaphor theory, and which theory provides the best account of the phenomenon of metaphor? The particular approaches I will consider in this paper include the theory of metaphor as categorization, standard conceptual metaphor theory, blending theory, the neural theory of metaphor, conceptual metaphor theory as based on the idea of main meaning focus, and relevance theory. I will present the various theories through the analysis of a single metaphorical sentence: This surgeon is a butcher. I will propose that conceptual metaphor theory as based on the idea of the main meaning focus gives us a good way of characterizing the emergence of the sentence’s meaning. This characterization consists of a four-stage process. First, there exist two independent conceptual categories: BUTCHERY and SURGERY. Second, due to the similarity between the two, a metaphorical relationship is established between them. Third, the property of incompetence emerges in the concept of BUTCHERY in light of and against the background of the concept of SURGERY. Fourth, this property is projected into the blend, in which the property will now characterize the surgeon. I will point out that this approach is compatible with several other views, such as Ruiz de Mendoza’s Combined Input Hypothesis and with aspects of relevance theory.

Keywords: Combined Input Hypothesis; blending; conceptual metaphor theory; meaning focus; metaphor as categorization; neural theory of metaphor; relevance theory

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2011

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  • Published under the auspices of the Spanish Cognitive Linguistics Association

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