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An investigation into the processes and mechanisms underlying the comprehension of metaphor and hyperbole

Deamer, FM; (2013) An investigation into the processes and mechanisms underlying the comprehension of metaphor and hyperbole. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

In this thesis I investigate the mechanisms and processes underlying figurative language comprehension. I attempt to determine whether there might be something unique about metaphor due to the interpretation processes involved, or whether metaphoric interpretations are in fact processed in the same way as other non-literal uses of language, such as hyperbole. Various theoretical accounts of figurative language interpretation from different pragmatic and psychological processing models are examined from an empirical perspective as a way of exploring the cognitive basis of their claims. Previous empirical research investigating metaphor comprehension is critically discussed not just from a psychological perspective, but also in relation to pragmatic accounts of figurative language. There is a plethora of past and current theoretical literature on metaphor, which over the last few decades has been discussed in relation to psycholinguistic research investigating metaphor processing. In contrast, despite recent unified pragmatic accounts of figurative language, which posit a unified account of metaphor, hyperbole, and other loose uses, there has been little, if any empirical research looking at hyperbole or other tropes. This leaves us with an important question; can what we know about the processing of metaphor be generalised to other tropes such as hyperbole? With this question in mind, I will present a series of on-line and developmental experiments, aimed at further exploring the processes and mechanisms underlying metaphor comprehension, and directly contrasting the processing of metaphor and hyperbole. The results of these experiments have implications both for psycholinguistic research on non-literal language processing, and for lexical pragmatic accounts of figurative language comprehension, but also for developmental research investigating children’s pragmatic capacities. As well as shedding light on the cognitive processes involved in constructing metaphoric and hyperbolic interpretations, the findings of this thesis give us some indication of the cognitive mechanisms that need to have developed in order to arrive at a non-literal interpretation of an utterance.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: An investigation into the processes and mechanisms underlying the comprehension of metaphor and hyperbole
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Keywords: Experimental pragmatics, language processing, figurative language, metaphor, hyperbole, psycholinguistics, pragmatics, language acquisition, inferential processes.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1420534
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