The processing of metonymy: Evidence from eye movements

S Frisson, M J Pickering

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The authors investigated the time course of the processing of metonymic expressions in comparison with literal ones in 2 eye-tracking experiments. Experiment 1 considered the processing of sentences containing place-for-institution metonymies such as the convent in That blasphemous woman had to answer to the convent; it was found that such expressions were of similar difficulty to sentences containing literal interpretations of the same expressions. In contrast, expressions without a relevant metonymic interpretation caused immediate difficulty. Experiment 2 found similar results for place-for-event metonymies such as A lot of Americans protested during: Vietnam, except that the difficulty with expressions without a relevant metonymic interpretation was somewhat delayed. The authors argue that these findings are incompatible with models of figurative language processing in which either the Literal sense is accessed first or the figurative sense is accessed first. Instead, they support an account in which both senses can be accessed immediately, perhaps through a single underspecified representation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1366-1383
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition
Volume25
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1999

Keywords

  • LEXICALLY AMBIGUOUS WORDS
  • METAPHOR COMPREHENSION
  • SENTENCE COMPREHENSION
  • TIME-COURSE
  • IDIOMS
  • CONTEXT
  • RESOLUTION
  • FREQUENCY
  • FIXATIONS
  • DISCOURSE

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