Effects of Discourse Goals on the Process of Metaphor Production


Only a few attempts have so far been made at exploring the process of metaphor production, although a large number of studies have addressed metaphor comprehension. Therefore, in this paper, we address the problem of how people generate metaphors or identify an apt vehicle for a given topic of metaphors. Specifically, we examine how the process and product of metaphor production differ between two discourse goals of metaphor, namely an explanatory purpose (e.g., to clarify) and a literary purpose (e.g., to aesthetically pleasing). Experiment 1 analysed the metaphors (or vehicles) generated in the metaphor production task, and demonstrated that people identified more prototypical exemplars of the property attributed to the topic as a vehicle for explanatory metaphors than for literary metaphors. In addition, it was found that explanatory metaphors were more apt and conventional, and had high topic-vehicle similarity than literary metaphors, while literary metaphors were more familiar and imageable than explanatory metaphors. Experiment 2 used a priming paradigm to assess the online availability of prototypical and less prototypical members of the topic property during metaphor production. The result was that both prototypical and less prototypical members were activated in producing literary metaphors, while neither members were activated in the production of explanatory metaphors. These findings indicate that the process of metaphor production is affected by discourse goals of metaphor, and suggest that only prototypical members of the category are rapidly searched for a vehicle during the production of explanatory metaphors, while both prototypical and less prototypical members are searched to generate literary metaphors.

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