Metaphors: Where the neighborhood in which one resides interacts with (interpretive) diversity

AbstractThe effect of semantic neighborhood density (SND) on metaphor interpretation was examined by asking participants to list features for both metaphors (e.g., “music is medicine”) and the individual words in the metaphors (e.g., the metaphor topic, “music” and the metaphor vehicle, “medicine”). Topic word SND was associated with greater interpretive diversity for individual words, but lesser interpretive diversity for metaphors. High-SND metaphor topics decreased in interpretive diversity when the topic was framed in a metaphor (compared to when presented alone) whereas for Low-SND topics, there was an increase in interpretive diversity when framed in a metaphor. We propose that the function of the vehicle differs depending on the nature of the metaphor topic. Vehicles convey or emphasize a select few relevant features of topic meaning when the topic has many close semantic associates, whereas they highlight many potentially relevant low-salience features for topic concepts with few close associates.

Return to previous page