Interpreting metaphorical statements

Xu Xu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The topics of metaphorical statements can vary considerably in abstractness, whereas the vehicles are often concrete. This study evaluated the appreciation and interpretation of metaphorical statements with abstract topics versus those with concrete topics, while taking into consideration of the two common linguistic forms (nominal metaphor and simile) of metaphorical statements. Experiment 1 showed that topic abstractness was positively associated with the aptness of similes. Experiment 2 found that comprehenders assessed more topic-vehicle similarities for sentences with abstract topics than for sentences with concrete topics, and more topic-vehicle similarities when topic-vehicle pairs were presented as metaphors than as similes. In addition, comprehenders often called upon their subjective experiences for interpretations. Experiment 3 indicated that these subjective experiences played an essential role in metaphorical comparison. These findings add the factor of topic abstractness to the literature about metaphorical language comprehension, and provide insight for research on similarity evaluation between abstract concepts and concrete concepts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1622-1636
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


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