Synesthetic metaphor: A cognitive perspective

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The theory of conceptual metaphor claims that poetic metaphor basically uses the same cognitive mechanisms as everyday metaphor; and what makes poetic metaphor look different, however, is its extension, elaboration, and combination of those mechanisms in ways that go beyond the ordinary. In light of this claim, the present study focuses on a particular kind of metaphor, synesthetic metaphor, with data extracted from the novels and short stories by Mo Yan, a preeminent contemporary Chinese novelist highly acclaimed for his innovation with language. An analysis shows that his use of synesthetic metaphors (as well as other metaphors and figures), although very novel and unusual, largely conforms to some general tendencies found in both ordinary and poetic language by previous empirical studies. The finding supports the claim that human meaning and understanding are embodied, constrained by the kind of body we have and how it functions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19-34
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Literary Semantics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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