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Metonymy in Context and Communication (completed)

This project seeks to investigate a new and largely unexplored area in research on metonymy, with the goal of extending our understanding of how metonymy works.

About the project

This project investigates the phenomenon of metonymy, i.e. the process whereby an expression is used to refer to (or ‘stand for’) something that falls outside of the conventional denotation of that expression, and where the conventional and the metonymic denotations stand in a certain relation to each other (e.g. ‘The ham sandwich is getting impatient’, where ‘ham sandwich’ refers to the person who ordered it, in the context of a restaurant). Such metonymies have been shown to raise deep issues for semantic compositionality and cognitive theories of the process of utterance comprehension.


The overall aim of this project is to develop a cognitively plausible account of the comprehension of metonymy. Towards this aim, I will

(a) compare different conceptions of metonymy in the literature and consider whether we have to do with a single or several different phenomena;

(b) investigate the hypothesis that referential metonymy involves a creative use of naming, similar to nicknaming;

(c) develop a hypothesis about the role of mental processes of association and inference in the comprehension of metonymy;

(d) propose a pragmatic criterion that is able to predict which metonymies are possible in a given context, and

(e) investigate whether a relevance-theoretic approach to the comprehension of metonymy might be compatible with the cognitive linguistic hypothesis about the existence of so-called 'metonymic concepts'.


This post doctoral project is funded by The Research Council of Norway and hosted by Centre for the Study of Mind in Nature


The Research Council of Norway it says with letters. Logo.CSMN with letters. Centre for the Study of Mind in Nature. Logo.


Published Feb. 22, 2012 9:57 AM - Last modified Mar. 26, 2020 8:49 AM