Cognitive Approaches


Metaphor and Metonymy

Metaphor and metonymy in literature

1.1. Metaphor
Metaphor in literature is regarded as a figure of speech. It is traditionally based on the notions 'similarity' or 'comparison' between the literal and the figurative meaning of expressions.
This can be explained by means of the word 'eye': Whereas 'eye' is a part of the body of people and animals, located in the head, organ of sight and locus of production of tears the word 'eye' can be involved in a figurative use, too:

For example: The expression the eye of heaven refers to the sun.

The term "metaphorical expression" refers to a linguistic expression (a word, phrase or sentence) that is the surface realization of a cross-domain mapping, that will be explained in the final draft.

1.2. Metonymy
In literature, Metonymy is a figure of speech in which the name of an attribute of a thing is substituted for the thing itself (e.g. the crown for a monarchy, the White House for the US Government [President]). Rather than naming a thing by its proper name, you only name a part of it, which, then, replaces the thing as a whole. Important to note is that the correct understanding of metonymy is highly dependent on the context in which it is uttered.

Take, for example, the following sentence:
Buckingham Palace denied the rumours.

Here you see that the building (Buckingham Palace) stands for the institution (the monarch). It is, of course, not the building itself that denied the rumours, but the monarch. As we all know that the monarch resides in the palace, we all understand that it was him/her, who denied them (Place for Institution). Metonymy is always characterised by a schematic form:

                        B for A

1.3. Differences between Metaphor and Metonymy?
When we use a metaphor, we say that A is B. We do not only compare two object (as is the case with similes), but express one word in terms of another. The thing with which another one is compared is called the vehicle, the feature that both terms have in common is called the tenor.

In metonymy, the formula "B to A" is represented. In contrast to metaphor, metonymy does not refer to the smimilarity between two objects but to their similarity in function. In metonymy, however, we do not say that two terms are alike, but use a term as substitution for the other, which only represents a certain feature of the term compared.

The sceme is not "A is B" but rather "A for B"!

Cognitive semanticists argue, that metonymy is not a purely linguistic device but is central to human thought.