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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-U025-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 23, 2024, from

Article Summary

A standard dictionary definition describes a metaphor as ‘a figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object is used in place of another to suggest a likeness between them’. Although the theoretical adequacy of this definition may be questioned, it conveys the standard view that there is a difference between literal and nonliteral language; that figurative speech is nonliteral language and that a metaphor is an instance of figurative speech.

The three most influential treatments of metaphor are the comparison, interaction and speech act theories. According to the first, every metaphor involves a comparison; a specific version of this view is that every metaphor is an abbreviated simile. According to the second, every metaphor involves a semantic interaction between some object or concept that is literally denoted by some word, and some concept metaphorically predicated on that word. According to the third, it is not words or sentences that are metaphorical but their use in specific situations; thus, to understand how metaphors function, one must understand how people communicate with language.

Citing this article:
Martinich, A.P.. Metaphor, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-U025-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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