Blending and coded meaning: Literal and figurative meaning in cognitive semantics

Author(s): Coulson S, Oakley T


In this article, we examine the relationship between literal and figurative meanings in view of mental spaces and conceptual blending theory as developed by Fauconnier and Turner [Fauconnier, Gilles, Turner, Mark, 2002. The Way We Think: Conceptual Blending and the Mind's Hidden Complexities. Basic Books, New York]. Beginning with a brief introduction to the theory, we proceed by analyzing examples of metaphor, fictive motion, and virtual change to reveal various processes of meaning construction at work in a range of examples that vary in their figurativity. While a dichotomous distinction between literal and figurative language is difficult to maintain, we suggest that the notion of coded meaning is a useful one, and argue that coded meanings play an important role in the construction of conceptual integration networks for literal and figurative meanings alike. In addition, we explore various notions of context as it pertains to literal and figurative interpretation of language, focusing on Langacker's concept of ground. We suggest that there is much to be gained by explicating the mechanisms by which local context affects the process of meaning construction.

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