Interpreting Figurative Meaning critically evaluates the recent empirical work from psycholinguistics and neuroscience examining the successes and difficulties associated with interpreting figurative language. There is now a huge, often contradictory literature on how people understand figures of speech. Gibbs and Colston argue that there may not be a single theory or model that adequately explains both the processes and products of figurative meaning experience. Experimental research may ultimately be unable to simply adjudicate between current models in psychology, linguistics and philosophy of how figurative meaning is interpreted. Alternatively, the authors advance a broad theoretical framework, motivated by ideas from 'dynamical systems theory', that describes the multiple, interacting influences which shape people's experiences of figurative meaning in discourse. This book details past research and theory, offers a critical assessment of this work and sets the stage for a new vision of figurative experience in human life.
Raymond W. Gibbs, Jr is Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He is the author of several books including The Poetics of Mind: Figurative Thought, Language, and Understanding and Embodiment and Cognitive Science. He is also editor of the volume The Cambridge Handbook of Metaphor and Thought and editor of the journal Metaphor and Symbol. Herbert L. Colston is Professor of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin, Parkside. Dr Colston has published widely and edited several books including Figurative Language Comprehension: Social and Cultural Influences and Irony in Language and Thought: A Cognitive Science Reader.
1. Introduction; 2. Identifying figurative language; 3. Models of figurative language comprehension; 4. Interpreting specific figures of speech; 5. Indeterminacy of figurative experience; 6. Factors shaping figurative language understanding; 7. Broadening the scope of figurative language studies.