philosophy, linguistics


This paper consists of two sections: first, I return to the question of precisely which contextual factors are at work in metaphorical interpretation, and of the relation between asserted, presupposed and implied information; the upshot of this will be a renewed emphasis on metaphor as a discourse phenomenon. Second, I sketch a preliminary argument as to what a social practice account of metaphor might look like. Recent explorations of the contextual factors involved in the interpretation ofmetaphor make crucial use of David Kaplan’s Logic of Demonstratives, with its sophisticated treatment of context-dependence, and of the work on assertion developed by Stalnaker and others. All these approaches take contextual factors or parameters like that of speaker, time and place of utterance, etc., as given or primitive. Recent anthropological research, however, suggests that our practices constitute not only the contents of our utterances but also their contexts. Another recent development in linguistic anthropology is an increased attention to so-called language ideologies or metalinguistic beliefs, i.e., folk theories about the character and functioning of language. These insights suggest that metaphor is so thoroughly dependent on variable contextual and metalinguistic factors that it may well dissolve as a natural kind. At the very least, they suggest a shift away from the view of metaphor as a decontextualized sentence- or utterance-level phenomenon occurring in literate practices, which is still tacitly assumed in much literature on the topic.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.


Bauman, Richard & Briggs, Charles L. 2003. Voices of Modernity: Language Ideologies and the Politics of Inequality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bourdieu, Pierre. 1991. Language & Symbolic Power. Polity Press.

Brandom, Robert. 2002. Tales of the Mighty Dead: Historical Essays in the Metaphysics of Intentionality. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Camp, Elizabeth. 2006. Contextualism, metaphor, and what is said. Mind and Language 21:280–309.

Cappelen, Herman & Lepore, Ernest. 2007. Language Turned on Itself: The Semantics and Pragmatics of Metalinguistic Discourse. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Coulson, Seana. 2003. Review of Contexts of Metaphor. Journal of Linguistics 39:704–706.

Davidson, Donald. 2002/1986. A nice derangement of epitaphs. In Subjective, Intersubjective, Objective. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Foucault, Michel. 1966. Les mots et les choses: une archéologie des sciences humaines. Paris:

Gallimard. (English translation: The Order of Things, Tavistock 1970).

Gumperz, John. 1993. Contextualization and understanding. In A. Duranti & C. Goodwin (eds.), Rethinking Context. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hanks, William. 1993. Metalanguage and pragmatics of deixis. In J. Lucy (ed.), Reflexive Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hanks, William. 1996. Language and Communicative Practices. Westview Press.

Israel, Jonathan. 2006. Enlightenment Contested. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Jakobson, Roman. 1960. Closing statement: Linguistics and poetics. In T. Sebeok (ed.), Style in Language. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Jakobson, Roman. 1981/1957. Metalanguage as a linguistic problem. In The Framework of Language. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Kuhn, Thomas S. 1970/1963. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2nd edn.

Kuhn, Thomas S. 1993/1979. Metaphor in science. In Ortony (1993/1979).

Lakoff, George. 1993/1979. The contemporary theory of metaphor. In Ortony (1993/1979).

Leezenberg, Michiel. 2001. Contexts of Metaphor, vol. 7 of CRiSPI. Elsevier Science.

Leezenberg, Michiel. 2002. Power in communication: Implications for the semanticspragmatics interface. Journal of Pragmatics 34:893–908.

Leezenberg, Michiel. 2005. Greek tragedy as impolite conversation: Towards a practice approach in linguistic theory. In S. Marmaridou & M. Drossou (eds.), Reviewing Linguistic Thought: Converging Trends for the 21st Century, pp. 191–208. Berlin: Mouton De Gruyter.

Leezenberg, Michiel. 2006. Gricean and Confucian pragmatics: A contrastive analysis. Journal of Foreign Languages November 2006:2–21.

Ortony, Andrew. 1993/1979. Metaphor and Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2nd edn.

Reddy, Michael. 1993/1979. The conduit metaphor: A case of frame conflict in our language about language. In Ortony (1993/1979).

Rorty, Richard. 1987. Unfamiliar noises I: Hesse and Davidson on metaphor. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 61:283–296.

Rorty, Richard. 1989. Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Silverstein, Michael. 1979. Language structure and linguistic ideology. In P. Clyne et al. (ed.), The Elements. Chicago Linguistic Society.

Stalnaker, Robert. 1978. Assertion. In P. Cole (ed.), Syntax and Semantics, vol. 9: Pragmatics. New York: Academic Press.

Stern, Josef. 2000. Metaphor in Context. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Stern, Josef. 2006. Metaphor, literal, literalism. Mind and Language 21:243–279.

Taylor, Charles. 1985. Theories of meaning. In Human Agency and Language (Philosophical Papers, vol. 1). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.