philosophy, linguistic


This paper addresses two issues: (1) what it is for a metaphor to be either alive or dead and (2) what a metaphor must be in order to be either alive or dead. Both issues, in turn, bear on the contemporary debate whether metaphor is a pragmatic or semantic phenomenon and on the dispute between Contextualists and Literalists. In the first part of the paper, I survey examples of what I take to be live metaphors and dead metaphors in order to establish that there is a phenomenon here to be explained. I then propose an explanation of metaphorical vitality (and by implication of metaphorical death) in terms of the dependence of the interpretation of a metaphor on a family or network of expressions specific to its context of utterance. I then argue that only a Literalist account of metaphor — one that posits metaphorical expressions (a la Stern (2000))—and not Contextualist and Gricean approaches can accommodate this explanation. Finally, I discuss some objections to my Literalist account and sketch an explanation of types to counter Platonistic objections to my metaphorical expression types.

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.


Alston, W., 1964. Philosophy of Language. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall.

Aristotle, 1984. Poetics and rhetoric. In J. Barnes (ed.), The Complete Works of Aristotle, 2 vols. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Barsalou, L., 1987. Ad hoc categories. Memory and Cognition 11:211–227.

Black, M., 1962. Metaphor. In Models and Metaphors, pp. 25–47. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.

Black, M., 1993. More about metaphor. In Ortony (1993), pp. 19–41.

Bowdle, B. and D. Gentner, 2005. The career of metaphor. Psychological Review 112:193–216.

Bromberger, S., 1989. Types and tokens in linguistics. In A. George (ed.), Reflections on Chomsky, pp. 58–89. Oxford: Blackwell.

Burge, T., 1977. Belief de re. Journal of Philosophy 74:338–362.

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

Camp, E., ms. a. Making claims and ‘seeing-as’: A pragmatic theory of metaphor.

Camp, E., ms. b. Showing, telling, seeing: Metaphor and “poetic language”. Delivered at the 3rd International Symposium of Cognition, Logic, and Communication, Riga, Latvia, Dec. 2007.

Carston, R., . Doing justice to the metaphor experience. Delivered at the 3rd International Symposium of Cognition, Logic, and Communication, Riga, Latvia, Dec. 2007.

Cavell, S., 1967. Aesthetic problems of modern philosophy. In M. Black (ed.), Philosophy in America, pp. 74–97. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Charlton, W., 1975. Living and dead metaphors. British Journal of Aesthetics 15:172–8.

Cohen, L. J. and A. Margalit, 1972. The role of inductive reasoning in the interpretation of metaphor. In D. Davidson and G. Harman (eds.), Semantics of Natural Language, pp. 721–762. Dordrecht: Reidel.

Cohen, T., 1976. Notes on metaphor. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 34:249–259.

Cooper, D., 1986. Metaphor, pp. 118–139. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Davidson, D., 1984. What metaphors mean. In Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Davies, M., 1982. Idiom and metaphor. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 83:67–85.

Gentner, D., 1982. Are scientific analogies metaphors? In D. Miall (ed.), Metaphor: Problems and Perspectives, pp. 106–132. Brighten, England: Harvester Press.

Gibbs, R. and M. Tendahl, 2006. Cognitive effort and effects in metaphor comprehension: Relevance theory and psycholinguistics. Mind and Language 21:379–403.

Glanzberg, M., 2007. Metaphor and lexical semantics. Lecture given at Riga Conference “A Figure of Speech”.

Glucksberg, S., 2001. Understanding Figurative Language: From Metaphors to Idioms. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Glucksberg, S. and B. Keysar, 1990. Understanding metaphorical comparisons: Beyond similarity. Psychological Review 97:3–18.

Glucksberg, S. and B. Keysar, 1993. How metaphors work. In Ortony (1993), pp. 401–424.

Goodman, N., 1976. Languages of Art, Second Edition. Indianapolis: Hackett.

Guttenplan, S., 2005. Objects of Metaphor. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Henle, P., 1958. Metaphor. In Language, Thought, and Culture, pp. 173–195. Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Press.

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

Jindo, J. Y., 2006. Biblical Metaphor Reconsidered: A Cognitive Approach To Poetic Metaphor In Biblical Prophecy. Ph.D. thesis, Jewish Theological Seminary.

Kaplan, D., 1989. Demonstratives. In . H. W. J. Almog, J. Perry (ed.), Themes from Kaplan, pp. 481–563. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Kittay, E. F., 1987. Metaphor: Its Cognitive Force and Linguistic Structure. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Kittay, E. F. and A. Lehrer, 1981. Semantic fields and the structure of metaphor. Studies in Language 5:31–63.

Kronfeld, C., 1980/81. Novel and conventional metaphors: A matter of methodology. Poetics Today 2:13–24.

Lakoff, G., 1987. Women, Fire, and Other Dangerous Things. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Lakoff, G., 1993. The contemporary theory of metaphor. In Ortony (1993), pp. 202–251.

Lakoff, G. and M. Johnson, 1980. Metaphors We Live By. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Lakoff, G. and M. Turner, 1989. More than Cool Reason: A Field Guide to Poetic Metaphor. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Levin, S., 1977. The Semantics of Metaphor. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press.

Lyons, J., 1977. Semantics, Vol. 2. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Moran, R., 1989. Seeing and believing: Metaphor, image, and force. Critical Inquiry 16:87–112.

Ortony, A., 1979. Beyond literal similarity. Psychological Review 86:161–180.

Ortony, A. (ed.), 1993. Metaphor and Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2nd edn.

Plimpton, G., 1976. Writers at Work: The Paris Review Translations, Fourth Series. New York: Viking.

Reimer, M., . Metaphorical Meanings: Do you see what I mean? Delivered at the 3rd International Symposium of Cognition, Logic, and Communication, Riga, Latvia, Dec. 2007.

Reimer, M., 1996. The problem of dead metaphors. Philosophical Studies 82:13–25.

Romero, E. and B. Soria, 2007. A view of novel metaphor in the light of Recanati’s proposals. In M. Frápolli (ed.), Saying, Meaning and Referring. Essays on François Recanati’s Philosophy of Language, pp. 145–59. London: Palgrave Studies in Pragmatics, Language and Cognition.

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

Récanati, F., 2004. Literal Meaning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sperber, D. and D. Wilson, 1981. Irony and the use-mention distinction. In P. Cole (ed.), Radical Pragmatics. New York: Academic Press.

Stern, J., 1979. Metaphor as Demonstrative. PhD dissertation, Columbia University.

Stern, J., 1983. Metaphor and grammatical deviance. Nous 17:577–99.

Stern, J., 2000. Metaphor in Context. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Stern, J., 2003. Review of Charles Travis, “Unshadowed Thought“. Mind 112(448):805–811.

Stern, J., 2006. Metaphor, literal, literalism. Mind and Language 21(3):243–79.

Stern, J., 2006a. Figurative language. In M. Devitt and R. Hanley (eds.), The Blackwell Guide To Philosophy Of Language, pp. 168–185. Boston, MA and Oxford UK: Blackwell.

Stern, J., ms. Metaphor and minimalism.

Szabo, Z., 1999. Expressions and their representations. Philosophical Quarterly 49:145–163.

Tirrell, L., 1989. Extending: The structure of metaphor. Nous 23:17–34.

Tversky, A., 1977. Features of similarity. Psychological Review 84:322–352.

Wearing, C., 2006. Metaphor and what is said. Mind and Language 21:310–332.

White, R. W., 1996. The Structure of Metaphor: The Way the Language of Metaphor Works. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Williams, J., 1976. Synaesthetic adjectives: A possible law of semantic change. Language 52:461–478.

Wilson, D. and R. Carston, 2007. A unitary approach to lexical pragmatics: Relevace, inference and ad hoc concepts. In N. Burton-Roberts (ed.), Pragmatics, pp. 230–259. London: Palgrave.

Winner, E., 1988. The Point of Words: Children’s Understanding of Metaphor and Irony. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.