UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The interpretation of metaphor Romaniw, Irene


This thesis attempts to explain exactly how it is that we interpret metaphor. A brief historical overview of the substitution, comparison and interaction methods is offered. Then the basic steps within these theories are aligned with current thoughts on the interpretation of metaphor from within semantic theory. Because of the self-imposed restrictions within semantic theory, a semantic interpretation of metaphor is an extremely limited one. The problems of definition of meaning, the allowance of deviant language and the nature of the relationship between syntax and semantics are considered before adapting Samuel Levin's Semantics of Metaphor. Levin offers a formula, based on semantic theory, whereby a good basic framework is provided to outline the steps involved in the understanding of metaphor. By extending Levin's theory and by testing this extended version against complex metaphor, a more comprehensive approach to the interpretation of metaphor is offered. Furthermore, application of the extended theory to increasingly complex metaphors reveals a consistent and predictable pattern traceable throughout the interpretation process which, in turn, can only be reflective of the organizational patterns of human thought.

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