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Transformational analysis of metaphor Angel, Leonard Jay

Abstract

In this study it is assumed that we can, roughly speaking, distinguish metaphors from non-metaphors. A representative list of metaphors is examined. It is found that syntactic parsing reveals no marks of metaphor, and that semantic parsing, though more illuminating, cannot help us in the analysis of all cases, due largely to the importance of contexts as well as semantic content. To re-focus our attention on the relationship between metaphors in general, their contexts, and discursive language, the question of whether metaphors are discursively paraphrasable is discussed. It is argued that a simile can always be constructed out of the key terms in a metaphor, and that such constructed similes are paraphrases, though not 'unique' paraphrases of the metaphor. A transformational system is offered in which metaphors are generated from similes. It is suggested that the difficulty of paraphrasing metaphors is due to the difficulties of reversing the direction of the transformation, from simile ⇢ metaphor, to metaphor ⇢ simile. In order to make the transformational system workable, a distinction is made out between similes and other comparisons in terms of the kind of features shared by the terms in the comparison. This distinction not only makes the transformational system workable, but also provides the necessary grounding for specifying the sufficient as well as necessary-conditions of metaphor. It further allows for the introduction of the concept of the "scope" of a metaphor, a concept which is instrumental in accounting for the special function and utility of the device of metaphor.

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