Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Steen et al.: "Metaphor in Usage" (2010)

This is a report of a project done at the VU here in Amsterdam under the supervision of Gerard J. Steen. It's an effort to tag the tokens in the British National Corpus as metaphorical or not metaphorical.

Section 1.1 of the paper includes some very handy references to various work critical of cognitive metaphor theory from the perspective of psychology (p. 766), comparative linguistics (p. 767), and linguistics in general (p. 767).

The methodology behind the tagging procedure requires that the human annotators (six PhD students) compare the meaning of a disambiguated word to any "more basic contemporary meaning" of that word (p. 769).

They write that basic meanings "tend to be" characterized by being
– more concrete; what they evoke is easier to imagine, see, hear, feel,
smell, and taste.
– related to bodily action.
– more precise (as opposed to vague).
– historically older.  (p. 769)
This seems to involve a certain amount confusion of criteria. They even state immediately after:
Basic meanings are not necessarily the most frequent meanings of the lexical unit. (p. 769)
This claim, however, comes without quantitative evidence (or footnote).

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