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Mapping Conceptual and Semantic Composition during Real-Time Comprehension: The Case of Metonymy

by Prof. Maria Piñango, Associate Professor, Department of Linguistics, Yale University

Humanities Lecture Series
Date                  13 June 2016
Time                  5:00pm
Venue                Room GH803, PolyU
(The talk will be conducted in English.)


The focus of the talk will be a model of metonymy composition that characterizes the contextual differences in terms of degrees of underspecification of contextual cues; thus allowing both metonymic processes to stem from the same conceptual compositional principles. In this model then metonymy is analyzed as perspective shift in conceptual structure triggered by the assignment of an incongruent semantic role to the explicit participant. This “shift” amounts to the creation of a situation connecting two entities, explicit and implicit, such that the previously incongruent semantic role apply instead to the implicit/intended participant. Contextualization is thus operationalized as the induction of a generalized situation (event/state) that confers participant roles to both explicit and implicit entities. In doing so the model sheds light on the possible organizing principles of conceptual structure at play during real-time composition. Finally, from a conceptual structure perspective, differences across metonymic interpretations are thus of degree and not necessarily of kind, suggesting that the traditional “literal/figurative” distinction is not categorical but a matter of degree and describable in terms of context lexica-ability. The less lexicalized the context, the more “figurative” it would appear.

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