Grasping at metaphors: a corpus-based analysis of the inferential processes which shape semantic construal

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Doell, Sydney
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The study of metaphor has generated a series of diverse discussions maintained within the discipline of cognitive linguistics. To navigate the resulting questions regarding metaphoric versus literal phrasing, the following analysis seeks to determine the semantic and inferential factors relating to verb use in context-specific English VPs. This study is designed to investigate the roles of VP-specific contextual cues which are found to further aid in making inferences, as well as extending the semantics of verbs beyond their central meanings. Employing a corpus-based approach, this study identifies how the verbs get, grasp, hear, see, and feel are used in a comparative analysis entailing metaphoric versus literal speech contexts. It is the goal of this study to determine the frequency of use per verb, which context utilizes them most often, and the ways in which the VPs in the metaphoric context allow for semantic maps to be drawn for each verb. As a result of this approach, two factors become apparent: i) speakers’ and listeners’ utterances do show verb polysemy specific to context, and ii) there are clear differences between each verb analyzed both in terms of frequency of use and individual extent of polysemy. These differences are evidenced by semantic mapping. Analyzing metaphoric versus literal verb use illuminates the general discussion in cognitive linguistics surrounding the role of semantic conveyance and inference processing.
Verbs, Metaphor, Construal, Semantics, English, Corpus Linguistics