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Title: Lexical priming and metaphor : application of the theory of lexical priming to metaphoric language
Author: Patterson, K. J.
ISNI:       0000 0004 6058 4132
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2015
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Metaphoricity is often regarded as a distinctive linguistic phenomenon, in opposition to literal, or non-figurative language. Recent research from a corpus-linguistic perspective has begun to show, however, that such a dichotomist stance to metaphor does not bear scrutiny. Current categorization of metaphoric language is unable to address the fuzzy, ambiguous nature of metaphoricity with any definitive set of linguistic characteristics (Deignan, 2005; Partington, 2006; Philip, 2011). Moreover, a metaphor’s ability to violate or bend the limits of linguistic conventions (semantically, lexically, grammatically) is what gives those who employ them a certain degree of freedom in their use of language. The focus of this thesis is to explore and compare the lexical characteristics of metaphoric and non-metaphoric instances of language from a corpus-based perspective. Hoey’s theory of Lexical Priming (2005) presents a usage-based account for both the psychological motivation behind our understanding of language and our ability to use language fluently to communicate within a given context. Presently, the theory accounts for both spoken and written language within particular domains but little attention has been paid to figurative language and in how far priming can account for its usage. This research aims to present an account of how lexical priming can be extended to account for metaphoric instances of language. The focus of this thesis is to explore the relations of collocation, colligation, semantic association and pragmatic association in metaphoric and non-metaphoric instances of the items cultivated (v), flame (n) and grew (v) within a corpus of nineteenth century writings. Hoey’s Drinking Problem hypothesis, an outcome of the Lexical Priming theory is shown to provide an explanation for what drives us as language users to identify metaphoricity. The findings reveal differences in the lexical behaviour between metaphoric and non-metaphoric uses: as a metaphor, it can be argued that cultivated, flame and grew are qualitatively different lexical items, when compared to their non-metaphoric use(s). These findings suggest that lexical, grammatical, textual and pragmatic manifestations in language carry a great deal of importance in distinguishing between subtleties in word senses and meanings. Moreover, the findings show a metaphoric sense of an item appears to be dependent on the primings activated in a reader. It could be argued, based upon the lexical priming approach, that metaphoricity is inherent in the language user rather than the language itself. The research concludes more generally that corpus linguistics, as a method, can offer an explanation for why we recognise metaphoric uses of an item successfully.
Supervisor: Hoey, M. P. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral