, Volume 28, Issue 4, pp 453–488 | Cite as

Reconstructing Metaphorical Meaning

  • Fabrizio Macagno
  • Benedetta Zavatta


Metaphorical meaning can be analyzed as triggered by an apparent communicative breach, an incongruity that leads to a default of the presumptive interpretation of a vehicle. This breach can be solved through contextual renegotiations of meaning guided by the communicative intention, or rather the presumed purpose of the metaphorical utterance. This paper addresses the problem of analyzing the complex process of reasoning underlying the reconstruction of metaphorical meaning. This process will be described as a type of abductive argument, aimed at explaining how the vehicle can best contribute to the purpose of the utterance. This type of reasoning involves the analysis of the possible predicates that can be and usually are attributed to the vehicle, and the selection of the one (or ones) that can support the implicit conclusion constituting the communicative goal of the metaphorical utterance. Metaphorical meaning, in this perspective, becomes the outcome of a complex process of meaning reconstruction aimed at providing the best explanation of the function of the vehicle within a discourse move.


Metaphor Relevance Interpretation Pragmatics Argumentation Argumentation schemes 



We would like to thank the Fundação para a Ciência ea Tecnologia for the research grant on Argumentation, Communication and Context (PTDC/FIL–FIL/110117/2009) and the anonymous reviewers for their useful and thorough comments.


  1. Antley, Kenneth. 1974. McCawley’s theory of selectional restriction. Foundations of Language 11(2): 257–272.Google Scholar
  2. Aristotle. 1991a. Poetics. Translated by Ingram Bywater. In The works of Aristotle, Vol. II, ed. Jonathan Barnes. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Aristotle. 1991b. Posterior analytics. Translated by J. Barnes. In The works of Aristotle, Vol. I, ed. Jonathan Barnes. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Aristotle. 1991c. Rhetoric. Translated by W. Rhys Roberts. In The works of Aristotle, Vol. II, ed. Jonathan Barnes. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Aristotle. 1991. Topics. Translated by W. A. Pickard-Cambridge. In The works of Aristotle, Vol. I, ed. Jonathan Barnes. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Asher, Nicholas, and Alex Lascarides. 2003. Logics of conversation. Studies in natural language processing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Atlas, Jay, and Stephen Levinson. 1981. It-clefts, informativeness and logical form: Radical pragmatics (revised standard version). In Radical pragmatics, ed. Peter Cole, 1–62. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  8. Atlas, Jay. 2005. Logic, meaning, and conversation: Semantical underdeterminacy, implicature and their interface. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Austin, John. 1962. How to do things with words. Oxford: Clarendon.Google Scholar
  10. Bach, Kent. 2003. Speech acts and pragmatics. In Blackwell. Guide to the philosophy of language, eds. Michael Devitt and Richard Hanley, 147–167. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  11. Bergmann, Merrie. 1991. Metaphorical assertions. In Pragmatics, ed. Steven Davis, 485–494. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Black, Max. 1954. Metaphor. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society New Series 55: 273–294.Google Scholar
  13. Black, Max. 1962. Models and metaphors. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Boethius, Severinus. 1978. De Topicis Differentiis (edited with a translation, introduction and commentary by E, Stump). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Buridanus, Johannes. 2001. Summulae de Dialectica (an annotated translation with a philosophical introduction by G. Klima). New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Burton-Roberts, Noel. 1989. The limits to debate: A revised theory of semantic presupposition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Carston, Robyn. 2002. Thoughts and utterances. Malden: Blackwell.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Chen, Serena, and Shelly Chaiken. 1999. The heuristic–systematic model in its broader context. In (Eds.), Dual-process theories in social psychology, eds. Shelly Chaiken and Yaacov Trope, 73–96. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  19. Chomsky, Noam. 1971. Deep structure, surface structure and semantic interpretation. In Semantics: An interdisciplinary reader in philosophy, linguistics, and psychology, eds. Danny Steinberg, and Leon Jakobovits, 183–216. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Crothers, Edward. 1979. Paragraph structure inference. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.Google Scholar
  21. Ducrot, Oswald, and Jean-Claude Anscombre. 1986. Argumentativité et informativité. In De la métaphysique à la rhétorique, ed. Michel Meyer, 79–93. Bruxelles: Éditions de l’Université de Bruxelles.Google Scholar
  22. Ducrot, Oswald. 1966. Le roi de France est sage. Implication logique et Présupposition linguistique. Études de linguistique appliquée 4: 39–47.Google Scholar
  23. Ducrot, Oswald. 1972a. Dire et ne pas dire. Paris: Hermann.Google Scholar
  24. Ducrot, Oswald. 1972b. De Saussure à la philosophie du langage. Preface to John Searle, Les actes de langage, 7–34. Paris: Hermann.Google Scholar
  25. van Eemeren, Frans, and Rob Grootendorst. 1984. Speech acts in argumentative discussions. Dordrecht: Foris.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. van Eemeren, Frans, and Rob Grootendorst. 1992. Argumentation, communication, and fallacies: A pragma–dialectical perspective. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  27. van Eemeren, Frans, and Rob Grootendorst. 2004. A systematic theory of argumentation: The pragma–dialectical approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Fauconnier, Gilles, and Mark Turner. 2002. The way we think: Conceptual blending & the mind’s hidden complexities. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  29. Freeman, James. 2005. Acceptable premises: An epistemic approach to an informal logic problem. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Gibbs, Raymond. 1994. The poetics of mind: Figurative thought, language and understanding. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Glucksberg, Sam, and Boaz Keysar. 1990. Understanding metaphorical comparisons: Beyond similarity. Psychological Review 97(1): 3–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Glucksberg, Sam. 2008. How metaphors create categories—Quickly! In The Cambridge handbook of metaphor and thought, ed. Raymond Gibbs, 67–83. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Grice, Paul. 1975. Logic and conversation. In The logic of grammar, eds. Donald Davidson, and Gilbert Harman, 64–75. Encino: Dickenson.Google Scholar
  34. Grimes, Joseph. 1975. The thread of discourse. The Hague: Mouton.Google Scholar
  35. Grosz, Barbara, and Candace Sidnert. 1986. Attention, intentions, and the structure of discourse. Computational Linguistics 12(3): 175–204.Google Scholar
  36. Hamblin, Charles. 1970. Fallacies. London: Methuen.Google Scholar
  37. Harman, Gilbert. 1965. The inference to the best explanation. The Philosophical Review 74(1): 88–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Hobbs, Jerry. 1979. Coherence and coreference. Cognitive science 3: 67–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Hobbs, Jerry. 1985. On the coherence and structure of discourse. Report No. CSLI-85-37. Center for the Study of Language and Information, Stanford University.Google Scholar
  40. Hopper, Robert. 1981. How to do things without words: The taken for granted as speech action. Communication Quarterly 29(3): 228–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Indurkhya, Bipin. 1992. Metaphor and cognition: An interactionist approach. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Kahneman, Daniel. 2003. A perspective on judgment and choice. American Psychologist 58(9): 697–720.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Katz, Jerrold, and Jerry Fodor. 1963. The structure of a semantic theory. Language 39: 170–210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Kauffeld, Fred. 1995. On the difference between assumptions and presumptions. In Argumentation and values: Proceedings of the ninth SCA/AFA conference on argumentation, ed. Sally Jackson, 509–514. Annandale, VA: Speech Communication Association.Google Scholar
  45. Kauffeld, Fred. 2003. The ordinary practice of presuming and presumption with special attention to veracity and the burden of proof. In Anyone who has a view: theoretical contributions to the study of argumentation, eds. Frans van Eemeren, Anthony Blair, Charles Willard, and Francisca Snoeck-Henkemans, 136–146. Dordrecht: Kluwer.Google Scholar
  46. Kempson, Ruth. 1973. Presupposition: A problem for linguistic theory. Transactions of the Philological Society 72(1): 29–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Kempson, Ruth. 1975. Presupposition and the delimitations of semantics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  48. Kienpointner, Manfred. 1992. Alltagslogik: Struktur und Funktion von Argumentationsmustern. Stuttgart: Fromman-Holzboog.Google Scholar
  49. Kretzmann, Norman, Anthony Kenny, and Jan Pinborg. 1982. The Cambridge history of later medieval philosophy: From the rediscovery of Aristotle to the disintegration of scholasticism, 1100–1600. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Lakoff, George, and Mark Johnson. 1980. Metaphors we live by. Chicago: Chicago University Press.Google Scholar
  51. Levin, Samuel. 1977. The semantics of metaphor. Baltimore & London: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  52. Levinson, Stephen. 2000. Presumptive meanings: The theory of generalized conversational implicature. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  53. Macagno, Fabrizio, and Douglas Walton. 2007. Types of dialogue, dialectical relevance, and textual congruity. Anthropology & Philosophy 8(1–2): 101–121.Google Scholar
  54. Macagno, Fabrizio, and Douglas Walton. 2009. Argument from analogy in law, the classical tradition, and recent theories. Philosophy and Rhetoric 42(2): 154–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Macagno, Fabrizio, and Douglas Walton. 2014. Emotive language in argumentation. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Macagno, Fabrizio. 2008. Dialectical relevance and dialogical context in Walton’s pragmatic theory. Informal Logic 28(2): 102–128.Google Scholar
  57. Macagno, Fabrizio. 2011. The presumptions of meaning. Hamblin and equivocation. Informal Logic 31(4): 367–393.Google Scholar
  58. Macagno, Fabrizio. 2012. Presumptive reasoning in interpretation. Implicatures and conflicts of presumptions. Argumentation 26(2): 233–265.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Martinich, Aloysius. 1991. A theory for metaphor. In Pragmatics, ed. Steven Davis, 507–518. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  60. McCawley, James. 1971. Interpretative semantics meets Frankenstein. Foundations of Language 7: 285–296.Google Scholar
  61. Pascal, Blaise. 1966. Christianity for modern pagans: Pascal’s Pensées edited, outlined, and explained, ed. Peter Kreeft. London: Penguin Classics.Google Scholar
  62. Patterson, Dennis. 2004. Interpretation in law. Diritto e questioni pubbliche 4: 241–259.Google Scholar
  63. Petty, Richard, and John Cacioppo. 1986. The elaboration likelihood model of persuasion. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology 19: 123–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Petty, Richard, John Cacioppo, Alan Strathman, and Joseph Priester. 2005. To think or not to think? Exploring two routes to persuasion. In Persuasion: Psychological insights and perspectives, ed. Timothy Brock, and Melanie Green, 81–116. Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  65. Rescher, Nicholas. 1977. Dialectics: A controversy-oriented approach to the theory of knowledge. Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  66. Rescher, Nicholas. 2006. Presumption and the practices of tentative cognition. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Richards, Ivor. 1936. The philosophy of rhetoric. New York-London: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  68. Rigotti, Eddo, and Sara Greco Morasso. 2010. Comparing the argumentum model of topics to other contemporary approaches to argument schemes: The procedural and material components. Argumentation 24(4): 489–512.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Rigotti, Eddo, and Andrea Rocci. 2001. Sens - non-sens - contresens. Studies in Communication Sciences 2: 45–80.Google Scholar
  70. Rigotti, Eddo, and Andrea Rocci. 2006. Tema-rema e connettivo: la congruità semantico-pragmatica del testo. In Syndesmoi: connettivi nella realtà dei testi, eds. Giovanni Gobber, Maria Cristina Gatti, and Sara Cigada, 3–44. Milano: Vita e Pensiero.Google Scholar
  71. Rigotti, Eddo, and Sara Cigada. 2004. La comunicazione verbale. Milano: Apogeo.Google Scholar
  72. Rigotti, Eddo. 2005. Congruity theory and argumentation. Studies in Communication Sciences. Special issue: 75–96.Google Scholar
  73. Rigotti, Eddo. 2006. Relevance of context-bound loci to topical potential in the argumentation stage. Argumentation 20: 519–540.Google Scholar
  74. Rigotti, Eddo. 2009. Whether and how classical topics can be revived in the contemporary theory of argumentation. In Pondering on problems of argumentation, eds. Frans van Eemeren, and Bart Garssen, 157–178. Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Rocci, Andrea. 2005. Connective predicates in monologic and dialogic argumentation. Studies in Communication Sciences, Special Issue Argumentation in Dialogic Interaction 97–118.Google Scholar
  76. Rocci, Andrea. 2008. Analysing and evaluating persuasive media discourse in context. In L’analyse linguistique des discours des médias: théories, méthodes et enjeux, ed. Marcel Burger, 247–284. Québec: Editions Nota Bene.Google Scholar
  77. Searle, John. 1981. Metaphor. In Philosophical perspective on metaphor, ed. Mark Johnson, 248–285. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  78. Seuren, Pieter. 2000. Presupposition, negation, and trivalence. Journal of Linguistics 36: 261–297.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Shakespeare, William. 2000. Romeo and Juliet. Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Soames, Scott. 1982. How presuppositions are inherited: A solution to the projection problem. Linguistic inquiry 13(3): 483–545.Google Scholar
  81. Sperber, Dan, and Deidre Wilson. 1986. Relevance. Communication and cognition. Cambridge: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  82. Sperber, Dan, and Deidre Wilson. 2008. A Deflationary Account of Metaphor. In (Ed.), The Cambridge handbook of metaphor and thought, ed. Raymond Gibbs, 84–105. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  83. Stalnaker, Robert. 1974. Presuppositions. In Semantics and philosophy, eds. Milton Munitz, and Peter Unger, 197–214. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  84. Stalnaker, Robert. 1998. On the representation of context. Journal of Logic, Language and Information 7(1): 3–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Stern, Josef. 2000. Metaphor in context. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  86. Stern, Josef. 2006. Metaphor, literal, literalism. Mind & Language 21(3): 243–279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Stern, Josef. 2008. Metaphor, semantics and context. In The Cambridge handbook of metaphor and thought, ed. Raymond Gibbs, 262–279. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Tendahl, Markus, and Raymond Gibbs. 2008. Complementary perspectives on metaphor: Cognitive linguistics and relevance theory. Journal of Pragmatics 40(11): 1823–1864.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Tindale, Christopher. 2004. Rhetorical argumentation: Principles of theory and practice. Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  90. Vanderveken, Daniel, and John Searle. 1985. Foundations of illocutionary logic. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  91. Vanderveken, Daniel. 2002. Universal grammar and speech act theory. In Essays in speech act theory, eds. Daniel Vanderveken, and Susumu Kubo, 25–62. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  92. Vega-Moreno, Rosa. 2004. Metaphor interpretation and emergence. UCL Working Papers in Linguistics 16:297–322.Google Scholar
  93. Walton, Douglas, and Fabrizio Macagno. 2009. Reasoning from classification and definition. Argumentation 23: 81–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. Walton, Douglas, Chris Reed, and Fabrizio Macagno. 2008. Argumentation schemes. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. Walton, Douglas. 1989. Informal logic. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  96. Walton, Douglas. 1993. The speech act of presumption. Pragmatics & Cognition 1: 125–148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  97. Walton, Douglas. 1996. Argumentation schemes for presumptive reasoning. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  98. Walton, Douglas. 2002. Legal argumentation and evidence. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press.Google Scholar
  99. Walton, Douglas. 2003. Defining conditional relevance using linked arguments and argumentation schemes: A commentary on professor Callen’s article, rationality and relevancy: conditional relevancy and constrained resources. Michigan State Law Review 4: 1305–1314.Google Scholar
  100. Walton, Douglas. 2004a. Abductive reasoning. Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press.Google Scholar
  101. Walton, Douglas. 2004b. Relevance in argumentation. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  102. Wilson, Deirdre, and Robyn Carston. 2006. Metaphor, relevance and the ‘emergent property’ issue. Mind and Language 21(3): 404–433.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  103. Zavatta, Benedetta. 2014a. Metaphor. In Dictionary of Bible translation, ed. Philip Noss. Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura.Google Scholar
  104. Zavatta, Benedetta. 2014b. Figurative Language. In Dictionary of Bible translation, ed. Philip Noss. Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Philosophy of Language (IFL)Universidade Nova de LisboaLisbonPortugal

Personalised recommendations