Simulation theories of metaphor

PT's approach to metaphor

John Barker has extended his work with mental simulation to begin a simulation approach to metaphor using PT. In such an approach, metaphors might be viewed as 'convenient fictions' or linguistic games of 'let's pretend.' In both familiarizing and defamiliarizing metaphors, we often deliberately assume things that we know are false. Similarly, when interpreting a metaphor, PT simulates the mind of someone who believes the metaphor to be literally true, and then determines what conclusions such a person would draw.

As a specific example of PT's approach, let's consider the metaphor 'Paul is a lion.' Here, Paul is not literally a lion, but is strong like a lion. Note that this example might represent an instance of either familiarization or defamiliarization. Abbe Sicard describes a case in which a child makes use of this metaphor because he does not know the word for 'strength'; such an example would fall into the general class of 'familiarizing' metaphors. More frequently, though, this would represent an example of defamiliarization; the speaker attempts to illustrate Paul's strength in a more dramatic way by bringing to mind the connotations of lions in our culture. PT is able to recognize 'Paul is a lion' as a metaphor if we precede the statement with 'It is as if'. The screen you see below shows PT's 'Entry Window', after we have typed the sentence 'It is as if Paul is a lion.'

It is as if Paul is a lion.

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