(Copyright © 2000 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
Drawing from Black's interactionist theory, and its vision of
metaphor's dual content (literal and metaphorical, "vehicle" and "topic"),
Kittay develops a theory of metaphor
Kittay's theory of metaphor is based on her own "relational" theory of meaning, which is inspired by Saussure's theory of signs. The meaning of a word is determined by other words that are related to it by the lexicon. Meaning is not an item, is a field. A semantic field is a group of words that are semantically related to each other. Language is context-dependent, and contextual features are constitutive of meaning.
Metaphor is a process that transfers semantic structures between two semantic fields: some structures of the first field creates or reorganizes a structure in the second field.
The meaning of a word consists of all the literal senses of that word. A literal sense consists of a conceptual content, a set of conditions, or semantic combination rules (permissible semantic combinations of the word, analogous to Fodor's selection-restriction rules) and a semantic field indicator (relation of the conceptual content to other concepts in a content domain). An interpretation of an utterance is any of the senses of that utterance. Projection rules combine lower-level units into higher-level units according to their semantic combination rules. A first-order interpretation of an utterance is derived from a valid combination of the first-order meanings of its constituents. Second-order interpretation is a function of first-order interpretation and expresses the intuitive fact that what has to be communicated is not what is indicated by the utterance's literal meaning.
Kittay outlines the formal conditions for recognizing an utterance as a metaphor. An explicit cue to the metaphorical nature of an utterance is when the first-order and the second-order interpretation point to two distinct semantic fields. Equivalenty, an incongruity principle (incongruity between a focus and a frame) can be used. discriminate a metaphorical utterance.
Metaphor can be interpreted as second-order meaning.
The cognitive force of metaphor comes from a reconceptualization of information about the world that has already been acquired but possibly not conceptualized. Metaphor turns out to be one of the primary ways in which humans organize their experience.
Metaphorical meaning is not reducible to literal meaning.