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(Unparelleled) Creativity in Metaphor. Related to poster:. John Barnden School of Computer Science University of Birmingham England From work supported by EPSRC. ATT-Meta: a Theory & a System. Theoretical account of types of reasoning claimed to be fundamental in much metaphor.

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related to poster

(Unparelleled) Creativity in Metaphor

Related to poster:

John Barnden

School of Computer Science

University of Birmingham


From work supported by EPSRC

att meta a theory a system
ATT-Meta:a Theory & a System
  • Theoretical account of types of reasoning claimed to be fundamental in much metaphor.
    • Not particularly geared towards AI.
  • Implemented computer program partially instantiating that theory: in order to
    • enhance the completeness & coherence of the theory
    • test it
    • lead the way to new AI systems for metaphor.
  • Implementation work inspired new theoretical developments, including (cf. talks at NDCL-05):
    • the major role of source-over-target overriding, and how to handle overriding in metaphor.
    • deconstruction of relationship between metaphor & metonymy.
  • talking (etc.) about something as if it were something else, to exploit the something-else’s qualities.
  • E.g.: “Time is galloping past.”
  • Think of metaphor as involving a “metaphorical view” that involves mappings between “source” subject matter and “target” subject matter.
  • Novel metaphor = when the utterance does not use familiar views:
    • John unpeeledthe temperature //The road was a dolphin.
  • Stock metaphorical phraseology (idioms): particular words, phrases, or templates that are often used, usually based on very familiar metaphorcial views:
    • in the recesses of X’s mind
  • Variation of stock metaphorical phraseology:
    • in the unlit recesses of X’s mind
att meta s main aim map transcending metaphor
ATT-Meta’s Main Aim:map-transcending metaphor
  • When the utterance uses familiar metaphorical views


some source aspect is NOTmapped by them:

    • SnakeByte technologiesgobbled upRabbitWare andspat its managers out.
    • One part of mewasinsistingthat I should go.
map transcending metaphor contd
Map-Transcending Metaphor, contd.
  • He dredged up his mud-encrusted memories.
  • In the far reaches ofher mind, Anne knew that …
  • Men aren’t islands, but some are peninsulas.
  • The middle managers have cricks in their necks from talking down to the workers and up to the bosses.
variation of stock metaphorical phraseology cf moon 1998
Variation of Stock Metaphorical Phraseology [cf. Moon 1998]
  • “in the recesses of X’s mind” could be in a lexicon, a WordNet, etc.
  • But productive variation is possible:
    • in the dimrecesses of X’s mind
    • in the deep recesses of X’s mind
    • in the distant recesses of X’s mind
    • in the unlit recesses of X’s mind
  • Such variation is often map-transcending.
Emphasizes degrees (gradations).
  • Emphasizes qualitative uncertainty.
  • Allows source information to override target.
  • Allows combinations of metaphorical views.
  • (Parallel & serial.)
certain target information overriding potential transfer from source
CERTAIN Target Informationoverriding Potential Transfer from Source

Peter’s job is a jail.

  • In general, this could connote that
    • The job severely limits Peter’s freedom of action within the job
    • Peter cannot leave it
    • It was imposed as a punishment.
  • However, we may be certain that actually Peter can leave it whenever he likes, and that it was not imposed as a punishment.
Thatcher was the Ronald Reagan of the UK.

Thatcher remains female (& ferociously ferrous)!

even though

Macoute was the Jane Austen of France

plausibly connotes femaleness for Macoute if the gender of this person is unknown.

Note that things (stereotypically) associated with maleness can carry over in the Thatcher/Reagan case …
  • E.g., desire to win at things
  • (as long as Reagan himself plausibly had this quality).
transfers from source overriding uncertain target information
Transfers from Source overriding UNcertain Target Information

[cf. Deane 1993; Blending theory]

  • Peter’s job is a jail
    • when we only know that most people in the given context can leave their jobs whenever they like: the sentence can override this default.
  • The company nursed its competitors back to health
    • overriding the target default that companies don’t generally help their competitors.
  • In the dim recesses of her mind, Mary was thinking that ….
    • overriding the target default that when people are thinking about something they are doing it in a standardly conscious way.
I actually seek out stress and wallow in the stuff
    • overriding the target defaults that stress is to be avoided and that it feels unpleasant.
  • I’d sloshed the two things together [mentally]
    • overriding the target default that the two things in question would normally have been kept separate in one’s mind.
  • Her words triggered an elusive memory. … I frowned, trying to drag it to the surface, but I couldn’t get hold of it
    • overriding the target default that memories have already been “got hold of”.
range of exceptionality
Range of Exceptionality
  • Some exceptions to defaults are more unusual than others.
  • The company nursed its competitors back to health
  • very exceptional
  • In the dim recesses of her mind, Mary was thinking that ….
  • the exception itself is a common situation
transfers from source overriding even certain target information
Transfers from Source overriding even CERTAIN Target Information
  • When, e.g., the metaphor is in a question or counterfactual condition.
  • Is Peter’s job a jail?
    • Even if answerer is certain that Peter can leave his job whenever he likes, he/she must still allow for questioner not knowing this.
  • If Peter’s job were a jail, he would go crazy.
    • Similarly, understander has to allow for the possibility that Peter’s leaving-job ability is being suspended in the counterfactual condition.
a conjecture
A Conjecture
  • One major function of metaphor is precisely to help describe non-default situations (as well as default ones).
  • Non-default situations in a domain are ones that are likely not to be directly describable using the standard linguistic resources of the domain.
    • She knew that she had made a mistake.
    • She knew somewhere in the dim recesses of her mind that she had made a mistake.
  • Conflicts with target defaults are often the whole point of the metaphor, rather than an unfortunate hitch.
view neutral mapping adjuncts cf carbonell
View-Neutral Mapping Adjuncts[cf. Carbonell]
  • Emotions, value judgmentsandmental statesare often implicitly transferred from source to target in metaphor in general. (May even be a primary function of metaphor.)
    • Managerialism is sneaking into academia.
    • Poverty is a disease.
    • We’re conducting a war on terrorism.
  • Transferred irrespective of the particular metaphorical views in play.
  • Transferred only by default.
other vnmas
Other VNMAs
    • uncertainty
    • degrees (intensities)
    • causation, enablement, ability, ease, etc.
    • proper functioning
    • event shape, temporal relationships
    • sets, qualitative set sizes.
  • Some implemented, some being implemented.
vnmas example 1
VNMAs: Example 1

“John and Mary are in a race with each other at work.”

  • Rests on Abstract Process as Physical Journey.
  • John & Mary are viewed as being in a race.
  • So each intendsto win that race, i.e. to finish the race journey first.
  • The finishingand thefirst-ness map by VNMAs.
  • So each intendsto finish their work first, by another VNMA.
vnmas example 2
VNMAs: Example 2

“This all means that general managers have cricks in their necks from talking down to the Community Health Councils and District Health Authorities, and up to Regions and the Department.” [real example, quoted in Goatly 1997]

  • Rests on Organizational Control AS Vertical Position.
  • So in the PRETENCE the managers experience negative emotions, and can no longer talk easily to the Councils, Dept, etc.
  • The emotions, the no-longer, and abilitymap by VNMAs.
  • So the managers, in REALITY, experience negative emotions, and can no longer talk easily to the Councils, Dept, etc.
  • See sheets at end for more detail & a diagram (Fig 2).
contextual issue drivenness

“In the far reaches of her mind, Anne knew Kyle was having an affair, butto acknowledge the betrayal to herself would have meant she would have had to take a stand.” [Cosmopolitan, 1994]

  • “acknowledge to herself” and the “but” raise the issue of the extent of Anne’s conscious awareness.
  • Suppose we know a conscious thinking AS physical operationmetaphorical correspondence.
  • Then, raise issue of extent to which Anne physically operates on the idea of Kyle having an affair.
  • Answer this by using general knowledge about physical objects and space, incl. about “far reaches”.