Metaphor and Experimental Pragmatics: When Theory Meets Empirica linvestigation
In this contribution we focus on one phenomenon that has a special role in pragmatic theorizing, namely metaphor, and select two issues deriving from theoretical models and prone to be tested experimentally. The first issue concerns the comprehension procedure, that is whether access to metaphorical meaning goes through a mandatory literal stage and thus is indirect, as predicted by a Gricean inspired account, or rather is retrieved directly. The question will be discussed by referring to behavioral and neurophysiological studies, which advanced our understanding of the time course of metaphorical interpretation but proved not fully suitable to answer the question. The second issue revolves around the cognitive architecture of the pragmatic system as it operates in the case of metaphor comprehension. We will illustrate the contribution that functional neuroimaging, coupled with clinical investigations can provide to fine-tune the architecture of the system responsible for metaphor processing. Some outstanding questions are highlighted in the final part, aiming at sketching our interpretation of the experimental pragmatic enterprise.
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