Sincronía Otoño 2001

High-level metonymy and linguistic structure[1]

Francisco José Ruiz de Mendoza Ibáñez

Olga Isabel Díez Velasco

University of La Rioja


0. Introduction

Ever since George Lakoff and Mark Johnson (1980) published their seminal work Metaphors We Live By, many cognitive linguists have devoted much of their research to exploring metaphorical systems in different languages. Metonymy, however, has received comparatively little attention. During the eighties and the nineties work on metonymy has mainly focused on setting up definitional and typological criteria (Croft, 1993; Dirven, 1993; Langacker, 1993; Kövecses and Radden, 1998, 1999), studying the metonymic grounding of metaphor (Barcelona, 2000; Radden, 2000), its role in conceptual interaction (Goossens, 1995; Ruiz de Mendoza, 1997a; Díez, 2000; Turner and Fauconnier, 2000) and in inferencing (Gibbs, 1994; Thornburg and Panther, 1997; Panther and Thornburg, 1998, 1999; Ruiz de Mendoza, 1999a; Pérez and Ruiz de Mendoza, 2001). Most of this research, however, has been concerned with the conceptual level of analysis, whereas the study of the potential impact of metonymy on linguistic structure has been largely neglected[2]. In the present paper we intend to show that metonymy does have that kind of impact. In order to do so, we start by giving an outline of what we believe is a reliable definition of metonymy as a cognitive mechanism. Then, we determine two criteria for a classification of metonymic types: (i) the degree of genericity and (ii) the ontological nature of the domains involved. The first criterion allows us to distinguish between high and low level metonymies; the second, between situational and non-situational metonymies. In this connection, we observe that only high-level metonymies are relevant from the point of view of linguistic structure. We finally note that while non-situational high-level metonymies relate to clause-internal processes, situational high-level metonymies seem to account for much of the conventional value of some illocutionary constructions[3].


1. Defining metonymy

In Cognitive Linguistics metonymy has generally been described as one form of what Lakoff (1987) calls an idealised cognitive model (or ICM). An ICM is an organised conceptual structure i.e. a knowledge domain which results from the activity of a structuring principle. Metonymy was first described in cognitive terms by Lakoff and Johnson (1980: 39) as a process which “allows us to conceptualize one thing by means of its relation to something else”. However, this definition is not sufficient to understand the nature of this phenomenon and its relation to metaphor. In a more refined account, Lakoff and Turner (1989) have described metonymy as a conceptual mapping within a single domain which involves a ‘stand-for’ relationship and has mainly a referential function.

However, it may be observed that Lakoff and Turner’s (1989) definition of metonymy is weak in that it does not provide truly definitional features but only some usual characteristics. Thus, metonymy may be used non-referentially, as in Mary is just a pretty face (‘Mary’s only worth is having a beautiful face’) and both the ability to refer and the resulting ‘stand-for’ relationship is also possible in the case of some metaphors, as in There is the pig waiting!, where by “pig” is meant ‘the person who behaves like a pig’ (i.e. ‘whose behaviour is oppressive and nasty just as we may think a pig’s behaviour is’; cf. the more common predicative use of “pig” in John is a pig ‘John is oppressive and nasty’). In order to make up for these weaknesses, we contend that metonymy is best described according to two parameters: (a) the nature of the relationship between the source and target domains, and (b) the kind of mapping process involved. Regarding the former, we argue that metonymy is always based on a domain-subdomain relationship, where the main domain is referred to as the matrix domain, and that only two basic types of metonymy can be distinguished: one in which the source is a subdomain of the target, as in The sax won’t come today, where ‘the sax’ is a subdomain of ‘the sax player’; and another in which the target is a subdomain of the source, as in He always enjoys Shakespeare, where by “Shakespeare” is meant ‘his literary work’, which is a subdomain of our knowledge about the famous playwright (cf. Ruiz de Mendoza, 1997b, 2000). Metonymies in the first group are labelled source-in-target metonymies and those in the second group target-in-source metonymies. This distinction, which rejects the existence of part-for-part metonymies, proves relevant to explain a number of linguistic and communicative phenomena. For example, when a source-in-target metonymy provides the antecedent for an anaphoric pronoun, reference is consistently made to the target domain of the metonymy (e.g. The sax won’t come today; he/*it has the flu), which is the main domain of reference or matrix domain; in cases of target-in-source metonymies, on the other hand, it is the source domain, which is also the matrix domain, that is selected for anaphoric reference (e.g. She loves Shakespeare; she reads him/*it a lot). In general, source-in-target metonymies work on the basis of domain expansion (i.e. we are provided with global access to the full matrix domain just by invoking one of its subdomains), while target-in-source metonymies make use of domain reduction (i.e. only a subdomain of the matrix is relevant). Note that target-in-source metonymies make use of a well-defined conceptual domain (i.e. the matrix domain) to refer to a subdomain which is not necessarily as clearly identifiable. As a result, this kind of metonymy turns out to be an excellent communicative resource whenever the speaker finds himself incapable of either expressing the intended referent or of determining its exact nature. For example, in order to interpret correctly the metonymy in Chrysler has laid off a hundred workers, it is not necessary for the hearer to pin down with accuracy the actual referent of the matrix domain “Chrysler” (it could be the head of a department, or someone under him, or a whole board, or a special committee in charge of employment regulations, etc.). We also understand, by invoking the matrix domain in this way, that it is the whole company, rather than just one of its employees, that is responsible for firing the workers. This is a consequence of the special nature of this metonymic shift where the matrix domain in being, as noted above, a well-defined conceptual domain, figures more prominently in the hearer’s mind than any of its subdomains. In contrast, in source-in-target metonymies both the source and the target are well-defined domains, which prevents a similar kind of communicative effect from taking place.

As far as the mapping process is concerned, we postulate that metaphors, which are mappings or sets of correspondences across discrete domains, can belong to two main types: many-correspondence and one-correspondence metaphors (cf. Ruiz de Mendoza, 1997b). Many-correspondence metaphors have a fully-fledged system of correlations where the structure of the target is used to reason about the source. For example, in LOVE IS A JOURNEY travellers map onto lovers, travellers’ common destinations onto lovers’ common goals, the vehicle onto the love relationship, impediments to travel onto difficulties in the relationship, and so on. The situation is different in the case of one-correspondence metaphors, where the fact that there is only one relevant correlation between source and target relegates structural relationships to a secondary role. Instead, in metaphors of this kind, the mapping has the function of singling out a specific feature of the source which is then to be attributed to the target. A good example is the metaphor PEOPLE ARE ANIMALS, which helps us to understand various forms of human behaviour, skill, and (subsidiarily) appearance in terms of corresponding animal behaviour, skill, and appearance as culturally attributed or as observed. Thus, in this metaphor, a pig is nasty and oppresive, a lion is courageous, a rat is disloyal or deceitful, an eagle is good at noticing small details (e.g. Mary has an eagle eye), a bull is clumsy (because of its size), and so on.

Interestingly enough, metonymies are always one-correspondence mappings. For example, in Bush attacked Iraq, there exists only one correspondence between ‘Bush’ (source) and ‘the U.S. army’ (target). Notice should be taken that metonymies are closer to one-correspondence than to many-correspondence metaphors. The number of correspondences and the nature of the domains are connected to the referential or predicative use of metaphor and metonymy. Only one-correspondence mappings can be used referentially. Metonymies, as we have already pointed out, can be used both referentially (cf. Bush attacked Iraq) and predicatively (cf, Mary is just a pretty face). Likewise, one-correspondence metaphors can have both a referential (e.g. There's the pig waiting) and a predicative function (e.g. John is a pig). However, while the predicative potential of metonymies is low, their referential potential is high. Conversely, one-correspondence metaphors have a high predicative potential and a low referential potential. The low predicative potential of metonymies is probably due to the fact that it is virtually impossible to map structural relationships in the case of domain/subdomain mappings since the domain of reference (i.e. the matrix domain) for a given subdomain is also the source or the target of the metonymic mapping itself. As a result, in order to have a predicative use of a metonymy either the context of situation or the linguistic context must act as cues for the hearer to determine the nature of the quintessential characteristic to be mapped. In this respect, predicative metonymies resemble one-correspondence metaphors to a considerable extent. Thus, in Mary is just a pretty face, one singular feature of ‘face’-which is parametrized by the adjective “pretty”- is singled out and ascribed to Mary. However, since Mary is the possessor of the face that is being referred to, the relationship between the source and target is domain-internal and, therefore, metonymic. On the other hand, one-correspondence metaphors can be used referentially because of the structural relationship which holds between the feature which is highlighted for interpretation and the rest of the domain. In this process we are provided with access to an extremely rich description which is the basis for the referential potential of the metaphorical expression. Since it is not just an isolated feature but a whole conceptual domain that is exploited in referential metaphor, the situation is no different from what is the case in referential metonymy, where the whole matrix domain is involved.

Our discussion thus points to the existence of a continuum between metaphor and metonymy with many-correspondence metaphors and referential uses of metonymy occupying the end points, as the following figure illustrates:


                                   One-correspondence                           One-correspondence

                                        metaphor                                                  metaphor

                                    (predicative uses)                                   (referential uses)

   *                             *                      *                      *                             *

Many-correspondence                                 Metonymy                                              Metonymy

  metaphor                                                    (predicative uses)                               (referential uses)



Figure 1: Metaphor-metonymy continuum


2. Levels of metonymic description

Developing taxonomies of metonymies is one of the crucial concerns of current research in Cognitive Linguistics (Dirven, 1993; Kövecses and Radden, 1998, 1999; Panther and Thornburg, 1999). The motivation underlying classifications is in most cases connected to the desire to understand the exact nature of metonymy. One particularly appealing proposal has been offered by Panther and Thornburg (1999) who have classified metonymies according to the scope of action of the metonymy and have distinguished three main groups: referential, predicative and illocutionary. In referential metonymies a single concept stands for another (e.g. She's been dating a farm hand, where ‘hand’ stands for ‘worker’); in predicative metonymies a statement is used to refer to a different statement (e.g. I'll be brief stands for ‘I will speak briefly’); and in illocutionary metonymies one illocutionary type stands for another (e.g. the assertion I don’t know where the bus stop is stands for the question Where is the bus stop?). The significance of Panther and Thornburg’s classification lies in the fact that for them metonymy is not restricted to the referential type and research on metonymy needs to be carried out from a broader perspective. Their typology, however, does not explain why some metonymies have an impact on grammatical organization while others do not. Besides, Panther and Thornburg’s account does not encompass all kinds of metonymy as evidenced in (1):

(1) The poor dog left with its tail between its legs.

 Imagine that sentence (1) is uttered in a situation in which a man is talking to a friend about the punishment his dog has received. Here, we find a metonymic mapping in which the actual leaving of the dog with its tail between its legs stands for the whole situation in which a dog after being punished runs away in that manner[4]. Since this metonymy does not square well with any of the three types already mentioned it seems to be beyond the scope of Panther and Thornburg’s typology.

In another proposal, Kövecses and Radden (1998, 1999) have pointed to the existence of a set of ‘metonymy-producing relationships’ or generic principles. The recognition of a series of high-level configurations lays bare one of the most basic problems typologies pose: the need to describe metonymy on different levels of abstraction. On the basis of Kövecses and Radden’s (1998, 1999) discussion, we suggest that it is possible to refine Panther’s and Thornburg’s (1999) typology by making a distinction between low-level metonymies and high-level metonymies. Low-level metonymies are those which make use of non-generic idealised cognitive models in their activation. Non-generic ICMs are conventional representations based on experience which specify elements and their properties and relations. Within this group, we distinguish two further subtypes: propositional and situational. Propositional metonymies correspond to typical cases of metonymy where a concept stands for another in a domain-internal relationship. By way of illustration, consider (2):


(a) Tired faces all of them, some old, some young.

(b) Blufton smiled with pleasure and kept searching for their faces.

In these sentences we find instantiations of the FACE FOR PERSON mapping where ‘face’, which is the source domain, is a subdomain of ‘person’. Regarding (2a), ‘faces’ is used to stand for ‘people’. This is possible on the basis of our experience that a person’s tiredness is particularly evident in his face. Similarly, (2b) is based on the fact that the face, over other body parts, provides the easiest way to recognise a person[5].

In a situational metonymy, a highly striking or otherwise significant element of a specific situation is used to stand for the larger event of which it forms part. An example of this metonymy is found in (1) where the partial scene of the dog leaving with its tail between its legs activates the full picture of the dog being punished and leaving in the form described.

High-level metonymies are mappings which make direct use of generic ICMs, which are in turn abstractions over a number of non-generic ICMs. It is this generic character that allows them to operate at non-lexical levels and to underlie several grammatical phenomena (Ruiz de Mendoza and Pérez, 2001). As is the case with low-level metonymies, this group can be further subdivided into propositional and situational metonymies. The former operates in most cases of what may be called grammatical metonymy, i.e., a metonymy which has consequences in terms of linguistic structure (c.f. section 3.2. below). For example, (3) contains the metonymy instrument for action. As a consequence of the metonymy, a shift of category takes place from noun to verb, which, in turn, brings about the reorganization of the clause:

(3) He hammered the nail into the wall.

The latter group subsumes Panther and Thornburg’s (1998, 1999) illocutionary metonymies. This metonymic type is employed in indirect speech acts, that is to say, whenever a part of a speech act scenario is employed metonymically to stand for the whole of it. Panther and Thornburg (1998) have postulated that speech acts are organised as scenarios consisting of three components which they label before, core/result, and after; each of these components can metonymically stand for the whole scenario (see section 4.1.). Consider  (4):

(4) Can you open the window?

This sentence, which is a polar question about the ability of the hearer, is easily understood as a request since it forms part of one of the elements of the before component of the request scenario. Hence, a part of the request scenario (i.e. the ability of the hearer) metonymically stands for the whole scenario (i.e. the request). For further information on speech acts metonymies, see Thornburg and Panther (1997) and Panther and Thornburg (1998, 1999).

Apart from their impact on grammar, high-level metonymies play a crucial role in cognition. Thus, the GENERIC FOR SPECIFIC/SPECIFIC FOR GENERIC mappings have been found to lie at the basis of some higher order cognitive processes. The importance of the relationships which hold between ‘generic’ and ‘specific’ in the organization and processing of information was first noted by Lakoff and Turner (1989). These authors, however, granted these relationships metaphorical status. More recent accounts (Kövecses and Radden, 1999; Panther and Thornburg, 1999) have convincingly argued that the generic/specific distinction is metonymic in nature, ‘specific’ being  a subdomain of ‘generic’. In addition to this observation, we note that the relationship between these two ICMs is not an identifying one but rather of the ‘stand-for’ kind. Kövecses and Radden (1999: 34) have already hinted at the importance of these metonymies for the interpretation of proverbs. By way of example, consider the famous saying Too many cooks spoil the broth, where the general understanding of a particular situation is licensed by the SPECIFIC FOR GENERIC metonymy, which is, in turn, applied to a particular situation through the GENERIC FOR SPECIFIC mapping[6].

If we compare Panther and Thornburg’s typology and our proposal, we observe three main differences:

1.- Although Panther and Thornburg (1999, 2000) have posited the existence of high-level metonymies and have studied the behaviour of some of them across languages, they have not applied the high-level/ low-level distinction in their classification. As a result, they mix both levels of description in their taxonomy. On the one hand, referential metonymies belong to the low-level type; on the other hand, predicative and illocutionary metonymies are cases of the high-level type.

2.- Panther and Thornburg do not take into account situational low-level metonymies so their proposal does not account for metonymies like the one exemplified in (1).

3.- Panther and Thornburg argue for the existence of illocutionary metonymies (based on speech act scenarios) and of high-level metonymies (based on generic ICMs). However, since speech act scenarios are in fact generic situational ICMs, illocutionary metonymies can be just as well described as high-level situational metonymies.

As we have previously mentioned, high-level metonymies have been suggested to have an impact on grammatical structure. Thus, Panther and Thornburg (2000) have analyzed the grammatical consequences of the metonymy ACTION FOR RESULT in stative predicates and of the metonymy EFFECT FOR CAUSE in the What’s that N? construction. In the following sections, we shall apply our taxonomy of metonymies to the study of some grammatical phenomena (section 3) and of some conventionalized illocutionary constructions (section 4) in order to provide a more exhaustive description of their nature and motivation.


3. Propositional high-level metonymy and linguistic structure

3.1. Stative predicates

As Panther and Thornburg (2000) have noted, there are some grammatical constructions which, being typically associated with action predicates, can make use of the stative predicate ‘be’, as illustrated by the following sentences:


(a) Imperative:  Be quiet.

(b) I want to know how to: I want to know how to be rich.

(c) Why not:  Why not be sincere?

(d) What about: What about being sincere?

The reason why we can employ a stative predicate in typical actional constructions is that underlying these examples there is a source-in-target metonymy which we can call RESULT FOR ACTION. As a consequence of the activation of this metonymy, (5a) is to be interpreted as ‘act (intentionally) in such a way that, as a result, you will be quiet’. In our view, the RESULT FOR ACTION metonymy also accounts for why there are some asymmetries in the use of such constructions with stative predicates. For example, (6) is possible whereas (7) is not:

(6) What about being happy?

(7) * What about falling asleep?

The unacceptability of (7) arises from the fact that neither the speaker nor the hearer have the capacity to intentionally get the state of affairs described by the sentence to obtain. However, the imperative negative construction is possible as in Don’t fall asleep. Here the hearer is cautioned to act in such a way that he will not fall asleep. However, falling asleep intentionally is something beyond our control, which makes (7) unacceptable. As is evident, all the ingredients of the matrix domain are necessary for the interpretation of expressions instantiating actional constructions.


3.2. Recategorization of nominal and verbal predicates

The generic character of the action ICM gives rise to a large number of metonymies, many of which underlie grammatical phenomena (probably, the most productive ones are AGENT FOR ACTION, ACTION FOR INSTRUMENT, ACTION FOR AGENT; see Kövecses and Radden, 1998, 1999, for a comprehensive list of metonymies based on the action ICM). Consider the following sentence:

(8) Ian swiftly chested the ball.

In this example, underlying our understanding of the verb “to chest” is the source-in-target metonymy INSTRUMENT FOR ACTION. “To chest” profiles the instrument used by Ian to hit the ball; its meaning may be contrasted with the more generic meaning of the verb “to hit” in which information about the instrument is not provided (cf. Ian swiftly hit the ball with his chest vs. ??Ian swiftly chested the ball with his chest). The full significance of “to chest” is a direct consequence of the source-in-target nature of the underlying mapping whose target is the matrix domain in its entirety.

We may compare this situation with the one found in relation to the semantic analysis of the deverbal noun “cut” in a deep cut, underlying which is the target-in-source metonymy ACTION FOR RESULT. This metonymy, by highlighting a subdomain of the propositional action ICM, involves the reduction of the conceptual material which is brought to bear upon interpretation. In both cases, we have a recategorization of the word class, which has syntactic consequences: verbs and nouns behave differently within the clause. We can compare the case of deverbal nouns and denominal verbs obtained through metonymy with what Halliday (1994) has termed grammatical metaphor. A grammatical metaphor is the result of the grammar of language allowing parts of the system to be expressed in a non-congruent form. Processes are congruently expressed as verbs, but they may be reworded metaphorically as nouns, which designate participants in a process. This is the origin of nominalizations like “argument”, which is derived from “argue”. Our theory of mappings allows us to understand the difference between nominalizations based on grammatical metaphor and deverbal nouns obtained through metonymy. A metaphor is a domain-domain mapping, which allows us to preserve the original actional structure of the verb in the nominalization. A deverbal noun, on the other hand, is based on a domain-subdomain relationship, so we only make use of a relevant part of the original actional structure of the verb. However, since both processes have much in common, the metonymic mechanism which results in the recategorization of a word may be aptly called grammatical metonymy.


3.3. Valency extension and reduction

It is a well-known fact that it is possible to make intransitive uses of typically transitive verbs, as well as transitive uses of intransitive predicates as is illustrated in (9):


(a) The door closed.

(b) John walked the dog.

 The deletion of an argument of a predicate is called by Dik (1989, 1997) valency reduction whereas the converse operation, in which one extra argument is added to a typically intransitive structure, is called valency extension. Since the two phenomena (i) exploit a generic ICM (the action frame), (ii) have obvious syntactic consequences, and (iii) involve a change in the predicate type, they are likely candidates for metonymic motivation. This is indeed the case. As Ruiz de Mendoza and Pérez (2001) have pointed out, (9a) is an example of the metonymy ACTION FOR PROCESS, and (9b) of the metonymy ACTIVITY FOR THE EVENT CAUSED BY IT.

There is another group of changes involving intransitivization which responds to the metonymy ACTION FOR (ASSESSED) RESULT. Consider (10):


(a) This bread cuts easily.

(b) *This bread cuts

Sentence (10a) does not focus on the action but on the result of the action. Note additionally that it is difficult to use “cut” without assessing the result of the action as evidenced by (10b). The evaluative adverb serves as an indication that the metonymy ACTION FOR (ASSESSED) RESULT, rather than ACTION FOR PROCESS, is to be invoked. However, in the absence of such an indication, the default reading of a transitive verb used intransitively tends to make use of the ACTION FOR PROCESS metonymy as in (9a), unless this is conceptually incoherent, as in (10b). Note that while it is possible to imagine a door closing without thinking of an intentional agent (e.g. because of the wind), the presence of an intentional agent is necessary in the case of the bread being cut.


3.4. Argument structure

An argument can be defined as the structure formed by a noun (or a pronoun), designating an entity, plus a number of modifiers which range from adjectives and defining relative clauses, to articles, demonstratives, quantifiers, and classifiers. Here we discuss metonymic constraints on (i) the subcategorial conversion of nouns; (ii) the recategorization of adjectives; (iii) the role of some non-adjectival head modifiers.

   Although Dik (1989) has carried out an exhaustive account of the subcategorial conversion of nouns, he does not attempt to find a motivation for this frequent phenomenon. We suggest that the motivation is metonymic in nature. Take the following examples from Dik (1989: 121):


(a) There is too much chair in this room.

(b) There were three Johns at the party.

(c) I would like three butters please.

In (11a), we find a Count > Mass conversion, with the underlying metonymy OBJECT FOR MATERIAL CONSTITUTING THAT OBJECT; similarly, in (11b), where a Proper > Count Noun conversion takes place, we have AN (INDIVIDUAL) ENTITY FOR A COLLECTION INCLUDING THAT ENTITY; and in (11c) which involves a Mass  > Count conversion, the metonymy is MATERIAL FOR ENTITY CONTAINING/ HOLDING THE MATERIAL.

These metonymies which only perspectivize a nominal type from different angles do not seem to have syntactic consequences. On closer inspection, however, we observe that at least the metonymy OBJECT FOR MATERIAL may be syntactically relevant in that it motivates a grammatical construction, which not only indicates an excess situation but also the speaker’s negative attitude with respect to it, as shown in (12):

(12) There’s too much superficial starlet biography in the market.

Note that a time or place satellite (or adjunct) is needed for sentences (11a) and (12) to be possible (cf. ?There is too much chair, ?There is too much biography). In combination with the constant character of the meaning implications mentioned above, this observation strongly argues for the status of ‘too much + count noun + adjunct’ as a grammatical construction in its own right.

The second type of mapping found in the argument structure is labelled A DEFINING PROPERTY FOR AN ENTITY. This metonymy recategorizes adjectives into nouns, (e.g. blacks for ‘black people’). It has a reverse version in AN ENTITY FOR ONE OF ITS PROPERTIES, which is exemplified in There is a lot of America in what she does, where by “America” we mean stereotypical American values and life style. This is a target-in-source metonymy and involves no recategorization but only subcategorial conversion (Proper Noun > Mass noun).

The analysis has shown that recategorization generally occurs when there is a gap between the categories which express the source and target domains, that is to say, the metonymic target designates an entity which is normally expressed by a category different from the one which realizes the source. It is immaterial whether the matrix domain is the source or the target of the mapping. Thus, in AGENT FOR ACTION, while an agent is realized by a noun, the action, which is both the matrix domain and the metonymic target, is expressed by a verb. In ACTION FOR RESULT, the action, which is the matrix domain and the metonymic source, is realized by a verb but the metonymic target takes the form of a noun.

However, the picture changes dramatically when we are dealing with shifts involving properties. In recategorization rather than in subcategorial conversion, the target of the metonymy needs to be the matrix domain, too. In the source-in-target metonymy A DEFINING PROPERTY FOR AN ENTITY, there is a recategorization of the source since the target domain, which is the matrix domain, designates an entity. In the target-in-source metonymy AN ENTITY FOR A PROPERTY, in contrast, the target domain (which would normally be expressed by an adjective) is not the matrix domain, which rules out recategorization and only calls for semantic reinterpretation of the nature of the source.

Finally, we explore the role of non-adjectival head modifiers in cases of argument structure involving metonymy. Compare (13) and (14):

(13) I prefer Goya to Veláquez

(14) I can’t understand Schliegel

At first sight, we may easily think that we have two simple realizations of the AUTHOR FOR WORKS metonymy. A closer look, however, reveals that there are linguistic constraints on the activation of this metonymy, which are evident from the differences that exist between the following pairs of examples:


(a) She has a Degas in her studio.

 (b) ?I have a Marlowe on the table.


(a) ?Degas hangs in the hallway.

(b) Marlowe is on the table.

In contrast to (13) and (14), which have a generic reading, the metonymies in (15) and (16), which involve the presentation format of the type of work, have a specific reading. They are based on a double metonymic mapping consisting of the combination of a target-in-source metonymy plus a source-in-target-one; we label this metonymic complex AUTHOR FOR WORKS FOR SAMPLE; the author and the sample are both matrix domains which share the work as a common subdomain[7]. Furthermore, if the sample is unique (the Degas examples), the article is required as a modifier. These examples allow us to see that the scope of argument modifiers carrying a specificity or genericity element is always the least immediate of the target domains involved in the combined mapping. The presence of a genericity element in argument structure, even though it may not be realized morphologically, only triggers off one metonymic mapping, while the presence of a specificity element requires a double metonymic mapping.


3.5. The predication

Dik (1989) has defined the predication as the result of inserting a number of arguments (or terms) in a predicate frame which specifies the restrictions of such an operation. Ruiz de Mendoza and Pérez (2001) have noted that although some verbs like “enjoy” and “begin” select for an activity (c.f. (17)), which is a very generic concept, sometimes they may also take a non-actional complement as (18) shows:

(17) She enjoyed/began the dance.

(18) He enjoyed/began the soup.

This phenomenon has been studied by Jackendoff (1997: 61) who has described these examples as cases of enriched composition, where the hearer needs to look into the world knowledge structure of the complement for an extension of it which is compatible with the generic complementation requirement of the verb: ‘He enjoyed/began to cook/heat/eat, etc. the soup’. Ruiz de Mendoza and Pérez (2001) have argued that enriched composition is to be understood as a phenomenon of contextual parametrization of the unrealized generic value of a generic selection restriction. Underlying this process there is a metonymic source-in-target mapping where the source (i.e. soup) is an entity and the target a specific action (determined by the context) where this entity has a role. We may describe this as AN OBJECT FOR AN ACTION (IN WHICH THE OBJECT IS INVOLVED). This metonymy applies to verbs which select for an activity in general, such as “choose”, “finish”, “miss”, “try”, and “want” (e.g. He chose/wanted to cook, eat, etc., the soup). A common feature of these verbs is that they do not express an activity themselves but rather the speaker’s attitude or way of acting with respect to a certain activity; in consequence, the construction may be formulated as ‘Speaker’s Attitude/Mode of Action V + (typically) non-actional NP’.

An apparently similar construction is found in what we call ‘do + (typically) non-actional NP’, which is illustrated in (19):

(19) This week, he’ll do the carpet and I’ll do the dishes.

This construction suggests that the agent carries out an activity which would normally be expected of him in a given context. As a result, if the complement of ‘do’ does not specify the nature of the activity (e.g. ‘hoovering’), it is necessary to find a value for ‘do’ which gives us the kind of specification we need. Usually, we find default values (e.g. ‘do the dishes’ = ‘wash up the dishes’) but specific contexts may provide us with other interpretations. For example, in a situation in which a couple is packing because they are moving to a new house, I’ll do the dishes means ‘I’ll pack the dishes’. In this construction what is parametrized is not the activity which the verb selects for but the verb itself. The underlying metonymy is GENERIC FOR SPECIFIC.

The target-in-source GENERIC FOR SPECIFIC metonymy is also operative in the parametrization of generic ‘what is’ questions:


(a) What is John?

(b) What’s that building?

(20a) is a way of asking about John’s job (e.g. ‘a teacher’) or his role (e.g. ‘the leader’); (20b) is a question about the identity of the building (e.g. ‘the Royal Palace’) or its kind (e.g. ‘a palace’). Besides, Panther and Thornburg (2000) have noted that ‘what is’ constructions may respond to the EFFECT FOR CAUSE metonymy. This metonymy is of the source-in-target kind. Take (21):

(21) What’s that noise?

(21) may  be used to ask about the origin of the noise (an appropriate answer would be “a burglar trying to break into your house”). Thus, an answer which describes the noise (e.g. It is a high pitched noise) will be found irrelevant or not appropriate.  Finally, we have another group of ‘what is’ questions whose metonymic grounding is the double metonymic mapping WHOLE FOR PART FOR WHOLE where the initial source and the final target are both matrix domains:

(22) What’s that picture?

An appropriate answer to (22), if asked while pointing to a photograph of Big Ben, could be It’s Big Ben or It’s London, but less likely ?That picture is Big Ben/London. The oddity of repeating the noun phrase anaphorically is explained by the fact that there is a metonymic shift in the interrogative utterance from ‘picture’ to the ‘image in the picture’. The image can be straightforwardly identified with Big Ben or still be part of another (source-in-target) metonymic shift to London.


3.6. Modality

Dik (1989) has distinguished three types of modality: (i) inherent modality, which accounts for a participant’s ‘ability’ and ‘willingness’ towards the state of affairs in which he is involved; (ii) objective modality, which deals with the speaker’s evaluation of the likelihood of occurrence of a state of affairs (in terms of certainty or obligation); (iii) subjective modality, which expresses the speaker’s personal commitment to the truth of what he says. Halliday (1994: 357) has further refined the concept of objective modality by posing a distinction between epistemic modality (or modalization), which signals probability (‘may be’) and usuality (‘sometimes’), and deontic modality, which conveys either obligation (‘is wanted to’) or inclination (‘wants to’). This latter subdivision of deontic modality into obligation and inclination is of special interest to us since it corresponds with certain metonymic phenomena which underlie the value of some deontic expressions. Consider the following sentences:


(a) You must tidy your room.

(b) I must speak to you, please.

These two examples instantiate two typical uses of the modal auxiliary “must” to express an obligation. But, whereas (23a) involves a real obligation imposed by the speaker to the hearer, in (23b) the obligation comes from the speaker to himself. This latter kind of obligation is normally understood as a desire to carry out the action involved in it, which can be paraphrased as ‘I want to speak to you, please’. This interpretation is motivated by the metonymy OBLIGATION FOR DESIRE, which allows us to achieve the full meaning of these expressions. Besides, the existence of this metonymy tends to support Halliday’s refined version of deontic modality.

Another metonymic mapping that we find within inherent modality is Panther and Thornburg’s (1999) metonymy POTENTIALITY FOR ACTUALITY which is intantiated in (24):

(24) I can see the mountains from the balcony of my room

In this example the speaker refers to the fact that he actually sees the mountains and not to his ability to see them. The logic which lies at the basis of this source-in-target metonymy is that in order to actually perceive something, one must have the ability to do so. The POTENTIALITY FOR ACTUALITY mapping is very productive in the domain of physical and mental perception, but it can also be found when the actor commits himself to some course of action or personally guarantees the truthfulness of what he says. We suggest that this connection is motivated by the fact that perception is usually taken as evidence (and therefore a guarantee) of factuality:

(25) We can assure (= we assure) you that’s our best guide.


4. Situational high-level metonymies and linguistic structure

4.1. Indirect speech acts

As explained in section 2 above, speech acts can be described in terms of scenarios which contain three main parts: (a) the before, which encompasses all the preconditions; (b) the core, which includes the essential conditions, plus the result, which contains the immediate consequences; (c) the after, which refers to the non-necessary consequences. Consider (26):


(a) Will you marry me?

(b)  It’s late. I can give you a lift.

The first of these two sentences takes the form of a question and the second of a statement; however, (26a) is normally interpreted as a request and (26b) as a proposal. These readings are motivated in each of the two examples by a metonymic mapping which allows us to activate a whole speech act scenario by having access to just one of its parts. Example (26a), which focuses on a prospective future action by the hearer, exploits the after component of the request speech act, while example (26b) focuses on the ability of the speaker (i.e. an element of the before component of the commissive speech act scenario). The underlying source-in-target metonymy explains why it is possible to use a peripheral part of the scenario to refer to the whole of it and accounts for the easiness with which the hearer interprets them (see figure 1 and 2). Furthermore, the grammaticalization of the two constructions exemplified in (26a) and (26b) is based on metonymy. Finally, it should be borne in mind that illocutionary scenarios are abstractions over specific scenarios. Thus, throughout our lives we have seen countless situations where a request takes place; it is by abstracting away all the common elements of these situations that the request scenario, a generic situational ICM, is created.


                                         REQUEST TO PERFORM

                            Target  AN  ACTION (Request scenario)


                                                    FUTURE    Source

                                  ACTION (After component)





                                         COMMITMENT TO PERFORM

                            Target  AN  ACTION (Commissive scenario)


                               ABILITY TO PERFORM AN Source

                                     ACTION (Before component)




4.2. The What’s X doing Y? construction

The intricacies of the What’s X doing Y? construction have been analysed by Kay and Fillmore (1999), who have tried to unravel its peculiar nature. In our view, the semantic value of this construction can be easily explained by positing the existence of an underlying metonymy. Consider the following humorous dialogue taken from Kay and Fillmore (1999: 4):


A: Waiter, what’s this fly doing in my soup?

B: Madam, I believe that’s the backstroke.

The punchline in (21) lies in the inadequacy of the waiter’s answer. This occurs because the customer’s question is not to be understood as a request for information, but as a complaint. We postulate, in accordance with our theory of generic scenarios, that this meaning is derived on the basis of the metonymy ACTION FOR (ASSESSED) RESULT, which is of the target-in-source kind, and has the generic action ICM as its source domain. Note that doing is a compulsory element of this construction whose function is to activate the action ICM. This ICM takes the form of a generic scenario which can be partially described as follows: (a) actions are controlled attempts to modify a state of affairs, (b) actions have results which can be harmful for the participants and (c) whenever the results of an action are not beneficial for one or more participants, other participants should do their best to change this situation (cf. Ruiz de Mendoza, 1999b for details).

In the realization of the ACTION FOR (ASSESSED) RESULT metonymy in (21) the potential negative consequences of an action are highlighted by questioning the action. In this case, the nature of the metonymic target is cued by the logic of the action ICM which shows that the consequences of an action are a significantly prominent subdomain of the model. In contrast, in non-situational low-level metonymies of the target-in-source kind, it is usually the predicate of the expression (sometimes reinforced by contextual clues) that guides the hearer in the activation of the relevant target (e.g. in Bush attacked Iraq, the predicate ‘attacked’ cues the metonymic shift from ‘Bush’ to ‘the US army’).

In many contexts, the What’s X doing Y? construction is interpreted as a request to change the state of affairs which troubles the speaker. This is done in accordance with part (c) of the action ICM, and it requires a second metonymic mapping as illustrated in figure 4 below. Consider (22) in this connection:

(22) What’s John doing in the garden?

First, an ACTION FOR (ASSESSED) RESULT metonymy takes place which makes us interpret (22) as ‘John is doing something wrong in the garden’. Second, there is another mapping by means of which this sentence is viewed as a request of the type Stop someone from doing something. In this second metonymy, ‘John is doing something wrong in the garden’ is part of the before component of the request scenario and metonymically stands for the whole scenario.









                                BEFORE COMP.


                                                     REQUEST SCENARIO


                   Figure 4: The metonymic motivation of the WHAT’S X DOING Y? construction


5. Conclusion

In this paper we have proposed a typology of metonymic mappings based on two criteria. One pays attention to the need to describe metonymy at different levels of abstraction and allows us to distinguish two main metonymic types: high-level metonymies, which make use of generic ICMs, and low-level metonymies, which are based on non-generic ICMs. A second criterion focuses on the ontological nature of the domains involved. Following this criterion, we make a distinction between propositional and situational metonymies. Then we observe that only high-level metonymies interact with grammar. On the one hand, propositional high-level metonymies underlie several grammatical phenomena such as categorial and subcategorial conversions, and help to create specialized constructions whose value can only be fully apprehended with reference to their underlying metonymic mapping. On the other hand, situational high-level metonymies have been found to account for the shifts of illocutionary force conventionally associated with some constructions. In general, our analysis tends to support, at the grammatical level, the analysis carried out at the conceptual level in previous studies.


6. References

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[1].- Correspondence to Francisco José Ruiz de Mendoza Ibañez and Olga Isabel Díez Velasco, University of La Rioja, Departament of Modern Languages, Edificio de Filología, c/ San José de Calasanz s/n, 26004, Logroño, La Rioja, Spain; tel. 941299430; fax 941299419; e-mail: Financial support for this research has been provided by the DGES, grant no. BFF2000-0934.

[2].- Preliminary work in this connection has been carried out by Panther and Thornburg (1999, 2000), Ruiz de Mendoza and Pérez (2001), and Díez (2001).

[3].- Because of the intentionally programmatic character of the present study, we shall illustrate our discussion with examples from English. The need for cross-linguistic analysis of high-level metonymy is well evidenced in Panther and Thornburg’s (1999) study of the POTENTIALITY FOR ACTUALITY metonymy in English and Hungarian.

[4].- If sentence (1) were uttered making reference to a person instead of an animal, we would be dealing with a case of conceptual interaction between metaphor and metonymy. For further information on interactional patterns between metaphor and metonymy, see Goossens (1995); Ruiz de Mendoza (1999a).

[5].- Lakoff (1987) notes that this metonymy works actively in our culture as the tradition of portraits shows. Panther and Thornburg (1998) also observe that passport photos, which have a clear identifying function, only include this body part.

[6].- Peña (2001) has contended that these metonymies have a key role in the creation of what Fauconnier and Turner (1995) have called generic spaces in their many-space model of conceptual interaction. Fauconnier and Turner (1995) argue that the interpretation of metaphor needs, at least, the activation of four different mental spaces. A minimum of two input spaces is projected to another space (the blended space). A fourth space (the generic space), which contains basic skeletal structure derived from the source and target inputs, licenses the projection. Peña (2001) argues that a SPECIFIC FOR GENERIC metonymy underlies the abstraction of information from the source input to the generic space, while the converse metonymy GENERIC FOR SPECIFIC is needed to project the information from the generic space to the target input.

[7].- An easy way to observe the existence of two metonymic mappings in (15) and (16) is provided by the test of anaphoric reference (cf. section 1). Thus, in Marlowe is on the table, it’s bound in leather, the anaphoric pronoun makes reference to a sample of Marlowe’s work in book format (i.e. the second matrix domain); on the other hand, in Marlowe is on the table; he’s not easy to read, it is the initial matrix domain that provides the antecedent for the anaphoric pronoun. Choosing between the initial and the final matrix domains for anaphoric reference is simply a matter of conceptual coherence with the rest of the predication.

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