We thank Kay Deaux, Geoffrey Goodwin, Phillip Johnson-Laird, Louis Lee, Susanna Reynolds and the other members of our lab group for their valuable suggestions and comments on the various drafts of this article.
On the Relation Between Metaphor and Simile: When Comparison Fails
Article first published online: 26 MAY 2006
2006 Blackwell Publishing Ltd
Mind & Language
Volume 21, Issue 3, pages 360–378, June 2006
How to Cite
SAM, G. and CATRINEL, H. (2006), On the Relation Between Metaphor and Simile: When Comparison Fails. Mind & Language, 21: 360–378. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-0017.2006.00282.x
- Issue published online: 26 MAY 2006
- Article first published online: 26 MAY 2006
Abstract: Since Aristotle, many writers have treated metaphors and similes as equals: any metaphor can be paraphrased as a simile, and vice-versa. This property of metaphors is the basis for psycholinguistic comparison theories of metaphor comprehension. However, if metaphors cannot always be paraphrased as similes, then comparison theories must be abandoned. The different forms of a metaphor—the comparison and categorical forms—have different referents. In comparison form, the metaphor vehicle refers to the literal concept, e.g. ‘in my lawyer is like a shark’, the term ‘shark’ refers to the literal fish. In categorical form, ‘my lawyer is a shark’, ‘shark’ refers to an abstract (metaphorical) category of predatory creatures. This difference in reference makes it possible for a metaphor and its corresponding simile to differ (a) in interpretability and (b) in meaning. Because a metaphor cannot always be understood in terms of its corresponding simile, we conclude that comparison theories of metaphor are fundamentally flawed.