Modeling Abstractness and Metaphoricity

Modeling Abstractness and Metaphoricity

Published in Metaphor & Symbol

Jonathan Dunn


This paper presents and evaluates a model of how the abstractness of source and target concepts influences metaphoricity, the property of how metaphoric a linguistic metaphoric expression is. The purpose of this is to investigate the long-standing claim that metaphoric mappings are from less abstract concepts to more abstract concepts. First, abstractness is modeled using Searle’s social ontology and this model of abstractness evaluated using a participant-based measure of abstractness. Second, this model of abstractness is used to determine the direction and distance in abstractness of metaphoric mappings. Direction of abstractness in these mappings is whether the source or target concept is the more abstract. Distance is the difference in abstractness between source and target concepts. Both factors influence metaphoricity, as measured using introspection and a participant-based study of metaphoricity. The results give empirical support for a long-standing claim about abstractness in mappings, but also provide important new details about the nature of metaphoric mappings.

Paper Draft (PDF)

Abstractness Ratings Categorized (Excel)

Metaphoricity Results (Excel)