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Who really turned off the light?: Defining the licensing of metonymic clipping from an empirical standpoint

Davis, Tonia Nicole (2010)
Honors Thesis (41 pages)
Committee Chair / Thesis Adviser: Wolff, Phillip
Committee Members: Pak, Marjorie ; Lourenco, Stella
Research Fields: Language, Linguisitcs; Psychology, Cognitive
Keywords: metonymy; metonymic clipping; vagueness
Program: College Honors Program, Linguistics
Permanent url: http://pid.emory.edu/ark:/25593/7t51j

Abstract

Abstract
Who really turned off the light?:
Defining the licensing of metonymic clipping from an empirical standpoint


By Tonia N. Davis


Metonymy is the process by which one word stands for another, as exemplified by I ate a box of
cookies
(literally cookies - not a box - were eaten). In this research, we examine the semantic
conditions that license the use of metonymy, and in particular, test the proposal that certain types of
metonymic reference - those involving metonymic clipping - are licensed by agency-based vagueness.
Metonymic clipping occurs when a single individual is used to refer to an entire series of events, as in
William the Conqueror changed the English language. In Experiment 1, metonymic clipping was rated
more acceptable for sentences with vague verbs (e.g. change) than without, and for sentences involving
groups of agents rather than single agents. In Experiment 2, metonymic clipping was rated more
acceptable for sentences in which there was temporal overlap between the initiator's and the agents'
actions than when there was no overlap. Experiment 3 indicated that the conditions licensing
metonymic clipping are not simply due to the sheer number of agents in the causal chain, but rather (by
hypothesis) the vagueness of events in the series. Experiment 4 indicated that metonymic clipping was
less acceptable when the agents of the action were named than when they were nameless. Implications
of metonymy on our understanding of the interface between language and cognition are discussed.

Table of Contents

TABLE OF CONTENTS


Experiments
Experiment 1......................................................................................................10-14
Experiment 2......................................................................................................14-18
Experiment 3......................................................................................................18-22
Experiment 4......................................................................................................22-25


Tables
Table 1.................................................................................................................12
Table 2.................................................................................................................16
Table 3.................................................................................................................20
Table 4.................................................................................................................24


Figures
Figure 1................................................................................................................13
Figure 2................................................................................................................17
Figure 3................................................................................................................21
Figure 4................................................................................................................24


References........................................................................................................32-34

Files

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