On Our Mind: Salience, Context, and Figurative Language

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9780195136166: On Our Mind: Salience, Context, and Figurative Language
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In this volume, Rachel Giora explores how the salient meanings of words--the meanings that stand out as most prominent and accessible in our minds--shape how we think and how we speak. For Giora, salient meanings display interesting effects in both figurative and literal language. In both domains, speakers and writers creatively exploit the possibilities inherent in the fact that, while words have multiple meanings, some meanings are more accessible than others. Of the various meanings we encode in our mental lexicon for a given word or expression, we ascribe greater cognitive priority to some over others. Interestingly, the most salient meaning is not always the literal meaning. Giora argues that it is cognitively prominent salient meanings, rather than literal meanings, that play the most important role in the comprehension and production of language. She shows that even though context begins to affect comprehension immediately, it does so without obstructing the early accessing of salient meanings. Thus, the meaning we first attend to is the salient word meaning, regardless of contextual bias. Knowledge of salient meanings turns out to play a major role, perhaps the most important role, in the process of using and understanding of language. Going beyond the familiar effects of literal meaning and context, the Graded Salience Hypothesis presents the most comprehensive explanation for how we use language for meaning. In this volume, Giora presents her new model for the first time in a book-length treatment, with original and illuminating perspectives that will be of interest to linguists, philosophers, psychologists, and all who want to know more about just how we understand what we mean.

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Rachel Giora is at Tel Aviv University, Israel.

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"This cleverly titled and timely book fills a significant gap in the scholarly investigation of humor. Strangely little has been written about the psycholinguistics of the processing of humor (in general, and specifically about its genres: irony, sarcasm, jokes, puns, etc.). Only a part of Giora's book is dedicated specifically to humor (a long chapter on irony and a shorter one on jokes), but all of it is dead-on in regards to understanding the processing issue of humor...While one may disagree with the specifics of her analyses (and it is only fair to say that many, starting with Gibbs and the Relevance Theorists, do) it is clear tha this is a book that no one interested in humor research and in the processing of language can ignore."--Chiara Bucaria, Humor


"Rachel Gioras book is a most important contribution to the study of the relationships between mind and language, meaning and context, human and environment. She has single handedly lifted a current paradigm out of its hinges and placed it on a new footing, by drawing attention to the overriding role played by salience in language comprehension, in particular with regard to figurative (non-literal) language. The well-argued plausibility of Gioras model is at least an eye-opener, if not a refreshing alternative, for people subscribing to different paradigms and who are being helped not least by the pleasant lightheartedness which is an overall positive feature of Gioras book, making it a good read, even for non-professionals." --J.L. Mey in Lingua


"As one reads along, nodding ones metaphorical head, relishing in the intuitive nature of the argument, one can be seduced into believing that much of linguistic behaviornay, behavior way beyond linguisticscan be accounted for by two factors: salience and context. Can life be this simple? To be sure, this book presents a compelling thesis. The thesis is supported by countless data points, numerous text analyses, and common sense. But it is a strident thesis nonetheless. Its singularity, its repeated refrain adulating the power of salience is a strong tonic. But it is what was on Gioras mind. And now that these words are penned, the construct of salience should most definitely be on cognitive scientists minds." --Morton Ann Gernsbacher in Metaphor and Symbol


"On Our Mind provides an in-depth analysis of figurative language understanding in light of the graded salience hypothesis. This is a rich, provocative book that is surely to attract the attention of many figurative language scholars. It deserves to be studied and debated." --Ray Gibbs, Professor of Psychology, University of California at Santa Cruz


"This book is the most comprehensive and integrated review and analysis available on the central question in the processing of non-literal language: namely, understanding the processes involved in getting from the message expressed to what the speaker intended to convey. In nine well-written, incisive and engaging chapters, Rachel Giora reinterprets the data on which the received wisdom in the field is based, and shows instead that there is obligatory processing of salient meaning, even when a non-salient interpretation of the message is contextually supported. This book is a must read for anyone interested in indirect language in general, and especially for those interested in our understanding not only of metaphor, irony and idioms, but also of humor and creativity." --Albert Katz, Professor of Psychology, University of Western Ontario


"Giora delights the reader with creative examples from hither and yon, punching home her thesis that salient meanings of words and phrases come to mind no matter what the context. Giora's proposals have to be reckoned with in psychology, philosophy, cognitive science, and linguistics." --John M. Kennedy, Professor of Psychology, University of Toronto


"What could be the potential benefit to psychiatrists from getting a closer look at linguistics?...If you are looking for an authoritative and thoroughly enjoyable introduction to the various contemporary views on language processing, Giora's book is the right choice. It is concise yet not lacking in important information and despite being scholarly it is anything but dry...The theory put forward by Giora has several important implications far beyond the purely lexical level...Cognitive neuropsychiatry, which nurtures on interdisciplinarity, can greatly benefit from a closer relationship with linguistics. A considerable number of new and exciting concepts can be chosen from and be empirically evaluated in the context of mental illness. For researachers, Giora's book is bound to serve as an excellent source for very creative ideas from the field of linguistics."--Argyris Stringaris, Cognitive Neuropsychiatry


"[Giora's] claims may give second language research the chance to revise the way they think about word meaning, the literal meaning-figurative meaning dichotomy and the role of context in language processing...Although it was not written specifically for applied linguists, we should be familiar with the content of this excellent book as it provides new information about how our mind works, and as the author's main arguments put into new perspective many things that we think we know about second language acquisition and bilingual development."--Ivan Kecskes, Second Language Research


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