Figurative processes in meaning interpretation: A case study of novel English compounds
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This article contributes to cognitive semantic research on the construal of figurative meaning in noun-noun compounds. Previous studies in this field have shown a predilection towards using conceptual blending theory in order to describe the process of meaning formation in nominal compounds. Observations have largely been based on analyses of established compounds and their conventionalized meanings. The current paper explores an alternative approach and methodology. A study was conducted in which participants were asked to interpret the meaning of a set of novel noun-noun compounds. These meaning descriptions are taken as an empirical base to investigate figurative interpretations. Since previous applications of conceptual blending theory have highlighted some limitations of describing meaning construal in compounds, and since the relation between conceptual blending and related processes of conceptual metaphor and metonymy has not been clarified yet, the analysis in the current study takes a step back and relies on conceptual metaphor and metonymy. Besides providing an overview of the amount of figurative meaning interpretations given to the different test items, the paper pays particular attention to the methodological challenges of applying conceptual metaphor and metonymy theory in the attempt to capture the figurative nature of the meaning descriptions. A close analysis of selected meaning interpretations provides a first impression on how applying conceptual metaphor and metonymy can pave the way towards a more differentiated understanding of associative complexity in figurative meaning interpretations.