This paper is grounded in Cognitive Linguistics (CL), which sees metonymy as a conceptual phenomenon, in which one conceptual entity (the source) provides mental access to another entity (the target) within the same conceptual domain (Radden & Kövecses 1999), as opposed to metaphor, which is seen as a mapping between different domains (Lakoff 1987). Our view on metonymy slightly deviates from the mainstream CL-approach, as we reinterpret the criterion of the single domain as an epiphenomenon of the conceptually defined contiguous relationship (Feyaerts 1999), which we take to be metonymy’s categorical feature. In this contribution, we analyse the structural role of metonymy in humorous interactional sequences as they occur in the American television-series House M.D. and The Big Bang Theory. As our examples qualify as staged communicative acts, the interpretation of which involves processing meanings on different layers, we use Clark’s (1996) layering model to account for the humorous uses of metonymies and to show that metonymic connections lie at the heart of pragmatic inferencing. In line with – and at the same time extending – earlier work (Feyaerts & Brône 2005) on the potential of metonymic chaining to generate humorous and expressive meanings, this study demonstrates how a metonymic relationship may extend across different layers of meaning – the ‘serious’ discourse base space and a ‘non-serious’ pretence space – to generate a humorous meaning, based on the common ground between the speakers and the audience.
Barcelona, A. (2003). ‘The case for a metonymic basis of pragmatic inferencing: Evidence from jokes and funny anecdotes’, in Panther K.-U. & Thornburg L.L. (eds.), Metonymy and Pragmatic Inferencing, Zurich: John Benjamins, pp. 81-98.
Barnden, J.A. (2010). ‘Metaphor and metonymy: making their connections more slippery’. Cognitive Linguistics 21 (1), pp. 1-34.
Brône, G. & Feyaerts K. (2003). ‘The cognitive linguistics of incongruity resolution: Marked reference-point structures in humor’. University of Leuven, Department of Linguistics preprint no. 205.
Brône, G. & Feyaerts K. (2004). ‘Assessing the SSTH and GTVH: a view from cognitive linguistics’. Humor: The International Journal of Humor Research, 17 (4), pp. 361-372.
Brône, G. (2008). ‘Hyper and misunderstanding in interactional humor’. Journal of Pragmatics, 40 (12), pp. 2027-2061.
Clark, H. H. (1996). Using Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Croft, W. and Cruse D.A. (2004). Cognitive Linguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Dirven, R. (1993). ‘Metonymy and metaphor: Different mental strategies of conceptualization.’ Leuvense Bijdragen 82 (1), pp. 1–28.
Dirven, R. (1999). ‘Conversion as a conceptual metonymy of event schemata’, in Panther K.-U. & Radden G. (eds.), Metonymy in Language and Thought, Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins, pp. 275-288.
Dynel, M. (2014). ‘Isn’t it ironic? Defining the scope of humorous irony’. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research 27 (4), pp. 619-639.
Feyaerts, K. (1999). ‘Metonymic hierarchies: The conceptualization of stupidity in German idiomatic expressions’, in Panther K-U. & Radden G. (eds.), Metonymy in Language and Thought, Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins, pp. 309-332.
Feyaerts, K. (2003). ‘Refining the inheritance hypothesis: interaction between metaphoric and metonymic hierarchies’, in Barcelona, A (ed.), Metaphor and Metonymy at the Crossroads: A Cognitive Perspective, Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 59-78.
Feyaerts, K. (2013). ‘Tackling the complexity of spontaneous humorous interaction. An integrated-classroom modeled corpus approach’, in Gurillo L.R. & Alvarado Ortega M. B., Irony and Humor. From Pragmatics to Discourse, Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins, pp. 243-268.
Feyaerts, K. & Brône, G. (2005). ‘Expressivity and metonymic inferencing: Stylistic variation in non-literary language use. Style 39 (1), pp. 12-35.
Feyaerts, K, Speelman D., Brône G. & Oben B. (2007). Corinth: Corpus Interactionele Humor. University of Leuven.
Geeraerts, D. & Peirsman Y. (2011). ‘Zones, facets, and prototype-based metonymy’, in Benczes R., Barcelona A. & Ruiz de Mendoza Ibáñez F.J. (eds.), Defining Metonymy in Cognitive Linguistics. Towards a Consensus View, Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins, pp. 89-124.
Giora, R. (1999). ‘On the priority of salient meanings: Studies of literal and figurative language’. Journal of Pragmatics 31, pp. 919-929.
Giora, R. (2003). On our Mind: Salience, Context and Figurative Language. New York: Oxford University Press.
Giora, R., Fein, O., Kronrod, A., Elnatan, I., Shuval, N. & Zur, A. (2004). Weapons of mass distraction: Optimal innovation and pleasure ratings. Metaphor and Symbol 19 (2), pp. 115–141.
Grice, H. P. (1975). ‘Logic and conversation’, in P. Cole & J.L. Morgan (eds.), Speech Acts [Syntax and Semantics 3], New York: Academic Press, pp.41-58.
Herrero R. J. (2011). ‘The role of metonymy in complex tropes: Cognitive operations and pragmatic implications’, in Benczes R., Barcelona A. & Ruiz de Mendoza Ibáñez F.J. (eds.), Defining Metonymy in Cognitive Linguistics. Towards a Consensus View, Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins, pp. 167-194.
Koch, P. (1999). ‘Frame and contiguity. On the cognitive bases of metonymy and certain types of word formation’, in Panther K.-U. & Radden G. (eds.), Metonymy in Language and Thought, Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins, pp. 139-167.
Lakoff, G. (1987). Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal About the Mind. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.
Langacker, R.W. (1987). Foundations of Cognitive Grammar, Vol. I: Theoretical Prerequisites. Stanford/California: Stanford University Press.
Langacker, R.W. (1993). ‘Reference-point constructions’. Cognitive Linguistics 4 (1), pp. 1-38.
Langacker, R.W. (1999). Grammar and Conceptualization. Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
Mauer, M. (1999). ‘The crisis of the young African American male and the criminal justice system’. The Sentencing Project (Retrieved December, 2014 from www.sentencingproject.org).
Norrick, N.R. (1981). Semiotic Principles in Semantic Theory. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Nunberg, G.D. (1979) The non-uniqueness of semantic solutions: polysemy. Linguistics and Philosophy 3 (1), pp. 143-184.
Panther, K-U & Thornburg L.L (2003). ‘Introduction: On the nature of conceptual metonymy’, in Panther K.-U. & Radden G. (eds.), Metonymy in Language and Thought, Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company, pp. 1-18.
Peirsman, Y. & Geeraerts D. (2006). ‘Metonymy as a prototypical concept’. Cognitive Linguistics 17 (3), pp. 269-316.
Radden, G. & Kövecses, Z. (1999). ‘Towards a theory of metonymy’, in Panther K.-U. & Radden G. (eds.), Metonymy in Language and Thought, Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company, pp. 17-59.
Raskin, V. (1985). Semantic Mechanisms of Humor. Dordrecht: Reidel.
Rosch, E. (1975). ‘Cognitive reference points’. Cognitive Psychology 7 (4), pp. 532-547.
Sadock, J.M. (1993). ‘Figurative speech and linguistics’, in Ortony A. (ed.), Metaphor and Thought, 2nd ed., Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 42-57.
Seto, K. (1999). ‘Distinguishing metonymy from synecdoche’, in Panther K.-U., and Radden, G. (eds.), Metonymy in Language and Thought, Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company, pp. 91-120.
Sloetjes, H. & Wittenburg P. (2008). ‘Annotation by category – ELAN and ISO DCR’. In Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on Language Resources and Evaluation (LREC 2008).
Sperber, D. and Wilson D. (1988). Relevance: Communication and Cognition. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Tabacaru, S. (2014). ‘L’humour: une approche cognitive’. Revue Mosaïque 11, pp. 170-182.
Tabacaru, S. & Lemmens, M. (2014). ‘Raised eyebrows as gestural triggers in humor: The case of sarcasm and hyper-understanding’. European Journal of Humour Research 2 (2), pp. 11-31.
Tribushinina, E. (2011). ‘Conceptual motivation in adjectival semantics: Cognitive reference points revised’, in Panther K-U. & Radden G. (eds.), Motivation in Grammar and the Lexicon. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins, pp. 215-231.
Uhlig, C. (2009). Humor in the TV series ‘Gilmore Girls’. Germany: GRIN.
Ullmann, S. (1962). Semantics. An Introduction to the Science of Meaning. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
Wertheimer, M. (1938). ‘Numbers and numerical concepts in primitive peoples’, in Ellis W.D. (ed.), A Source Book of Gestalt Psychology, New York: Hartcourt, pp. 265-273.
Yus, F. (2003). ‘Humor and the search for relevance’. Journal of Pragmatics, 35 (9), pp. 1295-1331.
Zegarac V. & Clark B. (1999). ‘Phatic interpretations and phatic communication’. Journal of Pragmatics 35 (2), pp. 321-346.