On the priority of salient meanings in English idioms understanding

Li-ying FENG
April 2009
Sino-US English Teaching;2009, Vol. 6 Issue 4, p45
Academic Journal
Giora proposed that comprehension of figurative and literal language be governed by a more general principle of salience: salient meanings are processed first and meaning salience determines the type of processing invoked. According to the Graded Salience Hypothesis, processing familiar metaphors should involve the activation of both their metaphoric and literal meanings, regardless of the type of context in which they are embedded. Processing less familiar metaphors should activate the literal meaning in both types of contexts; however, in the literally biased context, it should be the only one activated. Processing familiar idioms in context biased towards the idiomatic meaning should evoke their figurative meaning almost exclusively, because their figurative meaning is much more salient than their literal meaning. However, processing less familiar idioms in an idiomatic context should activate both their literal and idiomatic meanings because both meanings enjoy similar salience status.


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