The Processing of Metonymy: Evidence from Eye Movements

S. Frisson, M.J. Pickering

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The authors investigated the time course of the processing of metonymic expressions in comparison with literal ones in 2 eye-tracking experiments. Experiment 1 considered the processing of sentences containing place-for-institution metonymies such as the convent in That blasphemous woman had to answer to the convent; it was found that such expressions were of similar difficulty to sentences containing literal interpretations of the same expressions. In contrast, expressions without a relevant metonymic interpretation caused immediate difficulty. Experiment 2 found similar results for place-for-event metonymies such as A lot of Americans protested during Vietnam, except that the difficulty with expressions without a relevant metonymic interpretation was somewhat delayed. The authors argue that these findings are incompatible with models of figurative language processing in which either the literal sense is accessed first or the figurative sense is accessed first. Instead, they support an account in which both senses can be accessed immediately, perhaps through a single under specified representation. (APA PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1366-1383
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1999


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