On Our Mind: Salience, Context, and Figurative Language

Hardcover | November 26, 2004

byRachel Giora

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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 bothdomains, 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 cognitivepriority 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 thateven 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 hernew 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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From the Publisher

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 bothdomains, speakers and writers creatively exploit...

Rachel Giora is at Tel Aviv University, Israel.
Format:HardcoverDimensions:272 pages, 6.18 × 9.29 × 1.18 inPublished:November 26, 2004Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195136160

ISBN - 13:9780195136166

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Table of Contents

1. Prologue2. Salience and Context3. Lexical Access4. Irony5. Metaphors and Idioms6. Jokes7. Innovation8. Evidence from Other Research9. Coda: Unaddressed Questions--Food for Future ThoughtNotesReferencesAuthor IndexGeneral Index

Editorial Reviews

"[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 befamiliar 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 LanguageResearch