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Effects of conventionality and proficiency in metaphor processing: A response time study
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of English.
2013 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 20 credits / 30 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

Some researchers that work with metaphor theory claim that metaphors and figurative language are understood and processed just as easily as literal language. However, as this thesis will explore in detail, other research indicates that such is not always the case. That is, if the category of metaphor is further subcategorized into conventional and non-conventional metaphor, the scope will change because of the fact that it is possible to argue that non-conventionalized metaphors require a more conscious path of processing. In order to explain this alternative path, there are two primary approaches to language processing worth introducing: implicit and explicit. These approaches vary in required attention and speed of processing. With regards to conscious effort, these approaches are rather similar to the way in which we process conventionalized and non-conventionalized metaphors. Conventional metaphors are processed more quickly and easily than non-conventional ones. Hence, the claim that all metaphors are similarly processed may not always be true. Furthermore, an individual’s level of proficiency presumably correlates with speed in language processing. However, if non-conventional metaphor requires a more deliberate path of processing, this thesis assumes that the processing of this type of metaphor will be relatively unaffected by proficiency level, thus causing informants to process them in similar manners. In this thesis, 24 non-native speakers (NNS), categorized into intermediate proficient and advanced proficient, and seven native speakers (NS) were tested with an RT-test on subjective metaphor comprehension. Results were compared using mean response times and standard deviations, as well as looking at correlations and coefficient of variation. The results showed a distinct difference in processing speed with conventional metaphors being processed significantly faster. Moreover, the findings indicate that conventional metaphor processing speed seems to be predicted by proficiency, whilst non-conventional processing speed is not. The RT differences remained relatively consistent in both conventional and non-conventional metaphor processing, but when taking correlations, variance and coefficient of variation into consideration, the findings indicate that these other factors help level out the differences in non-conventional metaphor processing in more subtle ways than simply by RT’s.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2013. , 45 p.
Keyword [en]
Language processing, Metaphor comprehension, Conventionality, Conventional metaphor, Non-conventional metaphor, Automaticity, Proficiency, Native speaker (NS), Non-native speaker (NNS), Response time (RT).
National Category
General Language Studies and Linguistics
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-90854OAI: diva2:627702
Available from: 2013-11-07 Created: 2013-06-12 Last updated: 2013-11-07Bibliographically approved

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Eriksson, Peter
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