Understanding Metonymies in Discourse

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Understanding Metonymies in Discourse

Understanding Metonymies in Discourse (2002)

  • Katja Markert
  • Language Technology Group
  • Division of Informatics
  • University of Edinburgh
  • Edinburgh, U.K.
  • Udo Hahn
  • Computational Linguistics Lab
  • Freiburg University
  • Freiburg, Germany


  • Metonymy definitions, examples and characteristics
  • Earlier computational approaches to detecting and interpreting metonymy
  • Markert & Hahn’s criticism of the earlier computational approaches and proposed solutions to these problems
  • Markert & Hahn’s computational model
  • Conclusions

Metonymy: Definitions

  • A non-literal figure of speech in which the name of one thing is substituted for that of another related to it. (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980)
  • The use of a word or expression as a substitute for something with which it is closely associated. From Greek metonumia ‘change of name’. (Oxford English Dictionary)
  • The use of a single characteristic to identify a more complex entity. It is also known as denominatio or pars pro toto (part for the whole).
  • One of the basic characteristics of cognition. It is extremely common for people to take one well-understood or easy-to-perceive aspect of something and use that aspect to stand either for the thing as a whole or for some other aspect or part of it. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metonymy)

Metonymy: Examples

  • The ham sandwich is waiting for his check.
  • Nixon bombed Hanoi.
  • Which airlines fly from Boston to Denver?
  • The Boston office called.
  • Denise drank the bottle.
  • The kettle is boiling.
  • You’ll find better ideas than that in the library.
  • John began a novel.
  • Scotland beat Ireland.
  • America did once try to ban alcohol.
  • Ask seat 19 whether he wants to swap.
  • Press-men hoisted their Kodaks.
  • I liked the laser; its printouts were excellent.
  • He read Shakespeare.
  • I’m parked out back.
  • The White House announced a preparedness plan that could include travel limitations should an outbreak of avian flu threaten the United States.

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