The Processing of German Verb-Object Metaphors

AbstractCompeting accounts of metaphor processing make differentiating predictions regarding the role of a metaphor’s elements: While some claim that the elements are role-neutral, others believe them to play different roles from the get-go. We tested these predictions with an investigation of German verb-object metaphors such as Sebastian füttert eine Prinzessin (‘Sebastian feeds a princess’). Results are in line with accounts that posit different roles for a metaphor’s elements. Additionally, we investigated the distinctive influence of context and a verb’s selectional preferences when anticipating a post-verbal object. The findings show that participants anticipate an upcoming object less when these two factors clash (i.e., when context and a verb’s selectional preferences point towards different objects), compared to when they are aligned (i.e. when they point towards anticipating the same object).

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