Metaphor and Abduction


Hobbs, J. R. (1992). Metaphor and abduction. In Communication from an artificial intelligence perspective (pp. 35-58). Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.


In this paper a recent approach to inference in text understanding based on abduction is applied to the problem of metaphor interpretation. The fundamental ideas in the “interpretation as abduction” approach are outlined. A succinct characterization of interpretation is given, along with a brief example and a description of the principal features of a weighted abduction scheme that is used. The approach is shown to lead to an elegant integration of syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. Three examples of metaphor interpretation are then analyzed within the abductive framework to determine what problems arise. The examples are a conventionalized metaphor schema, a standard category metaphor contextually interpreted, and a novel metaphor. The primary problem that arises for metaphor interpretation in the abductive framework is dealing with the fact that metaphors are not literally true. Two perspectives on this difficulty are offered.

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