Title

Why do people use figurative language?

Abstract

In this article, we examine the discourse goals that are accomplished by the use of eight forms of figurative language: hyperbole, idiom, indirect request, irony, understatement, metaphor, rhetorical question, and simile. Subjects were asked to provide reasons why they would use a particular figure of speech. Based on their responses, a discourse goal taxonomy that includes each of the eight figures was developed. The goal taxonomy indicates that each figure of speech is used to accomplish a unique constellation of communicative goals. The degree of goal overlap between the eight forms was also calculated, and the results provide support for theoretical claims about the relatedness of certain figures. Taken together, the goal taxonomy and overlap scores broaden our understanding of functional and theoretical differences between the various kinds of figurative language. © 1994, Association for Psychological Science. All rights reserved.

Publication Title

Psychological Science

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