Fwd: Re: [ADS-L] metonymy-TRY

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sat May 26 16:41:10 UTC 2007

At 10:54 AM -0400 5/26/07, Marc Sacks wrote:
>  >>
>>>  On May 23, 2007, at 12:45 PM, RonButters at aol.com wrote:
>>>>  But doesn't "personification" apply equally well--or even better--
>>>>  to the artistic contexts? Is "metonymy"--the substitution of a
>>>>  part for a whole--
>>>  "metonymy", as i use it (and i don't think this is an eccentric
>>>  use; in any case, i got it from jakobson), refers to all sorts of
>>>  figurative uses that turn on *association* or *contiguity* (while
>>>  "metaphor" covers all sorts that turn on similarity).  part for
>>>  whole is synecdoche, usually understood to be a specific type of
>>>  metonymy.  but there are many many types of metonymy that are not
>>>  synecdoches.
>>>  consider, for instance, the use of the name of the capital city of
>>>  some jurisdiction to refer to the administration/government of that
>>>  jurisdiction: Washington refuses to engage in talks with Tehran;
>>>  Albany balks on infrastructure funding; etc.  this isn't
>>>  synecdoche, or straightforward personification, for that matter.
>How does this relate to an object's taking on an action that someone does
>*to* the object, as in "This book reads very well"? That case has always
>stumped me; there must be a name for it.
Current practice is to call it "the middle (construction)".  It's
also known as "the patient subject construction".  An early treatment
is in a lovely paper by Anna Granville Hatcher--'Mr. Howard Amuses
Easy', in the 1943 volume of Modern Language Notes, and generative
linguists began worrying about it in around 1977 with CLS papers by
George Lakoff and Jeanne van Oosten, and later work by Keyser &
Roeper, Fellbaum, Fagan, and others in the 1980s.  It's rather
different from the metaphorical/metonymic cases we began with, since
those involve inanimate agents, while the middles involve patients,
with an agent "understood" but not expressed.  Crucially in your case
there's a (generic or arbitrary) reader involved.  Other much cited
examples are

Shakespeare translates easily.
This is selling like hotcakes.
The salami didn't cut easily.

--all involving an unexpressed but conceptualized agent.  That's not
the case with the Washington or Albany examples.


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