Theories and computational models of metaphor comprehension generally circumvent the question of metaphor versus “anomaly” in favor of a treatment of metaphor versus literal language. Making the distinction between metaphoric and “anomalous” expressions is subject to wide variation in judgment, yet humans agree that some potentially metaphoric expressions are much more comprehensible than others. In the context of a program which interprets simple isolated sentences that are potential instances of cross‐modal and other verbal metaphor, I consider some possible coherence criteria which must be satisfied for an expression to be “conceivable” metaphorically. Metaphoric constraints on object nominals are represented as abstracted or extended along with the invariant structural components of the verb meaning in a metaphor. This approach distinguishes what is preserved in metaphoric extension from that which is “violated”, thus referring to both “similarity” and “dissimilarity” views of metaphor. The role and potential limits of represented abstracted properties and constraints is discussed as they relate to the recognition of incoherent semantic combinations and the rejection or adjustment of metaphoric interpretations.


Computer Science

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Computational Intelligence



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This is the pre-peer reviewed version of the following article: Sylvia Weber Russell - Metaphoric coherence: Distinguishing verbal metaphor from `anomaly'. Computational Intelligence, 8 (3), 553-574 (1992), which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.