When entailments abandon ship: Resolution of semantic conflict through Entailment Transfer Metonymy
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The sentence “The ship confronted the storm,” must be interpreted nonliterally since confronting something requires intention. This sentence represents Entailment Transfer Metonymy (ETM), a previously undescribed variant of me tonymy. Unlike other metonymy variants, with ETM, neither an NP nor a predicate undergoes semantic change. Instead, a literal subject NP satisfies the verb’s requirement for an agent argument, while an entity evoked by the referent of that NP (e.g. the ship’s crew) satisfies the intentionality entailment imposed by the verb. Experiment 1 examined readers’ judgments for rationale clauses requiring a grammatically available intentional agent to show that nonliteral interpretation of ETMs preserves the literal meaning of subject NPs. Experiment 2 provides indirect evidence that readers may to construct Entailment Transfer metonyms soon after encountering the verb. The results of these two experiments demonstrate that ETM can enable figurative interpretation, not through meaning change but by changing the role that semantic information plays in the interpretation of the sentence.