I certify my authority of the Study Project Report submitted entitled
in total fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts.
If vocabulary is one of the most essential parts of a language, enriching vocabulary plays a
very important role in learning and using that language. Among many issues related to
vocabulary, transference of meaning is now being paid a lot of attention because being
aware of this will be helpful to any language learners. While studying about the
transference of meaning we have found that metonymy, a means of transference of
meaning basing on contiguity between objects, is a powerful way to use language
effectively and creatively. However, not many people are aware of it and not many studies
have chosen metonymy as their main subject. For that reason we choose the metonymy as
the subject to study and make a contrastive analysis between that in English and
Vietnamese. The study is aimed at giving readers a general view on the metonymy as the
transference of meaning in English and pointing out the features that English and
Vietnamese share with, and differ from, each other in the ways of forming and using
metonymy. Besides, we suggest some activities for teachers of English to help their
students and learners of English to enrich their vocabulary as well as avoid and self-correct
mistakes in communication and translation.
This research consists of three main parts. The first part, Introduction, gives general
information about the rationale, the aim, the scope, the methods and certainly the design of
the study. The second part, Development, includes four chapters. Chapter 1 discusses some
related matter to the study as language, word, meaning of word and the changes of those.
The last part in this chapter presents the term transference of meaning, its causes and its
means. Chapter 2 and chapter 3 are the focus of the study which give an overview of
metonymy in English and Vietnamese, then contrast them to find out any similarities and
differences. The final chapter is the implication in language teaching and translation. The
last part, Conclusion, summarizes what have been discussed in the study and gives some
general comments on the use of metonymy in English and Vietnamese as well as supplies
some suggestions for further study.
Table of contents
1.1. Language and the change of language
1.1.1. What is language?
1.1.2. Reasons for the change of language
1.1.3. How language changes
1.2. Word and its meaning
1.2.1. What is the word?
1.2.2. Word meaning
1.2.3 The change and development of meaning
1.3. Transference of meaning
1.3.1. What is transference of meaning?
1.3.2. Means of meaning transference
2.1. What is Metonymy?
2.2. Metonymy vs. Metaphor
2.3. Types of metonymy
2.3.1. Direct, or primary, metonymy
2.3.2. Indirect, or secondary, metonymy
2.3.3. Partial metonymy
2.4. Cases of metonymy
2.4.1. Name of container to refer to the thing contained
2.4.2. Name of parts of human body used as symbols
2.4.3. The concrete to refer to the abstract.
2.4.4. Materials to refer to the things made of the materials.
2.4.5. Name of the author to refer to his work
2.4.6. Part to refer to a whole and vice versa.
2.4.7. Symbol to refer to representative
3.1. Metonymy in Vietnamese
3.1.1. Container – contained
3.1.2. Concrete – abstract
3.1.3. Name of author – his work
3.1.4. Part - whole and whole – part
3.1.5 Owner (people) and things owned (clothes, properties)
3.1.6. Specific quantities – general quantities; singular – plurals.
3.2. The similarities between metonymy in English and that in Vietnamese
3.3. The differences between metonymy in English and that in Vietnamese
4.1. Implications in English language teaching to Vietnamese learners.
4.2. Implications in English – Vietnamese translation and vice versa.
As is well-known, a language is the cultural environment of its native speakers. No
language can be analysed or learned without entering into the cultural traditions of its
speakers. For a linguist, it is very important to produce a complete description of these
cultural traditions to underpin his ideas. Thus any phenomenon appearing in a language
should be studied and described in close connection with its cultural usage and its cultural
Metonymy is an important way of expressing ideas, a cognitive process, consisting in the
transference of meaning based on associations. A metonymic description of a subject is an
essential part of any language therefore metonymic thinking can be considered as an
element of the cultural identity of a person.
However, in everyday life we use language without any awareness of the term metonymy
in mind. Even in linguistics, it seems that metonymy has been paid little concern in
comparison with another means of meaning transference called metaphor.
Besides, while teaching English for Vietnamese students, most of them are at preintermediate level of English, we find that they are sometimes shocked when encountering
some cases like:
The ham sandwich has asked for the bill.
English is our mother tongue.
Also they tend to spend a lot of time to find the English equivalents for the expressions of
Vietnamese such as:
Ngay khi công vi c
c giao m i ng
u ph i x n tay áo lên làm ngay.
Chân i mà d ch ng r i – D u xa chín núi không nguôi m t lòng.
These problems deeply rooted from people’s unawareness of the term metonymy as well as
the similarities and differences between metonymy in English and Vietnamese.
Therefore, we choose the metonymy as the subject to study and make a contrastive
analysis between which in English and Vietnamese.
This study has both theoretical and practical aims.
Theoretically, it is intended to provide a thorough and systematic study on the metonymy
as the transference of meaning in English. Besides, it is aimed at finding the features that
English and Vietnamese share with, and differ from, each other in the ways of forming and
Practically, this study is intended to help Vietnamese learners of English to have an insight
into metonymy as the transference of meaning in English as well as in their mother tongue
so that they can enrich their vocabulary, avoid and self-correct mistakes in communication
and translation. Teachers of English can also benefit from this study when we are going to
describe some activities helping students enrich their vocabulary through learning
The study will touch to the different cases of metonymy as the transference of meaning in
English and Vietnamese and find the similarities and differences in the way each language
employs metonymy. However, for the limitation of personal knowledge and ability, this
study only analyses things basing on some most common metonymy of the words that can
be found and traditionally used in communication in both languages.
In this study the two languages namely English and Vietnamese are compared and
contrasted. Here, English is treated as the instrumental language and Vietnamese is the
target language. Therefore, any cases of metonymy in English will be mentioned and
analysed first, then they will be compared and contrasted with Vietnamese to find out the
similarities and differences between the two languages.
We have read some books and researches discussing the metonymy in both English and
Vietnamese and extracted some general cases of metonymy in English and Vietnamese
which is the means of meaning transference. Basing ourselves on that we supplement more
data from our real situations and analyse them separately in each language. At last, we
formulate the contrasts which have been identified by the before analyses.
Part I is Introduction providing with the rationale, the aims, the scope, the methodology
and the overall structure of the study. This introductory part functions as the leading
direction for the whole study about why it comes into being, for what purposes it is used,
what exactly it studies, how it is carried out and how it is organised.
Part II is Development, the body of the thesis, including four chapters. Chapter 1
Theoritical bacground discusses some related matter to the study. In the first part we will
look at language in general and its changes which can partly explain the reasons of
meaning transference later. We also spend time to study about words and word meaning
including approaches to word meaning and the changes of word meaning. The last part in
this chapter presents the term transference of meaning, its causes and its means.
Chapter 2 and chapter 3 are the focus of the study. Chapter 2 Metonymy as the
transference of meaning in English. In this chapter we will attempt to define the term
“metonymy”, compare it with another means of transference of meaning named
“metaphor”, classify it into two types, and then go into details in the cases of metonymy.
This chapter provides an overall view about metonymy, therefore all necessary information
for analysing and contrasting in the next chapter is mentioned.
Chapter 3 is called A contrastive analysis of Metonymy in English and in Vietnamese.
In order to make a contrastive analysis, we will take a look at the metonymy in
Vietnamese. Then, the similarities and differences between metonymy in English and in
Vietnamese will be discussed.
The last chapter, Implications for language teaching and translation, will give some ideas
that will be helpful to teachers of language in their language teaching career and to
translators in the process of translation relating to this subject.
Part III is Conclusion providing the summary of what has been analysed and found as well
as some concluding remarks made to these findings. Lastly, it supplies some suggestions
for further study.
1.1.1. What is language?
Being the centre concept of linguistics, “language” is treated differently from different
Language firstly is considered to be a system of communicating with other people using
sounds, symbols and words in expressing a meaning, idea or thought. This language can be
used in many forms, primarily through oral and written communications as well as using
expressions through body language. Sapir (1921:8) defined it as ‘a purely human noninstinctive method of communicating ideas, emotions and desires by means of voluntarily
produced symbols’. According to this definition only humans possesses language and it is
unlike any other system of communication of animals. Therefore people can develop and
characterize language. However, it is not the truth that people can just use it to convey
“ideas, emotions and desires”. More than that, it is undeniable that people possesses many
systems of voluntarily produced symbols like gestures, postures, eye-gaze, etc. that
metaphorically called ‘body language’.
Saussure (1960:8) defined language as ‘both a social product of the faculty of speech and a
collection of necessary conventions that have been adopted a social body to permit
individuals to exercise that faculty’. This definition suggests that language is distinguished
from speech and that it is a social product and its unity is a collection of necessary
conventions which is accepted and exercised by members in the society or community.
It is obvious that language does not stay the same as a set of constant things but changes
over time in both its forms and contents (meanings).
1.1.2. Reasons for the change of language
Language change, according to the Wikipedia, is the manner in which the phonetic,
morphological, semantic, syntactic, and other features of a language are modified over
time. All languages are continually changing. At any given moment the English language,
for example, has a huge variety within itself, and this variety is known as synchronic
variation. From these different forms comes the effect on language over time known as
diachronic change. Two linguistic disciplines concern themselves with studying language
change: historical linguistics and sociolinguistics. Historical linguists examine how a
language was spoken in the past and seek to determine how present languages derive from
it and are related to one another. Sociolinguists are interested in the origins of language
changes and want to explain how society and changes in society influence language.
Languages change for a variety of reasons. In his report “Language change”, available at
National Science Foundation website, Mahoney has pointed out some causes of language
change as follow.
Large-scale shifts often occur in response to social, economic and political pressures.
History records many examples of language change fueled by invasions, colonization and
migration. Even without these kinds of influences, a language can change dramatically if
enough users alter the way they speak it.
Frequently, the needs of speakers drive language change. New technologies, industries,
products and experiences simply require new words. Plastic, cell phones and the Internet
didn’t exist in Shakespeare’s time, for example. By using new and emerging terms, we all
drive language change. But the unique way that individuals speak also fuels language
change. That’s because no two individuals use a language in exactly the same way. The
vocabulary and phrases people use depend on where they live, their age, education level,
social status and other factors. Through our interactions, we pick up new words and
sayings and integrate them into our speech. Teens and young adults for example, often use
different words and phrases from their parents. Some of them spread through the
population and slowly change the language.
1.1.3. How language changes
According to Mahoney, there are three main aspects of language change over time:
vocabulary, sentence structure and pronunciations. Vocabulary can change quickly as new
words are borrowed from other languages, or as words get combined or shortened. Some
words are even created by mistake. As noted in the Linguistic Society of America's
publication Is English Changing?, pea is one such example. Up until about 400 years ago,
pease referred to either a single pea or many peas. At some point, people mistakenly
assumed that the word pease was the plural form of pea, and a new word was born. While
vocabulary can change quickly, sentence structure—the order of words in a sentence—
changes more slowly. Yet it is clear that today’s English speakers construct sentences very
differently from Chaucer and Shakespeare’s contemporaries. Changes in sound are
somewhat harder to document, but at least as interesting. For example, during the so-called
“Great Vowel Shift” 500 years ago, English speakers modified their vowel pronunciation
dramatically. This shift represents the biggest difference between the pronunciations of so
called Middle and Modern English.
1.2.1. What is the word?
Like other terms in linguistics, ‘words’ is defined in many different ways basing on
different angels from which the researchers or linguists view the language or depending on
the purposes of each study.
Jack C. Richards in “Dictionary of Language Teaching and Applied linguistics” defined a
word as “the smallest of the linguistic units which can occur on its own in speech or
writing”. However, it is not easy to apply this criterion consistently in the cases of function
words (like ‘the’, etc.) and contraction (like ‘can’ and ‘can’t’, etc.) (p.406)
According to A. Meillet, ‘the word is defined by a combinating between a certain meaning
and sound structure which shows a grammatical feature.’ This definition relates to three
aspects of the word: semantics (meaning), phonology (sound structure) and grammatical
function (grammatical feature).
Also concerning to both the form and the content of the word, Hoang Tat Truong in “Basic
English Lexicology” (1993:2) defines the word as “dialectical unity of form and content,
independent unit of language capable to form a sentence by itself.” However, we can find
the new point here that it clarifies the independent characteristic of the word as a language
In the following parts of this thesis we can simply take this as the working definition
provided that we are aware of a problem that the relationship between form and content is
not always one-to-one. This relationship can be direct or indirect, then one word can mean
different things indirectly.
1.2.2. Word meaning
There has been quite a number of attempts designed to define what the meanings of the
word is. From one of the oldest views – the theory of naming – a word in a language stands
for or refers to an object. It means that words are just names or labels for the things. While
this idea works very well with nouns, it is not really easy to extend the theory with other
parts of speech such as prepositions, adjectives, articles, etc. Moreover, this theory is
workable in the real world containing objects which we can see or know, but it seems that
the theory can not work effectively in the imaginary world made up of things such as fairy,
angel, etc. or the abstract things.
Because of the naming theory’s limitation, linguists try to explain the term in another way.
They realize that it is needed to distinguish what a word denotes from what they can be
used to refer to. According to this view, word meaning can be divided into denotation and
reference. Denotation is the ability of a word to identify all those things or objects that are
correctly covered by it. The denotation of a word or expression is the invariant and
utterance- independent. Reference is the relationship that holds between a word or
expression and the objects it refers to. Reference, therefore, is variable and utterancedependent.
Nguyen Hoa in his book “An introduction to Semantics” (2001: 14-16) has discussed many
theories of meaning of which we hereby can mention some of the following. According to
the referential (or denotational) approach, the meaning of a word or expression is what it
refers to, denotes, or stands for. The ideational (or mentalistic) theories, on the other hand,
considers it the idea, or concept associated with it in the mind of anyone who knows and
understands the word. The meaning of word, according to the verificationist theory, is
determined by the verifiability of the sentences, or propositions, containing it, i.e. the
meaning of word is verified by concrete situation. Linguists following functionalist theory,
however, divide the word meaning into ideational meaning, interpersonal meaning and
textual meaning. Bloomfieldian linguistics defines the meaning as the situation in which it
is used. Meanwhile in the former Soviet Union, there is a common agreement that
meaning is the realisation of concept or emotion by means of a definite language system.
Whatever the theory is, it seems that all linguists share the same view that word meaning
does not stay the same all the time but change slightly or clearly in different situations.
1.2.3. The change and development of meaning
If the history of semantic change had to be summed up as one process, it would be that of
specialization. The Anglo Saxons 1500 years ago made with perhaps 30,000 words in their
complete vocabulary, while Modern English has anywhere from 500,000 to a million
words, depending on whether or not scientific vocabularies are included.
It could be argued that originally there was one word, from which all others have sprung.
The origins of language will never be known, but the first language probably had a
vocabulary of a few hundred words, providing a rich enough vocabulary for a primitive
people who had few materials and fewer abstract concepts. Many of the words of the first
languages had very broad senses of meaning.
If you seek to create a language from an earlier time, you should probably develop a small
vocabulary, with it words having much more overlapping of meaning than the vocabularies
of modern languages. Imagine a word spiratholmos -- an ancient ancestor to Latin
inspirare -- meaning "wind, breath, voice, spirit." A speaker who used the word
spiratholmos would regard the wind in the trees as the breath of the earth, the voice of
God, the spirit animating each of us.
Semantic change is a change in one of the meanings of a word. Every word has a variety of
senses and connotations which can be added, removed, or altered over time, often to the
extent that words of one time period mean quite different things to the same words as
spoken in a previous time.
According to McMahon (1994:185), there are at least two causes of semantic change.
Coming first is structural causes. This category refers to the linguistic structure of lexical
items. The limited number of phonemes/morphemes reduces, as such, the possible contexts
for these elements. By striking contrast with the morphophonemic part, there are no a
priori context limits related to the meaning of a word, concerning its possible connotations
and positions in a sentence. In addition, lexical fields allow for powerful semantic
interaction among their members, though the results are usually visible only after the
conclusion of the process. Besides, language changes because of referential causes. This
category includes changes affecting the referent, i.e. the object or thing that a linguistic
unit stands for. Normally, progress in technology and culture goes along with changes in
items, materials, tools and concepts. Nevertheless, since language abides to the principle of
economy (old means - new usages), a certain delay in following that progress is certainly
expectable. The system of any given language will most likely extend the semantic field of
an existing word in order to cover the new usage rather than create a new lexeme.
Structural and referential here, in fact, refer to what people call linguistic and extra
linguistic causes to the change of meaning. Structural or linguistic causes are all factors
acting within the language, connected with the system of language such as the ellipsis or
contraction of a phrase, the discrimination of synonyms, and the attraction of synonyms.
Meanwhile, referential or extra linguistic causes are connected with the development of
society, changes in social, political, economic, cultural life, in science and technology.
The four most widely recognised types of semantic change are extension, narrowing,
amelioration, and pejoration. [McMahon, 1994] The first two represent changes in a word's
scope, while the second pair can also cover changes in a word's individual meanings.
Extension is the widening of a word's range of meanings, often by analogy or
simplification. For example, virtue was initially a quality that could only be applied to
men, like our modern word manliness, but in contemporary society, it can equally be
applied to women as well.
Narrowing is the reduction in a word's range of meanings, often limiting a generic word to
a more specialised or technical use. For example, broadcast originally meant "to cast seeds
out;" with the advent of radio and television, the word was extended to indicate the
transmission of audio and video signals. Today, because of narrowing, very few people
outside of agricultural circles use broadcast in the earlier sense
Amelioration occurs as a word loses negative connotations or gains positive ones. For example,
mischievous used to mean "disastrous", where it now only means "playfully annoying".
Pejoration occurs as a word develops negative connotations or loses positive ones. For
example, the word gay, which can mean happy or colorful and was used commonly until it
became a reference to homosexuals. While this may or may not have been a euphemisation
in itself, the word in the original sense is avoided.
1.3.1. What is transference of meaning?
By the term transference of meaning Nguyen Hoa (2001:64) refers to the situation when
one object is named and understood in terms of another. In other words, one word can
extend its meaning or narrow its meaning to refer to another object (another referent). Let’s
take an example to make this point clear:
Please put your hands on your head.
Such clever boy is the head of our group.
Salary in this company is rather high about $700 per head per month.
In the first sentence, the word “head” is used with its original meaning as a top part of a
body. The second sentence, however, employs the word differently when it does not refer
to a person’s head but a person who lead the whole group. For the head containing the
brain of the human beings has the function of controlling other parts of the human body.
Obviously, the leader here is named by a part of human body basing on the similarity of
function. The word “head” in the last example, otherwise, has transferred its meaning to
refer to a person basing on the part-whole relation.
The three sentences have shown us that one word can be used differently to name different
things because those things and the original referent of the word have somewhat relation.
The transference of meaning, like what we have discussed about language change and
semantic change, results both from linguistic and extra linguistic causes. In the process of
cognition of the world, and in the process of using language effectively and creatively,
human beings try to use one linguistic element to refer to different things. Besides, when
the new or the professional concepts come into life, language needs to be changed
There are various ways of transferring a word meaning into the new ones and all of those
base on certain relations or reasons. That explains why we are now having some means of
transference of meaning as mentioned in the following part.
1.3.2. Means of meaning transference
The transference of meaning thanks to variety means like metaphor, metonymy, hyperbole,
Metaphor is one of the basic type of semantic transference which bases on similarity
between the two objects (the domain and the target). We can call an object by the name of
another because we make a comparison between them and find some common features in
terms of shape, position, movement, function, colour, and size. In many cases we can liken
something to something else on certain grounds. This is the association of similarity. In
daily life, metaphor is considered as hidden comparison, i.e. there is no formal element of
Metonymy, on the orther hand, bases on the contiguity of notions. This is the main subject
of this study, so that we do not discuss in details in this part. All the related matters are left
to the next two chapters.
Hyperbole is an exaggerated statement not meant to be understood literally. Hyperbole’s
effect is really powerful in our communication. Talking about a bad situation someone has
experienced, people can say: “It’s a nightmare”. “A thousands thanks” is used to express
your appreciation to someone’s help.
Irony is the term which is taken from rhetoric to express meaning by words of opposite
sense. Here, it is important to note that intonation has a very essential role to play in
getting this message across. For example, if someone say to you that “You’ve got us into a
nice mess?”, you must bare in mind that “nice” does not actually mean “good” any more
Other types of transference of meaning involving litotes, expressing something in the
affirmative by the negative of its contrary, and euphemisms, expressing something
unpleasant by a milder expression.
Sometimes we may find an overlap between the uses of these means of semantic
transference. That refers to the situation when one word is used with their new meaning,
the under-relation can be analysed from different views or angles. The vivid example for
this can be found in the comparison between metonymy and metaphor in the next chapter.
Overall, language in general and its components like word meaning in particular is
changing day by day because of both linguistic and extra linguistic causes and with the
help of many powerful means. In the next chapters we will discuss in detail one of the most
basic means of transference of meaning called Metonymy.
The term metonymy, as defined by Nguyen Hoa, is the transference of meaning from one
object to another based on contiguity of notions, i.e. instead of the name of one object or
notion we use the name of another because these objects are associated and closely related:
“the kettle boils” instead of “the water in the kettle boils”, “crown” instead of “monarchy”.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, metonymy is defined from two different
perspectives. In rhetoric, metonymy is the substitution of one word for another word with
which it is associated. In cognitive linguistics, metonymy refers to the use of a single
characteristic to identify a more complex entity and is one of the basic characteristics of
cognition. It is common for people to take one well-understood or easy-to-perceive aspect
of something and use that aspect to stand either for the thing as a whole or for some other
aspect or part of it.
A few commonly used examples of metonymy are:
The British monarchy
Item of cookery
A course (in dining)
The news media
According to Galperin I.R., metonymy is based on a different type of relation between the
dictionary and contextual meanings, a relation based not on identification, but on some
kind of association connecting the two concepts which these meanings represent.
According to Sosnovskaya V.B., units of poetic speech called metonymy are also based
upon analogy. But in them there is an objectively existing relationship between the object
named and the object implied.
According to Kukharenko V.A., metonymy also becomes instrumental in enriching the
vocabulary of the language and it is based on contiguity (nearness) of objects or
So, according to those definitions, we can say that metonymy is a transference of meaning
based on a logical or physical connection between things. In metonymy a thing is
described by its action, its function or by some significant features. It is one of the means
of forming the new meanings of words in the language.
It is our familiarity with metonymy that makes He drank the whole bottle easy to
understand, although it sounds absurd literally (i.e. he drank the liquid, not the glass
object). We also accept The Whitehouse announced ... or Downing Street protested...
without being puzzled that buildings appear to be talking. We use metonymy when you
talk about filling up the car, having a roof over our head, answering the door, or needing
some wheels. If you see a mail delivery company called Spokes, you know, via metonymy,
how they are making those deliveries (i.e. by bicycle).
Many examples of metonymy are highly conventionalized and easy to interpret. However,
many others depend on an ability to infer what the speaker has in mind. The metonymy in
Get your butt over here is easier to understand if you are used to male talk in the United
States, the string are too quite if you are familiar with orchestral music, and I prefer cable,
if you have a choice in how you receive television programs (in the USA). Making sense
of such expressions often depends on context, background knowledge and inference.
In order to have deep understanding of metonymy, it is really important to make good
distinction between metonymy and metaphor which are two basic means of transference of
Metaphor and metonymy are both figures of speech where one word may be used in place
of another. However, especially in cognitive science and linguistics, the two figures of
speech work very differently. Roman Jakobson (2002) argued that they represent two
fundamentally different ways of processing language.
Metonymy works by the contiguity (association) between two concepts, whereas metaphor
works by the similarity between them. When people use metonymy, they do not typically
wish to transfer qualities from one referent to another as they do with metaphor: there is
nothing crown-like about the king, press-like about reporters or plate-like about an entrée.
Two examples using the term “fishing” help make the distinction clear (example drawn
from Dirven, 1996). The phrase “to fish pearls” uses metonymy, drawing from “fishing”
the idea of taking things from the ocean. What is carried across from “fishing fish” to
“fishing pearls” is the domain of usage and the associations with the ocean and boats, but
we understand the phrase in spite of rather than because of the literal meaning of fishing:
we know you do not use a fishing rod or net to get pearls and we know that pearls are not,
and do not originate from, fish.
In contrast, the metaphorical phrase “fishing for information”, transfer the concept of
fishing into a new domain. If someone is “fishing” for information, we do not imagine that
they are anywhere near the ocean, rather we transfer elements of the action of fishing
(waiting, hoping to catch something that cannot be seen) into a new domain (a
conversation). Thus, metonymy works by calling up a domain of usage and an array of
associations (in the example above, boats, the ocean, gathering life from the sea) whereas
metaphor picks a target set of meanings and transfers them to a new domain of usage.
To sum up, we can look at the table below:
A phrase that is silently related to the
concept is substituted for the concept.
A whole domain mapped to another
Transfer of qualities from source to target
However, metaphor and metonymy can both be at work in the same figure of speech
sometimes, or one could interpret a phrase metaphorically or metonymically. For example,
the phrase “lend me your ear,” could be analysed in a number of ways. We could imagine
the following interpretations:
Metonymy only: Firstly we can analyse “ear” metonymically which means “attention”
(because we use ears to pay attention to someone’s speech). Now when we hear the phrase
“lending ear (attention)”, we stretch the base meaning of “lend” (to let someone borrow an
object) to include the “lending” of non-material things (attention).
Metaphor only: Imagine the whole phrase literally – the speaker now has a collection of
the listeners’ ears at his disposal. If he were to have such a collection, the listeners could
not help but listen to what the speaker has to say. We then analyse this complete image
metaphorically to mean that the speaker wants the listeners to pay attention.
Metaphor and metonymy: First, analyse the verb phrase “lend me your ear” metaphorically
to mean “turn your ear in my direction,” since we know that literally lending a body is
nonsensical. Then, analyse the motion of ears metonymically – we associate “turning ears”
with “paying attention”, which is what the speaker wants the listeners to do.
It is difficult to say which of the above analyses most closely represents the way a listener
interprets the expression, and it is possible that the phrases is analysed in different ways by
different listeners, or even by one and the same listener at different times. Regardless, all
three analyses yield the same interpretation; thus, metaphor and metonymy, though quite
different in their mechanism, can work together seamlessly.
According to Alexey, A. L. in his article “The metonymic way of an attributive description
http://www.inst.at/trans/15Nr/04_09/lukyanov15.htm, there are three types of metonymy.
2.3.1. Direct, or primary, metonymy
Direct metonymy is the direct transference of the meaning to the object on the basis of
association with the subject itself. For example:
"We could hear the cheery clatter of our knives, the laughing voices..." [J.K. Jerome]