An exploratory fMRI study on metonymy and metaphor processing
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Metaphor and metonymy are believed to play a key role in human communication, language, and cognition. However, it remains unclear what neural mechanisms allow for their comprehension, and whether the brain regions involved during their processing reflect enhanced linguistic processing or inferential processes. Through the use of fMRI and two localizer tasks, for language and Theory-of- Mind, we investigated the mechanisms underlying the comprehension of metaphoric and metonymic language. Both types of figurative language elicited increased left-lateralized frontotemporal activity, with overlaps across regions belonging to both the Theory-of-Mind network and the language network. Metonymy processing additionally recruited the right inferior frontal gyrus, whereas metaphor comprehension downregulated the frontoparietal control system. Results are discussed in terms of the degree of semantic distance between the metaphoric and metonymic allusions and their referent.
Faculteit der Sociale Wetenschappen