Exploring the Comprehension Process of Nonliteral Utterances and Some Implications for Automaticity

Takahashi, Satomi
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THE ISSUE of the comprehension process of Ll indirect speech acts has long been debated among philosophers, linguists, and psychologists (cf. Levinson, 1983; Bach & Hamish, 1979). Specifically, their debates have been centering on the role of literal sentence meaning in processing indirect speech acts performed in native languages: is the intended illocutionary force of the indirect speech act identified indirectly from its literal sentence meaning or directly from the locution without interpreting its literal meaning first? An attempt has also been made to explicate the role of literal meaning in comprehending idioms and metaphors in native language situations both theoretically and empirically (cf. Gibbs, 1980, 1982, 1986; Ortony et al., 1978; Swinney & Cutler, 1979; and others). Here, a question arises as to how the same issue has been treated in the area of comprehension of L2 nonliteral utterances. Are L2 learners comprehending nonliteral utterances made in their target language in the same manner as native speakers? Are L2 learners computing the literal sentence meaning in comprehending L2 nonliteral utterances? In this paper, an attempt will be made, first, to review how researchers have been dealing with the ways in which a hearer is said to arrive at his/her interlocutor's intention when the latter is making nonliteral utterances-indirect speech acts, idioms, and a metaphors-in both L1 and L2 situations. Then, in the subsequent section, I will make a further attempt to present a design for a study of comprehension process of L2 nonliteral utterances in order to deepen our understanding in this area.
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