If a sentence or a word meaning is figurative, it expresses one thing and means another.
To illustrate this idea, we will use the example given by Deirdre Wilson and Robyn Carston in Metaphor and relevance. The literal meaning of the sentence 'Caroline is a princess' is that Caroline is a female member of a royal family. On the other hand, the figurative meaning would be that Caroline is a somewhat spoiled or indulged girl, used to being given special treatment, having her wishes granted, having people defer to her, being exempt from ordinary, everyday chores, etc.
Literal or figurative meaning takes place at lexical (lexical items), grammatical (sentences) and pragmatic level (utterances). Lexemes can be word-lexemes, such as dog, word-forms, such as dogs, or phrasal lexemes, such as put up with, pig in a poke, red herring, etc. These kind of lexemes tend to be either grammatically or semantically idiomatic, or both: either their idiomatic distribution throughout the sentences of the language or their meaning is unpredictable from the syntactic and semantic properties of their constituents. When a semantically idiomatic phrasal lexeme, such as to kick the bucket, can be put into correspondence with a non-idiomatic phrasal expression, such as die, we way that the latter has a literal meaning, in contrast with the idiomatic, metaphorical or figurative meaning of the former.
1.1. Word levelFor Cruse, the default reading of a word is the one which comes to mind when the word is encountered out of context. Although this could be a valid principle for literalness, it might not always be a coincidence between default reading and...