Figurative and literal language is different methods used in conveying and analyzing language. Literal language refers to words that do not differ from their original definition. Figurative language refers to words or groups of words that exaggerate the meanings of the words. Figurative language is not used literally but instead involves similarities to concepts or other contexts; which results in a figure of speech. For example, “it’s raining hard outside” is literal and “it’s raining cats and dogs outside” is figurative. Figurative language can add excitement to words; however if it is not delivered correctly it can cause confusion. Below are some examples of the most common types of figurative language as well as their examples.
Idiom is a set expression of two or more words that means something other than the literal meanings of its individual words. The function of idioms is to make language richer and more colorful and to convey subtle shades of meaning or intention. Idioms are used often to replace a literal word or expression, and many times the idiom better describes the full nuance of the meaning. For example the expression, “Sally was pulling my leg” is more expressive than “Sally was teasing me.” Someone could potentially misunderstand this expression and really believe Sally was yanking on someone’s leg.
Analogy is drawing a comparison in order to show similarity in some respect. Analogy roles/functions are in problem solving, decision making, perception, memory, creativity, emotion, explanation and communication. Analogies spice up stories and are used because people pay attention when they are enjoying a story and are anxious to hear what’s coming up next. An example of an analogy is, “Sally is as stubborn as a mule.” This expression is used when describing the extent of someone’s stubbornness. Most people understand common analogies, but sometimes language barriers can cause a misunderstanding.
Metaphor is a figure of speech...
References: American Heritage Dictionary (2nd edition). (1982). Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company
Goodpastor, J.R., & Kirby, G.R. (2007). Thinking. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Amphiboly, (n.d.) Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amphibology
Euphemism, (n.d.). Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euphemism
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