SIMILES, COMPARISONS, METAPHORS AND FIGURATIVENESS
One of the main characteristics of the existing literature on similes in English and in French is the diverse denominations that have been given to this particular figure. Two broad traditions emerge: one which uses a supra-figure to refer to similes and one which specifies the type of similes discussed. Generally speaking, the first group of authors considers similes subtypes of either comparisons or metaphors. If we look at publications in English such as “Understanding metaphorical comparisons” (Glucksberg & Keysar, 1990), “Poetic Comparisons: How Similes Are Understood” (Gargani, 2014), the title immediately clarifies what they are about: they are centred around a particular type of comparisons and intuitively, the reader knows that those comparisons are what is generally referred to as similes. In French, it is less obvious; since French does not have a specific word for similes, it must rely on the term “comparaison” which at times, can be fairly confusing. In a title such as “La structure des comparaisons dans Madame Bovary” (Pistorius, 1971), it is only the context of usage that can make one infer that the article is going to talk about similes because it is supposed that those are the most interesting comparative structures to study in a novel. Similarly, calling similes metaphors, could also at times be baffling and is often criticised by purists. In fact, it all goes down to the school of thought to which one adheres. Therefore, to be sure, a reader interested in similes must either peruse such a text in order to see if it includes similes or must look for a sentence which states whether or not similes, in that text, are discussed as types of metaphors. For Genette (1970), this metonymical tendency can be attributed to modern theoreticians who see similes as an elongated form of metaphors, such as Proust who constantly labels as metaphors structures that are mere similes.
In addition, depending on the researchers, similes have been described as “non-poetic” (Fishelov, 1993), “poetic” (Cohen, 1968; Fishelov, 1993), “figurative” (Shabat Bethlehem, 1993) or “creative” (Veale, 2012; Niculae, 2013). The chosen adjectives, of course, raise some questions: does “poetic” imply that these similes are found in poetry or that they have a certain lyrical value? Are similes found in poetic texts different from those found in novels, plays and in other non-fictional texts? Furthermore, if the simile is a figure of speech, is it not redundant to call it “figurative”? Does it mean that there are also non-figurative similes and in this case, are they still figures of speech? And by the way, what does one mean by figurative? Finally, are creative similes more worthy of interest than other similes?
In order to provide suitable answers to these questions, this chapter will investigate the relationship between similes and comparisons, similes and metaphors, and similes and figurativeness.
Comparison: Semantics and Syntax
The term “comparison” can have several acceptations in the language: it can designate a figure of speech, and in this sense, it describes linguistic unit, but it can also refer to a cerebral act, to the psychic act of sensing dissimilarities between distinct elements (Stutterheim, 1941).
Le Guern (1973) points out how the polysemy of the term “comparison” is problematic for grammarians as it corresponds to two different Latin concepts: comparatio and similitudo. While the term comparatio is used in relation to the act of comparing in general, its counterpart similitudo, which has the same etymological root as the English term “simile”, is devoted to resemblance and in some rare cases to analogy (Berteau, 1980).
Comparison in Rhetoric
Comparisons in rhetoric oppose two concepts either based on logic or based on the syntagmatic order (Berteau, 1979). If Aristotle (trans. 1926, 1984) does not explicitly define what a comparison is, he, however, highlights its importance by stating several of its applications in everyday life:
– in a debate, comparing one’s ideas to those of the other party could help to prove a point;
– while making a value judgment, comparison helps to decide what is the better good;
– contrasting the similarities and the differences between a group of things enables to discover their distinctive or relative properties so as to classify them based on their shared attributes;
– when using inductive or analogical reasoning, a conclusion about a phenomenon can be inferred by taking into account already known similar situations.
In Latin rhetorical texts, several terms convey the idea of comparison: comparatio, similitudo, collatio, simile, imago, exemplum, with similitudo being by far the most used both by Cicero and Quintilian (Tucker, 1998; Norton, 2013). In Rhetorica ad Herennium (trans. Caplan, 1954), similitudo is defined as “a manner of speech that carries over an element of likeness from one thing to a different thing” (p. 377). Similarly, Cicero (trans. 1856a) sees similitudo as the process of stating two things as being opposed or equivalent to one another, such as in: “For as a place without a harbour cannot be safe for ships, so a mind without integrity cannot be trustworthy for a man’s friends” (p. 276). Following Aristotle’s steps, both Cicero (trans. 1856b) and Quintilian (trans. 1876) see the comparison not only as a proof but also as a source from which new arguments could be derived. It is also worth noting that both rhetoricians differentiate between arguments relying on a comparison, those relying on similarities and those relying on dissimilarities.
Despite the inconsistency of the Latin terminology, Latin rhetoricians appear to treat the similitudo-argument and similitudo-ornament (often imago) as the two faces of the same coin. In this respect, the restrained sense of the concept similitudo only becomes prevalent afterwards. Pechaum (1593), for example, though heavily influenced by Cicero from whom he borrows various examples, establishes a clear distinction between the comparatio, the similitudo and the dissimilitudo (see Table 2.1). Moreover, he classifies under the label comparatio, among others the antithesis (“He is gone but yet by a gainful remove, from painful labour to quiet rest, from unquiet desires to happy contentment, from sorrow to joy, and from transitory time to immortality”), the antimetabole (“Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man”) and the correctio (“But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage”). A closer look at these other figures based on comparison shows that the comparison there is rather veiled and implicit, unlike the examples given for the comparatio.
Unlike what happens in the palaestra, where he who receives the laming torch is swifter in the relay race than he who hands it on, the new general who receives command of an army is not Embellishment, superior to the general who retires from its command. For in the Contrast one case it is an exhausted runner who hands the torch to a fresh athlete, whereas in this it is an experienced commander who hands over the army to an inexperienced.
Neither can an untrained horse, however well-built by nature, be fit for the services desired of a horse, nor can an uncultivated Proof man, however well-endowed by nature, attain to virtue.
In maintaining a friendship, as in a foot-race, you must train yourself not only so that you succeed in running as far as is Clarity required, but so that, extending yourself by will and sinew, you easily run beyond that point.
Let us imagine a player on the lyre who has presented himself on the stage, magnificently garbed, clothed in a gold-embroidered robe, with purple mantle interlaced in various colours, wearing a golden crown illumined with large gleaming jewels, and holding a lyre covered with golden ornaments and set off with ivory. Further, he has a personal beauty, presence, and stature that impose dignity. If, when by these means he has roused a great expectation in the public, he should in the silence he has created suddenly give Vividness utterance to a rasping voice, and this should be accompanied by a repulsive gesture, he is the more forcibly thrust off in derision and scorn, the richer his adornment and the higher the hopes he has raised. In the same way, a man of high station, endowed with great and opulent resources, and abounding in all the gifts of fortune and the emoluments of nature, if he yet lacks virtue and the arts that teach virtue, will so much the more forcibly in derision and scorn be cast from all association with good men, the richer he is in the other advantages, the greater his distinction, and the higher the hopes he has raised.
He entered the combat in body like the strongest bull, in Praise impetuosity like the fiercest lion.
That wretch who daily glides through the middle of the Forum like a crested serpent, with curved fangs, poisonous glance, and fierce panting, looking about him on this side and that for someone to Censure blast with venom from his throat — to smear it with his lips, to drive it in with his teeth, to spatter it with his tongue.
That creature, who like a snail silently hides and keeps himself in Contempt his shell, is carried off, he and his house, to be swallowed whole.
That creature who flaunts his riches, loaded and weighed down with gold, shouts and raves like a Phrygian eunuch-priest of Envy Cybele or like a soothsayer.
In Rhetorica ad Herennium (trans. Caplan, 1954), whereas comparisons are presented in terms of their pragmatic purposes, similes are classified according to the emotions they wish to convey (see Table 2.2), which seems to reinforce the idea that a certain amount of subjectivity characterises similes. In addition, from a structural point of view, these translated examples of comparisons are expressed with completely different and more diverse structures than the translated similes. This apparent dichotomy between similes and comparisons does not however mean that same construction cannot be applied to both figures as in the part dealing with the hyperbole, the following sentence, which is clearly a simile, is given as an example of a hyperbolic comparison:
Grammatical Expressions of Comparisons
Rather than being inferred by the sentence syntax, the expression of comparison in natural languages is first and foremost semantic. Phrasal comparatives can fulfil various pragmatic purposes and correspond to a whole range of syntactic structures:
– inequality: Les femmes travaillent plus que les hommes.
– equality: Son livre est aussi drôle qu’un film comique.
– prevalence: Il vaut mieux un mari alcoolique qu’un mari infidèle.
– preference: Il a préféré la mort au déshonneur
– resolved alternative: Un bon croquis, plutôt qu’un long discours !
– similarity: Il ment comme un arracheur de dents
– analogy : Elle a filé, telle une flèche.
– identity: Il a le même pull que son frère.
– alterity: J’ai d’autres modèles que cette robe. (Fuchs, 2014).
According to Cohen (1968), the canonical simile form is derived from a comparison of the type “La terre est ronde comme une orange” or “the earth is round like an orange”. Both sentences fall under what is generally called the comparative degree of the adjective. Despite the multiple structures to which the comparison may correspond, the study of the phenomenon of comparison in Indo-European grammars has been mostly focused on the morphological features of the comparative degree of the adjective and on comparative clauses (Bouverot, 1969; Rivera, 1990). The study of the comparative degree of adjectives has also nurtured linguistic research on language typology as well as on language universals.
Typically, in almost all languages of the world, apart from the marker of the comparison, a comparative structure is made up of the two elements that are compared and of the property in relation to which they are compared (Dixon, 2005). In this respect, in English and in French, comparative constructions consist of:
(1) the “item that is compared”;
(2) the “standard of comparison” against which (1) is compared;
(3) the “quantity or quality” which is the property on which the comparison is based;
(4) the “standard marker” which states the relationship between (2) and (3);
(5) the “degree marker” which states to which extent (3) is present or absent in (1) in accordance with the amount of (3) in (2) (Ultan, 1972).
When both elements compared are noun phrases as it is in the case in the type of similes discussed in this thesis, Stassen (2013) proposes the terminology comparee NP for (1) and standard NP for (2). In addition, since English and French are both Subject-Verb-Object (SVO) languages, the syntax of their comparative constructions places the standard marker between the adjective and the standard NP (Greenberg, 1963).
The two sentences “Peaches are less sweet than pineapples” and “Mon fils est plus bavard que ma mère” can, therefore, be represented as follows:
Peaches are less sweet than pineapples
Mon fils est plus bavard que ma mère comparee degree quality / standard standard
NP marker quantity marker NP
Degree comparisons in English and in French can denote two types of relationships;
– equality and in this respect, it makes use of an equative;
– inequality further divided into relationships of superiority and of inferiority.
Table 2.3 presents all the comparatives and equatives used in English and French as well as their usage. In both languages, for comparisons of superiority, the adjective can be inflected and the degree marker omitted. In English, except when the adjective is a compound adjective such as “faithful”, has more than three syllables and in some cases two syllables, the comparative degree of an adjective can be formed by adding the suffix -er (Mason, 1874; Bain, 1879). As far as French is concerned, some adjectives and some adverbs have particular derivational forms: bon → meilleur, bien → mieux, mauvais → pis (Grevisse, 2001). The same can also be said of the comparative of some English adjectives: good → better, bad → worse, far → farther/further.
English and French have been said to have the same comparative construction as the standard NP must always be preceded by a specific comparative particle: “than” in English and “que” in French (Stassen, 2013). It is worth noting that the equative form in English uses “as” instead of “than” and even sometimes does not require any standard marker.
At the semantic level, in a typical comparative construction such as [s4] “Jean est plus intelligent que Max”, the standard marker establishes a scale between two degrees of the quality/quantity involved in the comparison (Bouchard, 2008). From sentence [s4], the following propositions can be deduced:
– Max is intelligent to some extent
– Jean is intelligent to some extent
– The extent to which Jean is intelligent surpasses the extent to which Max is intelligent.
With regard to the syntax of the comparative constructions in French, Grevisse (2001) observes that they are elliptical by nature as what has already been said, generally, the quantity or quality at the heart of the comparison is often not repeated. In this respect, as exemplified in Figure 2.1, to transform two main clauses expressing the same quality or quantity into a comparison or a simile, two main operations must take place: first, form a single sentence by inserting a comparison marker between the two clauses, and then, delete the verb phrase after the standard of comparison.
As far as English phrasal comparatives are concerned, Bresnan (1973) also notices the same, stating that the standard NP is not simply a complement but a fully fledged clause in which one or more constituents of the head of the comparative (the part of the sentence that starts after the comparee NP and ends with the quality/quantity) have been deleted. As illustrations, here are different underlying structures of comparative constructions:
a) “I’ve never seen a taller man than my father” → I’ve never seen a taller man than my father is tall a man.”
b) **“I’ve never seen a taller man than my mother” → “I’ve never seen a taller man than my mother is tall a man.”
c) John is older than Mary. → John is older than Mary is old.
d) John read more books than Mary. → John read more books than Mary read books.
e) More people bought books than magazines. → More people bought books than people bought magazines.
f) Peter introduced more people to Jack than John. → Peter introduced more people to Jack than he introduced to John.4
By reconstructing the full sentence, it is possible to better understand why the second sentence is not acceptable, as it implied the impossibility of the mother being a man. The syntax and semantics of comparative clauses are therefore closely connected to their underlying structure.
4 The first two examples are taken from Bresnan (1973, pp. 316-318) and the remaining examples from Lechner (2001, pp. 683-84, p. 720).
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Automatic Annotation of Similes in Literary Texts
Comparisons and Similes
With respect to the relationship they infer between the compared objects, Bredin (1998) distinguishes six types of comparisons which can each be transformed into a corresponding simile (see Table 2.4). It is worth noting that, in the proposed classification, similes do not only express similarities, but also dissimilarities, be it through negated similarity statements or through comparisons of inequality.
Comparisons of Inequality and Similes
At first glance, from a purely syntactic point of view, nothing differentiates comparisons from similes. However, even though Le Guern (1973) agrees that the French adverb “comme” can be used both in similes and comparisons, he affirms that other comparison markers cannot be used so freely: whereas “plus + adjective + que”, “moins + adjective + que, “aussi + adjective + que” always mark a comparison, “semblable à”, “pareil à” and “de même que” only introduce a simile. This difference in usage could be explained by the fact that the comparison is quantitative by nature, unlike the simile which is generally qualitative. In this respect, if in “Pierre est fort comme son père”, “comme’” highlights a mere comparison and means exactly the same as “aussi…que”, in “Pierre est fort comme un lion”, “comme” denotes a simile and cannot be understood as “Pierre est aussi fort qu’un lion”. The rationale behind this distinction is that the first “comme” assesses quantitatively Pierre’s and his father’s strength, whereas in the second case, Pierre’s strength is described by making reference to the lion, perceived as possessing a great amount of strength.
Similarly, De Mille (1878) distinguishes between three types of comparisons: the “comparison of degree”, the “comparison of analogy” and the “comparison of similarity” and considers only the latter two as similes (p. 106). By comparisons of degree, it is meant all structures that imply equality, superiority or inferiority, which means that all these comparisons are scalable. However, some of the examples given to sustain this interpretation are far from being convincing. As a matter of fact, “He is as brave as a lion” is listed as a non-simile unlike “He is like his father”. When drawing this distinction, De Mille (1878) seems to have been wrongly influenced by grammatical considerations and the fact that in English, “as…as” is used for equality.
Table of contents :
1.1 STYLISTICS AND THE STUDY OF LITERATURE
1.2 INTRODUCING RHETORICAL FIGURES
1.3 RHETORICAL FIGURES AND COMPUTER-ASSISTED STUDIES OF LITERARY TEXTS
1.4 SCOPE OF THE THESIS
1.5 MOTIVATION OF THE STUDY
1.6 ORGANISATION OF THE THESIS
2 SIMILES, COMPARISONS, METAPHORS AND FIGURATIVENESS
2.1 COMPARISON: SEMANTICS AND SYNTAX
2.1.1 Comparison in Rhetoric
2.1.2 Grammatical Expressions of Comparisons
2.2 COMPARISONS AND SIMILES
2.2.1 Comparisons of Inequality and Similes
2.2.2 Cognitive Accounts of Similes and Comparisons
2.3 FIGURATIVE SIMILES
2.4 METAPHOR AND SIMILES
3 COMPUTATIONAL APPROACHES TO SIMILE DETECTION
3.1 CHALLENGES OF COMPUTATIONAL DETECTION OF SIMILES
3.1.1 Markers’ Polysemy
3.1.2 Comparison and Ellipsis
3.2 COMPUTATIONAL APPROACHES
3.2.1 Automatic Detection of Comparatives
3.2.2 Detection and Analysis of Non-Literal Comparisons
3.2.3 Automatic Detection of Similes
4 SIMILE ANNOTATION
4.1.1 Types of Linguistic Annotations
4.1.2 The TEI as the Annotation Standard in the Humanities
4.2 SIMILE DESCRIPTION IN LITERARY STUDIES
4.2.1 The Structural Dimension ..
4.2.2 The Semantic Dimension
4.3 EXISTING CORPORA OF ANNOTATED COMPARISONS AND SIMILES
Automatic Annotation of Similes in Literary Texts
4 Suzanne Mpouli – November 2016
5 THE PROPOSED APPROACH
5.1 A GRAMMAR OF THE SIMILE
5.2 THE SYNTACTIC MODULE
5.3 THE SEMANTIC MODULE
5.4. THE ANNOTATION MODULE
6 TOWARDS AN ANNOTATED LITERARY CORPUS OF SIMILES
6.1 CORPUS PRESENTATION
6.2 EXPERTS’ ANNOTATION
6.3 THE CROWDSOURCING ANNOTATION PLATFORM
7 CORPUS-BASED APPLICATIONS
7.1 CORPUS DESCRIPTION
7.2 STEREOTYPICAL FROZEN LITERARY SIMILES
7.3 COLOURS AND SIMILES IN THE ENGLISH CORPUS
7.3.1 Why Study Colours in relation to Similes?
7.3.2 Basic Colour Terms and English Literature
7.3.3 Fully Fledged Colour Similes vs. Noun+CT Similes: Frequency and Stylistic Usage
7.3.4 Creativity and Noun+CT Similes
7.4 ON PROPER NOUNS IN COMPARATIVE CONSTRUCTIONS
8 CONCLUSION AND FUTURE WORK