Why Figurative Language: Perceived Discourse Goals for Metaphors and Similes by L2 Learners

Document Type: Research Article


Shahrekord University, Iran


The goal of this study was to investigate the kinds of discourse goals that Iranian EFL learners perceive as the most probable reasons behind the utterance of figurative language, metaphors and similes, with reference to 4 independent variables of Figure Type (Metaphor or Simile), Tenor Concreteness (Concrete or Abstract), Context (List Format or Story), and Modality (Oral, Written, and Both). The participants were presented with 16 sentences, featuring both metaphors and similes, and they were asked to mark as many 12 discourse goals as possible they believed to be the reasons for their production. The results indicated that most of the participants leaned towards the choice of Compare Similarities for the similes as the best candidate for describing the intention of the writer or the speaker, signifying the effect of the independent variable Figure Type. The factor of Context influenced the choice of the discourse goals Provoke Thought, Get Attention, Clarify, and Contrast Differences, while the factor of Modality affected only Add Emphasis. Also, 3 goals of Add Interest, Clarify, and Show Positive Emotion turned out to have significant interaction with Tenor Concreteness.