The book Metonymy and Word-Formation: Their Interactions and Complementation by
Mario Brdar examines numerous ways in which metonymy and word formation
interact and complement each other. They both play a very important role in
enriching vocabulary. However, both processes have been marginalized to some
extent: word-formation in grammar and metonymy in cognitive linguistics.
The book is organized in seven chapters. The first chapter is a brief overview of
word-formation processes. Chapter 2 is a detailed account of metonymy, its
definitions, approaches and types. Chapter 3 discusses a variety of views on the
scope of metonymy in grammar. Chapters 4 and 5 describe the interaction of metonymy
with non-concatenative and concatenative word-formation, respectively.
Chapter 6 shows how metonymy and word formation complement (or block)
each other, and, finally, Chapter 7 gives concluding remarks.
The introductory chapter (1-28) presents an overview of lexicalization processes.
The author starts with less common word-formation strategies, such as onomatopoeia,
deliberate word manufacture (e.g. quark in physics, cowabunga, blurb etc.
(6-7)), and linguistic borrowing. Then he moves on to the word formation
processes we use more often, such as affixation and other ways of modifying the
morphological and phonological structure of words. An overview of morphemes
and morphological processes commonly found in English, such as affixation,
compounding, clipping, blending and back-formation is followed by description
and examples of several morphological processes found only in some non-Indo-
European languages. In addition to description and cross-linguistic analysis, the
book also contains explanations about historical development and motivation.
Chapter 2, “Metonymy” (29-64), describes types, functions and roles of metonymy
in grammatical processes. This chapter offers an overview of a cognitivelinguistic
approach to metonymy, which started with Lakoff & Johnson (1980)
and Radden & Kövecses (1999). These first definitions of metonymy have been
questioned these days, as the new studies reveal that metonymy is much more
complex than it was initially presented. Nowadays, there is an array of new and
diverse definitions and opinions of metonymy, and most of those who write
about this phenomenon disagree on a number of issues. This chapter also
explains metonymy by contrasting it with metaphor on several levels: number of
mappings, domains, directionality and functions. It also discusses diverse
approaches to many different types of metonymy and their properties. After this
detailed overview, Brdar raises interesting questions regarding these early
definitions, as they seem to fail to encompass the complex nature of metonymic
processes. New studies show that metonymic processes are much more complex
than the simple one-way traffic from the vehicle/source domain to the target
domain. The author even raises doubts as to the actual existence of a mapping in
a metonymic process. He offers a more complex definition of metonymy, which
better explains a number of facts observed in recent research, and captures the
dynamic nature of metonymy. According to the author, the focus of the earlier
studies of metonymy was predominantly on its referential nature, while its
pragmatic and grammatical effects have been disregarded. Although there are
numerous studies of the role of metaphor in grammar and metaphorical
extensions of grammatical categories, the role of metonymy in grammar has been
neglected, partly because of the misconception that metonymy has hardly any
impact on grammar. This chapter proves the opposite by providing examples of
the effect of metonymy on grammar such as anaphora and change of countability
Chapter 3, “Metonymy and Word Formation” (65-72), presents two opposing
views on what counts as metonymy in grammar. On the one hand, there is the
position represented by Janda, Colman, Anderson, Basilio and Nesset that all
affixed lexemes (derivations and inflections) are metonymies. These authors use
the term word-formation metonymies, in order to distinguish them from lexical
metonymies. On the other hand, there is the central hypothesis in this book, the
opposite of Janda’s standpoint: metonymic operations and word-formation processes
are not simultaneous – metonymy may either precede or follow a wordformation
process. Both metonymy and word-formation recycle existing items,
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but in different ways. Metonymy and metaphor recycle the existing lexemes in a
way that maximizes polysemy. On the other hand, word-formation processes
create new lexical items. With word-formation processes, we have more lexical
items to store in our mental lexicon. The chapter concludes with the statement
that metonymy and word-formation are different phenomena which interact with
Chapter 4, “Metonymy and Non-Concatenative Word Formation” (73-138), deals
with metonymy and non-concatenative word formation: abbreviation, backderivation,
clipping, blending, and conversion, which, unlike concatenative
processes, can occur at the same time as metonymy. Several views on the
relationship between abbreviation and metonymy are presented here: Radden &
Kövecses (1999) treat abbreviations as FORM (A) – CONCEPT (A) FOR FORM (B) –
CONCEPT (A) metonymy, meaning that two forms are used for the same concept;
Barcelona (2005, 2007, 2012), regards these processes as a SALIENT PART OF THE
FORM FOR THE WHOLE FORM metonymy, which Brdar considers problematic as
some instances of abbreviations (and acronyms) do not fit in. Finally, Brdar
concludes that the metonymic link between the abbreviation and the full form is
very weak, if it exists at all. When it comes to backderivation, the author criticizes
the attitude that backformations are instances of metonymy (e.g. donation>donate
as OBJECT FOR ACTION metonymy). Brdar believes that some conditions for
metonymy are not met in this case, one of them being invariance of form.
Therefore, similar to derivation, metonymy occurs before or after the process of
backderivation. The situation is the same with clipping. Lexical blending is
difficult to define and it is difficult to determine its scope. Brdar regards lexical
blending as ”a cluster of related phenomena exhibiting family resemblance”
(105). If metonymy is involved in lexical blends, it occurs on the inputs of blends,
before the word-formation process. Another process which is difficult to define
and whose scope is problematic is conversion. One of the problems with
analysing conversions is that sometimes it is difficult to determine which word
was an input and which one was derived. Many studies have proved that
conversions are often motivated by metonymy.
Chapter 5, “Metonymy and Concatenative Word Formation” (139-196), examines
the interplay between metonymy and concatenative word-formation processes –
compounding and suffixation. The author’s standpoint in this respect is that
metonymy and concatenative word-formation processes cannot take place
simultaneously, as some linguists claim. In his opinion, metonymic shifts take
place either before suffixation or compounding or after – or both. The author first
discusses the relationship between metonymy and compounds. His discussion of
endocentric compounds shows how metonymic processes either prepare the
ground for compounding or follow it. The analysis of exocentric compounds
focuses on baruvrihi compounds, in which neither constituent nor its head refer
to the entity named, but the relationship between the constituents and the
referent can be explained by metonymy. Metonymic operations take place either
at the level of compound constituents or at the level of the composite expression
as the whole word, i.e. before or after compounding. The discussion about the
relationship of metonymy and suffixation is largely a criticism of Janda and some
other authors (e.g. Nesset, Colman, and Anderson), who believe that suffixation,
prefixation and compounding are all instances of metonymy. Brdar believes that
this approach would lead to an unconstrained use of the notion of ‘metonymy’.
He agrees with Koch (2001) that a precondition for metonymy is morpho-lexical
invariance, which in these cases is not met. According to him, morphological
processes such as derivation, compounding and inflection are instances of
contiguity relations, but not metonymy. Brdar explains how Janda came to regard
instances of suffixation as metonymy by reformulating Kövecses and Radden’s
(1999) definition of metonymy and uses the words with the prefix un- to prove
her wrong. According to Brdar, it is not suffixes that exhibit metonymy, and
produce polysemy, but whole words (either words functioning as bases or
derived words). According to Brdar, Janda also fails to notice that metonymies
come in networks, and are organized in sequences with nodes that may branch
out at certain points. Suffixes may come to be seen as polysemous or polyfunctional
as a result of generalization, because specific complex words containing
them are polysemous or polyfunctional. Brdar gives a number of networks
of polysemy to illustrate this. In conclusion, the author says that there is
substantial evidence that concatenative word formation processes such as
affixation and compounding interact in interesting ways with metonymy, but
they are not simultaneous (196).
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While Chapters 3-5 show how metonymy and word formation can interact and
facilitate each other, Chapter 6, “How Metonymy and Word-Formation
Complement Each Other” (197-218) deals with the ways in which metonymy and
word formation complement (or block) each other. In this Chapter, Brdar uses
cross-linguistic analyses to illustrate how metonymy can be blocked by affixation
or compounding. He first gives an in-depth cross-linguistic analysis of nouns
denoting meat of animals, fish, and parts of animals in order to show various
strategies languages use. This analysis is followed by a cross-linguistic analysis of
metonymic uses of nouns denoting different kinds of metal, which shows how
some derivation and compounding processes block metonymy in some
languages, while this metonymy is freely used in others. While some wordformation
processes can block metonymy, the opposite is also possible. In the
end, Chapter 7, “Concluding Remarks” (219-221) briefly summarizes the conclusions
of the previous chapters.
The central hypothesis of the book is that conceptual metonymy and word
formation do not work in unison, and that one does not automatically trigger the
other. Word-formation and metonymy do interact with each other, but they are
different phenomena. The author supports his arguments using data, mainly
from the English language. The English data is complemented with data findings
from Slavic, Romance, Germanic, Uralic, and other languages. In this way, this
predominantly English-oriented study is enriched by a cross-linguistic perspective.
The findings and the ideas expressed in this book challenge some
established standpoints found in linguistic literature about word formation
processes and metonymies.
For readers relatively new to the topic, the book has a very valuable chapter
about metonymy. It presents the definitions of metonymy, and its types and
functions found in the most recent cognitive-linguistic studies. The readers who
are informed about the developments in this field will find interesting new perspectives,
as the author challenges some widely accepted definitions of metonymy.
He believes that the existing definitions do not properly cover its
Descriptions of meanings and uses of words resulting from lexical processes are
meticulous, precise and detailed, and they include different varieties and regional
dialects of English. The in-depth semantic analysis of word formation in English
is enriched with cross-linguistic perspectives.
The study of the role of metonymy in developing new meaning of words and
borrowing process uses both historical data and latest development in word
formation. The author discusses a lot of theoretical and methodological issues
regarding definition and categorization of word-formation processes, presenting
many approaches, and gives critical evaluation of some prominent writers.
To conclude, the book is a systematic and well-developed account about the
interaction of metonymy and word-formation. It provides a solid theoretical
framework and new insights into the problem, and opens a number of questions
challenging some established and widely accepted views. I believe that linguists
interested in metonymy and grammar will find this book an inspiring literature
for their future research.
Basilio, Margarida (2009): “The role of metonymy in word formation: Brazilian
Portuguese agent noun constructions”, in: Panther, Klaus-Uwe/Thornburg,
Linda L./Barcelona, Antonio (eds.): Metonymy and metaphor in grammar,
Barcelona, Antonio (2005): “The multilevel operation of metonymy in grammar
and discourse, with particular attention to metonymic chains”, in: Ruiz de
Mendoza Ibáñez, Francisco José/Peña Cervel, M. Sandra (ed.): Cognitive
Linguistics: Internal Dynamics and Interdisciplinary Interaction, Berlin/New
Barcelona, Antonio (2007): “The multi-level role of metonymy in grammar and
discourse: A case study”, in: Kosecki, Krzysztof (ed.): Perspectives on
Metonymy: Proceedings of the International Conference ‘Perspectives on
Metonymy’, held in Łódź, Poland, May 6-7, 2005, Frankfurt am Main u.a., 103-
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Barcelona, Antonio (2012): “Metonymy in, under and above lexicon”, in: Martín
Alegre, Sara/Moyer, Melissa/Pladevall, Elisabet/Tubau, Susagna (eds.): At
a Time of Crisis: English and American Studies in Spain. Works from the 35th
AEDEAN Conference, Barcelona, 254-271.
Colman, Fran/Anderson, John (2004): “On metonymy as word-formation: With
special reference to Old English”, in: English Studies 85, 547-565.
Janda, Laura A. (2010): “The role of metonymy in Czech word-formation”, in:
Slovo a slovesnost 71, 260-274.
Janda, Laura A. (2011): “Metonymy in word formation”, in: Cognitive Linguistics
Koch, Peter (2001): “Metonymy: Unity in diversity”, in: Journal of Historical
Pragmatics 2, 201-244.
Lakoff, George/Johnson, Mark (1980): Metaphors We Live By, Chicago/London.
Nesset, Tore (2010): „The art of being negative: Metonymical morphological
constructions in contrast“, in: Oslo Studies in Language 2, 261-279.
Radden, Günther/Kövecses, Zoltan (1999): “Towards a Theory of Metonymy”,
in: Panther, Klaus-Uwe/Radden, Günther (eds.): Metonymy in Language and
Thought, Amsterdam/Philadelphia, 17-66.