Functional MRI of conventional and anomalous metaphors in Mandarin Chinese

Kathleen Virginia Ahrens, Ho Ling Liu, Chia Ying Lee, Shu Ping Gong, Shin Yi Fang, Yuan Yu Hsu

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

102 Citations (Scopus)


This study looks at whether conventional and anomalous metaphors are processed in different locations in the brain while being read when compared with a literal condition in Mandarin Chinese. We find that conventional metaphors differ from the literal condition with a slight amount of increased activation in the right inferior temporal gyrus. In addition, when the anomalous metaphor condition is compared with the literal condition, increased activation occurs bilaterally in the frontal and temporal gyri. Lastly, the comparison between the anomalous and conventional metaphor conditions shows bilateral activation in the middle frontal gyrus and the precentral gyrus, and right-hemisphere activation in the superior frontal gyrus. Left hemisphere activation is found in the inferior frontal gyrus and fusiform gyrus. The left hemisphere activation in the frontal and temporal gyri point to the recruitment of traditional language-based areas for anomalous metaphor sentences, while the right-hemisphere activation found suggests that remote associations are being formed. In short, our study supports the idea that metaphors are not a homogenous type of figurative language and that distinguishing between different types of metaphors will advance theories of language comprehension.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-171
Number of pages9
JournalBrain and Language
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Anomalous metaphors
  • Conventional metaphors
  • Functional MRI
  • Graded salience hypothesis
  • Mandarin Chinese
  • Novel metaphors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Speech and Hearing


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