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Users of English appear effortlessly to adjust their interpretations of such extended uses so that they make sense in a non-literal way. In other words, language competence seems to involve an ability both to construct and to understand figurative extensions, although there must be interpretative restrictions on the use of extended meanings. These restrictions seem simply to be that it must be possible to conceive of a situation that could reasonably be described by a given extended figurative usage. Needless to say, figurative extensions of the understandings of words and longer strings will not tamper with the inflectional networks and the syntactic frames of a language. Metonymic shortcuts are made possible by an obvious actual and practical connection between the literal referent(s) and the things or situation described by the metonymic extension. In other words: the basic sense and the metonymic understanding denote things that we know belong together out in the world. By comparison, a metaphorical extension comes about through perceived similarities between phenomena or situations that need not co-occur practically. The association behind a metaphorical extension is instead of a mental, imaginative kind. In the idiomatic expressions see (straight) into
somebody’s mind and see (right) through somebody quite complex conclusions concerning another person’s intentions, thoughts, or psychological reactions are described by means of a concretizing
comparison with the experience of seeing into, say, a room, or seeing through an open door or a glass pane of some kind, or perhaps even a so-called see-through article of clothing. Actually, I would hypothesize that metaphorical shifts exploiting a source meaning representing a concrete, quite specific and easily imagined scenario stand a better chance of remaining transparent also when they have become conventionalized, in particular if such a figurative reading does not have a substantial set of sense relations within an obvious lexical field which can support a more independent semantic status. In Swedish the compound bollplank stands literally for a fairly high, flat vertical piece of boards, often a part of a solid fence, which can be used to practice throwing and catching a ball.