Intentionality and constraint in conceptual blending

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This chapter proposes a systems-theoretic adjustment to conceptual blending theory with respect to the so-called generic space. In creative conceptualization, the generic space is not an optional by-product of conceptual mappings across previously and otherwise constituted input spaces, but rather their effective cause, and not by selecting for them but by massively constraining against anything not them. As a first approximation of the blend’s targeted or intended meaning, the generic space functions as an indispensable “proto-blend” that sets the parameters and satisfaction conditions for the resulting conceptual network. This underappreciated point is elaborated through case studies of three well-known and increasingly complex creative blends: A sentence-level metaphor (“This surgeon is a butcher!”), an extemporaneous discourse exchange (from the live radio talk show “Loveline”), and a highly iconic lyric poem (Richard Wilbur’s “Piazza di Spagna, Early Morning”).

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