I'd like to understand the correct meaning(s) of the word literal. And by literal, I mean to ignore the colloquial pollution of the word in which one uses it to mean "virtually".
According to a dictionary, "literal" means "taking words in their usual or most basic sense without metaphor or allegory."
So does this mean, a literal interpretation is one that is
- according to the dictionary,
- according to the most primitive senses of the words in the dictionary,
- or both 1. and 2. depending on how literal is being used.
Example: "I look at tennis as a means of exercise."
- "I gaze at tennis as a means of exercise."
- "I regard tennis as a means of exercise."
The first interpretation is meant to take look in its most basic or simplest form. So look means "to gaze" and nothing else. If this is the way we interpret literal, then the second interpretation would be non-literal.
In the second interpretation, look is interpreted in a dictionary sense. So literal means according to the dictionary.
Another example, a literal translation of text is usually interpreted as a naive word-for-word translation, using the most basic senses of the words. And finally, expository writing is usually interpreted literally, but in this case, meaning according to the dictionary.
So is it really 1. and 2.?