Metonymy and visual representation: towards a social semiotic framework of visual metonymy

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


This study proposes that metonymy is fundamental to visual meaning making and develops a social semiotic framework to elucidate how conceptual metonymies are realized in both static and moving images. While we all accept that visual images are iconic, this study demonstrates systematically that they are also indexical (i.e. metonymic), in terms of their representation of both objects/events and abstract concepts. Based on the social semiotic visual grammar of Kress and Van Leeuwen’s Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design (2006), systems of metonymy in actional, reactional, classificational and analytical processes are developed to map out the types of metonymies in visual representation. The metonymy systems bring a wide array of resources under a coherent framework for analysts to scrutinize the choices of representation in visual media such as comics, film and TV commercial. This study develops current theories of multimodal metaphor and metonymy, on the one hand, and provides new insights into the process of visual meaning making, on the other.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)441-466
Number of pages26
JournalVisual Communication
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2017


  • conceptual metaphor theory
  • multimodality
  • social semiotics
  • visual grammar
  • visual metonymy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


Dive into the research topics of 'Metonymy and visual representation: towards a social semiotic framework of visual metonymy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this