Promoting filial piety through public service advertising: A multimodal discourse analysis approach

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Filial piety is a basic value in Chinese culture and has been a prominent theme in China's televised public service advertisements (PSAs). This study takes a multimodal discourse analysis approach to study such PSAs promoting filial piety. We consider filial values as represented through characters' emotions and attributes, which are realized by linguistic and visual resources on the one hand and shaped by the broader sociocultural context on the other. An explicit framework based on the attitude schema is developed to systemically describe the realization of social values in multimodal discourse. Analysis shows that filial values are mainly realized through verbal and visual representation of reciprocal love between the parent and the son/daughter, as well as filial behaviors of the latter. Our contextual analysis conceptualizes the filial piety PSAs as a form of discursive governance and finds that PSAs resort to two main persuasive strategies, namely emotionalization and moralization, which are results of media marketization and internationalization. We find that promoting filial piety serves China's governance by addressing two needs of the authority: The practical need of supporting the elderly and the spiritual need of moral reconstruction and reinforcing cultural identity in contemporary China.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)581-603
Number of pages23
JournalChinese Semiotic Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2022


  • attitude
  • China
  • discursive governance
  • moral reconstruction
  • PSA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication


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