The interaction between metaphor use and psychological states: a mix-method analysis of trauma talk in the Chinese context

Han Qiu

Research output: Unpublished conference presentation (presented paper, abstract, poster)Conference presentation (not published in journal/proceeding/book)Academic researchpeer-review


Abstract (if any) :
[allowable limit - 2000 characters in English]
Metaphors occur at a substantial rate in the description of intense and complex emotional feeling. A particularly interesting contexts is how people suffering from psychological trauma use metaphors to describe their thoughts and feelings. While the prevalence of metaphors in trauma talk has been widely acknowledged, the relationships between the two were rarely explored from a quantitative perspective. This study reports metaphor usage profiles of trauma victims as associations between key metaphor variables and investigates how the speaker’s overall degree of trauma could be predicted using these variables.

46 interviews with people who had experienced the 2019 social unrest in Hong Kong were analyzed. At the level of metaphor use, categorical data analysis was adopted to examine potential interactions between the metaphor variables. At the subject level, correlation analysis and multiple regression were performed to examine the relationship between trauma and metaphor use.

The results suggest that different target categories of metaphors show distinct preferences toward novel and conventional metaphors and toward different emotional valence. Negative metaphors, metaphors about the self, others, personal situation, and those from the observer perspective were found to be relevant to the experience of trauma.

The findings show how metaphor usage patterns that are invisible to qualitative analyses could meaningfully inform the study of metaphors and the understanding of trauma. The interpretation of quantitative patterns from a discourse analytic perspective further promotes the translation of quantitative observations into practical evaluation and the treatment of trauma. We also show how statistical methods with different theoretical underpinnings may generate complementary insights into the interplay between trauma and metaphor and lead to a deeper understanding of the complex, dynamic nature of metaphor use.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021
Event Postgraduate Research Symposium on Linguistics, Language, and Speech - The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hung Hom, Hong Kong
Duration: 18 Jun 202119 Jun 2021


Conference Postgraduate Research Symposium on Linguistics, Language, and Speech
Abbreviated titlePRSLLS
Country/TerritoryHong Kong
CityHung Hom
Internet address


  • metaphor usage profiles
  • post-traumatic symptoms
  • psychometric variables
  • image schemas


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