The visual representation of metaphor: A social semiotic approach

Dezheng Feng, Kay L. O'Halloran

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Complementing cognitive theories which attribute the understanding of visual metaphors to situational and cultural contexts, this study adopts a social semiotic perspective to investigate how visual images themselves are constructed to cue conceptual metaphors. The visual realization of metaphors in representational, interactive and compositional meaning structures is elucidated based on Kress and van Leeuwen's (2006) visual grammar. It is found that most types of visual metaphor identified by cognitive linguists can be explained within the framework. Instances of visual metaphor in advertisements are analyzed in terms of their persuasive effects. It is concluded that the social semiotic framework is able to provide a comprehensive account of the visual realization of metaphor, and in addition, the study also offers a cognitive explanation of how resources like camera positioning and composition acquire meanings.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)320-335
Number of pages16
JournalReview of Cognitive Linguistics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 6 Dec 2013


  • Conceptual metaphor theory
  • Metafunctions
  • Social semiotics
  • Visual grammar
  • Visual metaphor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language


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