The visual representation of metaphor

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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.


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