Emotions in Jimmy Liao’s Picturebook: A Case Study of Pictorial Metaphors

Author Information

Qi Xiaoyang,
Universiti Putra Malaysia, Malaysia

Roslina Mamat,
Universiti Putra Malaysia, Malaysia

DOI: 10.47298/cala2022.7-2
The GLOCAL Proceedings:  The GLOCAL Conference in Asia 2022


Pictorial and visual metaphors have been the subject of much conceptual metaphor theory (CMT) research since the 1990s, and possibly prior to that time. The graphic metaphor constitutes one category of multimodal metaphor, and hence suggests and requires an understanding of abstract concepts in visual information (Forceville 1996). A picturebook, for example, is a visual genre containing various such pictorial metaphors. It is generally acknowledged that picturebooks have narrative value, and convey emotions, while stimulating the reader’s intellectual and aesthetic affordances. These semiotic repertoires also contribute to health. As many people experienced solitude in the COVID pandemic, such semiotic banks provided a service.

This research examines the pictorial metaphors in ‘Beautiful Solitude,’ painted by the Chinese picturebook artist, Jimmy Liao, following his survival from leukaemia. The study employs Kovecses’s three-stage emotional metaphor framework; emotional motives, emotional existence, and emotional expression. The study observes the visual design grammar of the paintings as a theoretical framework to analyse these pictorial metaphors of emotion. The results of the study include the impact that these visual metaphors have on the portrayal and treatment of mental health. This study contributes to work on pictorial metaphors, and thus suggests ways in which individuals envisage self, other, and the world, when in pain and at times when they sense themselves as isolated from their surroundings and communities.

Keywords: Emotion, pictorial metaphors, solitude, Jimmy Liao, lifeworld, linguistic anthropology


Abdel-Raheem, A. (2019). Pictorial Framing in Moral Politics: A Corpus-Based Experimental Study. Routledge.
Bordwell, D., Thompson, K. and Smith, J. (2010). Film art: An Introduction (Vol. 9). New York: McGraw-Hill.
Boujena, O., Ulrich, I., Piris, Y. and Chicheportiche, L. (2021). Using Food Pictorial Metaphor in the Advertising of Non-food Brands: An Exploratory Investigation of Consumer Interpretation and Affective Response. Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, 62(102605).
Casasanto, D. (2009). Embodiment of Abstract Concepts: Good and Bad in Right- and Left-Handers. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 138(3): 351–367. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0015854
Charteris-Black, J. (2012). Shattering the Bell Jar: Metaphor, Gender, and Depression. Metaphor and Symbol, 27(3): 199-216.
Christopher, I. (2020). Metaphors about Wind – Symbolism and Metaphor. (n.d.). Retrieved May 1 2022, from https://symbolismandmetaphor.com/metaphors-about-wind/
Coegnarts, M. and Kravanja, P. (2016). Perceiving Causality in Character Perception: A Metaphorical Study of Causation in Film, Metaphor and Symbol, 31(2): 91-107, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10926488.2016.1150762
Coegnarts, M. (2019). Analysing Metaphor in Film: Some Conceptual Challenges. In I. N. i Ferrando (Ed.), Current Approaches to Metaphor Analysis in Discourse (Vol. 39, pp. 295–320). Walter de Gruyter GmbH.
Coplan, R. J., Zelenski, J., and Bowker, J. C. (2018). Well Enough Alone? The Costs and Benefits of Solitude. In J. E. Maddux (Ed.). Subjective Well-being and Life Satisfaction (pp. 129–147). New York: Routledge.
Dent-Read, C. H., Klein, G., and Eggleston, R. (1994). Metaphor in Visual Displays Designed to Guide Action. Metaphor and Symbolic Activity, 9(3): 211-232. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327868ms09034
Dossey, L. (2021). Isolation and Solitude in the Covid Era. EXPLORE, 17(1): 1–2. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.explore.2020.10.010
Fahlenbrach, K. (2017). Audiovisual Metaphors and Metonymies of Emotions and Depression in Moving Images. In F. Ervas, E. Gola and M. Rossi (Ed.), Metaphor in Communication, Science and Education (pp. 95-118). Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter Mouton. https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110549928-006
Feng, D. and O’Halloran, K. L. (2013). The Multimodal Representation of Emotion in Film: Integrating Cognitive and Semiotic Approaches. Semiotica, 197: 79–100. https://doi.org/10.1515/sem-2013-0082
Forceville, C. (1996). Pictorial Metaphor in Advertising. London: Routledge.
Forceville, C. (2002). The Identification of Ttarget and Source in Pictorial Metaphors. Journal of Pragmatics, 34(1): 1–14.
Forceville, C. (2009). New Directions in the Analysis of Multimodal Discourse. Journal of Pragmatics, 41(7): 1459–1463.
Forceville, C., and Urios-Aparisi, E. (2009). Introduction. In C. Forceville and E. Urios-Aprisi (Ed.). Multimodal Metaphor (pp. 4-17). Berlin and New York: Gruyter.
Forceville, C., and Urios-Aparisi, E. (2009). Applications of Cognitive Linguistics Multimodal Metaphor. Mouton de Gruyter.
Forceville, C. (2013). Metaphor and Symbol: Searching for One’s Identity is Looking for a Home in Animation Film. Review of Cognitive Linguistics, 11(2): 250–268. https://doi.org/10.1075/rcl.11.2.03for
Forceville, C. (2018). Visual and Multimodal Metaphor in Film. In K. Fahlenbrach (Ed.), Embodied Metaphors in Film, Television, and Video Games (pp. 17–32). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315724522-2
Forceville, C., and Paling, S. (2021). The Metaphorical Representation of Depression in Short, Wordless Animation Films. Visual Communication, 20(1): 100–120. https://doi.org/10.1177/1470357218797994
Górska, E. (2010). LIFE IS MUSIC: A Case Study of a Novel Metaphor and its Use in Discourse. English Text Construction, 3(2): 275–293. https://doi.org/10.1075/ETC.3.2.08GOR
Górska, E. (2019). Spatialisation of Abstract Concepts in Cartoons. A Case Study of Verbo-pictorial Image-schematic Metaphors. Current Approaches to Metaphor Analysis in Discourse (pp. 279–294). https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110629460-013
Greifenstein, S., Horst, D., Scherer, T., Schmitt, C., Kappelhoff, H. and Müller, C. (2018). Cinematic Metaphor in Perspective: Reflections on a Transdisciplinary Framework. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter. https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110615036
Gundorina, A. (2021). Metaphor as a Structural Principle of Modern Musical Notation. In T. Chernigovskaya, P. Eismont, and T. Petrova (Eds.), Language, Music, and Gesture:  Informational Crossroads (pp. 39-52). Springer Singapore.
Hampe, B. (2005). Image Schemas in Cognitive Linguistics: Introduction. From Perception to Meaning. Image Schemas in Cognitive Linguistics, 29: 1-12.
Johnson, M. (2013). The Body in the Mind: The Bodily Basis of Meaning, Imagination, and Reason. University of Chicago Press.
Kolovou, M., Shen, J. and Smith, B. E. (2021). Looping into Hyperspace: Mechanisms of Distributed Imagination during a Collaborative Multimodal Science Fiction Writing Project. Thinking Skills and Creativity, 40: 100819. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tsc.2021.100819
Kovecses, Z. (2000). The Concept of Anger: Universal or Culture Specific? Psychopathology, 33(4): 159–170. https://doi.org/10.1159/000029139
Kovecses, Z. (2004). Metaphor and Emotion: Language, Culture, and Body in Human Feeling (1st ed.). Cambridge University Press.
Kovecses, Z. (2008). Metaphor and Emotion. In Raymond W. Gibbs, Jr. (Ed.), the Cambridge Handbook of Metaphor and Thought (pp. 380–396). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kovecses, Z. (2020). Emotion Concepts in a New Light. Revista Italiana Di Filosofia Del Linguaggio, October: 42–54.
Kress, G., and van Leeuwen, T. (2021). Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design (3rd ed.). Routledge.
Lakoff, G. (1990). The Invariance Hypothesis: Is Abstract Reason Based on Image-schemas? Cognitive Linguistics, 1(1): 39–74.
Lakoff, G. and Johnson, M. (1980). The Metaphorical Structure of the Human Conceptual System. Cognitive Science, 4(2): 195-208.
Lakoff, G. and Kovecses, Z. (1987). The Cognitive Mode of Anger in American English. In D. Holland and N. Quinn (Eds.), Cultural Models in Language and Thought (pp. 195–221). Cambridge University Press.
Liao, J. (2012). Beautiful Solitude. Dolphin Press.
Long, C. R. and Averill, J. R. (2003). Solitude: An Exploration of Benefits of being Alone. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 33(1): 21–44.
Maass, A., Suitner, C., Favaretto, X. and Cignacchi, M. (2009). Groups in Space: Stereotypes and the Spatial Agency Bias. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45(3): 496–504. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2009.01.004
McManus, C. (2002). Right Hand, Left Hand: The Origins of Asymmetry in Brains, Bodies, Atoms and Cultures. Harvard University Press.
Moya-Guijarro, A. J. (2021). The Representation of Male Characters in three Challenging Picture Books: A Multimodal Study. Sintagma: Revista de Lingüística, 20: 101–116. https://doi.org/10.21001/sintagma.2021.33.06
Napitupulu, L. H., Bako, E. N., Ars, N. R. and Zein, T. (2018). A Multimodal Analysis of Advertisement of Online Marketplace Shopee. KnE Social Sciences, 3(4): 452. https://doi.org/10.18502/kss.v3i4.1955
Plowright, D. P. (2017). Qualitative Embodiment in English Architectural Discourse: Conceptual Metaphors and the Value Judgement of Space (Doctoral thesis, Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha). Facultad de Letras Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha Ciudad Real, Spain.
Poppi, F. and Kravanja, P. (2019). Sic Vita est: Visual Representation in Painting of the Conceptual Metaphor LIFE IS A JOURNEY. Semiotica, 230: 541-566. https://doi.org/10.1515/sem-2018-0009
Rajah, K. S. and Cheong, C. Y. M. (2022). Exploring the Literary Element ‘Mood’ in an Award-Winning Malaysian Picturebook: A Multimodal Analysis. Studies in English Language and Education, 9(2): 886–902. https://doi.org/10.24815/siele.v9i2.23575
Refaie, E. E. (2014). Looking on the Dark and Bright Side: Creative Metaphors of Depression in Two Graphic Memoirs. A/b: Auto/Biography Studies, 29(1): 149–174. https://doi.org/10.1080/08989575.2014.921989
Ruswardiningsih, D., and Djohan, R. S. (2020). An AQUA Advertisement’s Multimodal Discourse Analysis. International Journal of Linguistics, Literature and Translation, 5(1): 230–237. https://doi.org/10.32996/ijllt
Sari, V. W. and Noverino, R. (2021). A Multimodal Discourse Analysis in Pantene Advertisement. International Journal of Linguistics, Literature and Translation, 4(10): 21–30.
Schilperoord, J. and Maes, A. A. (2009). Visual Metaphoric Conceptualisation in Political Cartoons. In C. Forceville and E. Urios-Aparisi (Eds.), Multimodal Metaphor (pp. 215–242). Mouton De Gruyter.
Shi, X. (2016). Implications of Jimmy Liao’s Picturebooks and Their Translations for Theories of Crossover Narrative. Forum for World Literature Studies, 8(3): 90–97.
Sood, R., Varma, H., Pandey, K., Jain, S., Sriram, D. and Guglani, A. S. (2022). Predicting loneliness from sSocial Media text Using Machine Learning Technique. In S. Jain, K. Pandey, P. Jain and P. K. Seng (Eds.), Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Mental Health in Pandemics (pp. 259-275). Academic Press.
Suparno, D. and Kusumoriny, L. A. (2020). The Semiotics Analysis on the Environment in ‘The Journey to Atlantis’ Picture Book. Lexeme: Journal of Linguistics and Applied Linguistics, 2(1): 1–10. https://doi.org/10.32493/ljlal.v2i1.6986
Younes, A. S., Rahman, A. and Altakhaineh, M. (2022). Metaphors and Metonymies used in Memes to Depict COVID-19 in Jordanian Social Media Websites. Ampersand, 9: 100087. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amper.2022.100087
Zbikowski, L. M. (2009). Music, Language, and Multimodal Metaphor. In C. J. Forceville and U.-A. Eduardo (Eds.), Multimodal Metaphor (pp. 359–381). De Gruyter Mouton. https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110215366

Full CALA 2022 Proceedings book