What is it about?

Most advertisements make use of visual tropes. We often find combinations of metaphor (one thing, usually the product, is to be understood in terms of something else) and metonymy (one thing stands for something else, usually the product) in advertisements. In this paper we investigate a number of Iranian and Dutch advertisements from this perspective. All of the ads have been included in the paper.

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Why is it important?

Metaphor is, since Forceville's Pictorial Metaphor in Advertising (Routledge 1996), by far the most investigated visual trope in ads. It becomes increasingly clear, however, that metonymy is no less important a trope, and often interacts with metaphor. That is, they needed to be studied together. Perez-Sobrino (2017) was the first book-length study to examine interactions of visual and multimodal metaphor and metonymy. Our paper pursues this line of research, confirming most of her findings, but also offering some new insights. The most important of these is that taking cultural background knowledge into account is crucial for the study of advertisements.


Hitherto, cognitive linguistic approaches to visual & multimodal metaphor and metonymy have focused too much on text-internal information only. However, it is crucial that the cultural background knowledge of the viewer is taken into account -- this pragmatic knowledge is indispensable for a reliable analysis. Surprisingly, the issue of (cultural) background knowledge has rarely been problematized. Zahra Kashanizadeh and myself have made the fact of our differential cultural identities productive by examining both Iranian and Dutch ads, so as to make explicit background knowledge that is usually taken for granted.

Dr Charles Forceville
Universiteit van Amsterdam

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Visual and multimodal interaction of metaphor and metonymy, Cognitive Linguistic Studies, August 2020, John Benjamins, DOI: 10.1075/cogls.00050.kas.
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