What is it about?

We analyze five Chinese clips that promote Chinese cities and/or a trade fair in a Chinese city. We argue that metaphors (A is compared to B) and metonymies (B stands for A) are key instruments to trigger meaning in the clips. These metaphors and metonymies are created drawing on visuals, music, and sound, in combination with language. Thereby they are truly multimodal. We end by showing that meaning is not exhausted by analyzing only metaphors and metonymies by briefly discussing symbolism and blends, among other things.

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Why is it important?

Chinese president Xi Jingping initiated the "Belt and Road" initiative in 2013, positioning China as a key player in global politics. The five clips we analyze exemplify this strategy. Since the clips are in Chinese, but are subtitled in English, it is clear they aim to reach both Chinese and international audiences. For this reason, it is worthwhile saying something about which aspects of their meaning are presumably universally comprehensible, and which aspects depend on native knowledge of China's language and culture.


By publishing this paper not in a specialist journal but in Intercultural Pragmatics, we intend to persuade students of culture that metaphor and metonymy are good instruments to analyse visual and multimodal discourses. Moreover, it is important that the study of metaphor and metonymy, which has over the past decades attracted many scholars, is complemented with researching other mechanisms. If this is not done, either the concepts of metaphor and metonymy are so stretched in order to accommodate all relevant meaning that they lose all explanatory power; or a lot of pertinent meaning is simply missed or ignored.

Dr Charles Forceville
Universiteit van Amsterdam

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This page is a summary of: Making cross-cultural meaning in five Chinese promotion clips: Metonymies and metaphors, Intercultural Pragmatics, April 2020, De Gruyter, DOI: 10.1515/ip-2020-0007.
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