Quantitative metaphor usage patterns in Chinese psychotherapy talk


  • Dennis Tay The Hong Kong Polytechnic University




Chinese context, counseling, log-linear analysis, metaphor, psychotherapy, quantitative methods


The study of metaphor in psychotherapy is undergoing a ‘contextual turn’, shifting emphasis from global mechanisms underlying metaphors and therapeutic change to their naturally occurring properties in therapist–patient interaction. While there have been rich qualitative and contextual descriptions of metaphors in psychotherapy, complementary quantitative accounts of metaphor usage patterns over larger amounts of talk have been less forthcoming. This paper reports metaphor usage patterns as associations between key contextual variables which characterize metaphors in a dataset of Chinese psychotherapy talk. A total of 2893 metaphor vehicle terms from 29.5 hours of talk were coded for SPEAKER, FUNCTION, TARGET, PHASE OF THERAPY, and DYAD. A loglinear analysis revealed significant higher order associations (DYAD*TARGET*FUNCTION*PHASE; DYAD*FUNCTION*PHASE*SPEAKER; TARGET*FUNCTION*SPEAKER), discussed as usage patterns which bear implications for the psychotherapeutic application of metaphor. Limitations and future research directions are discussed.

Author Biography

Dennis Tay, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Dennis Tay is Associate Professor at the Department of English, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. He is a cognitive linguist and discourse analyst, and has been researching the linguistic and discursive characteristics of psychotherapeutic metaphors in different cultural contexts including the United States, New Zealand, Hong Kong, and China.


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How to Cite

Tay, D. (2017). Quantitative metaphor usage patterns in Chinese psychotherapy talk. Communication and Medicine, 14(1), 51-68. https://doi.org/10.1558/cam.27688