‘Please don’t insult Dog. He is a loyal friend!’ The use of animal metaphors for evaluation and positioning on a Chinese Political Web Forum

Publication Name

Discourse and Society


This study focuses on how animal metaphors are deployed by Chinese social media users to evaluate others and negotiate social positioning in online grassroots political discourse. Animal metaphors are important devices for expressing judgement of human behaviour. This is due, first, to perceived similarities and differences between humans and (other) animals and, second, due to the ‘Great Chain’ idea of human superiority and dominance over animals. Animal metaphors are commonly deployed in communication that is interpersonally volatile, such as on social media, regardless of what language this occurs in. Through an analysis of the interpersonal systems of appraisal and involvement, we found that contributors often adopt highly charged animal metaphors to negatively evaluate each other and to create and maintain a left-right political division.

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