Constructing Political Identities Through Characterization Metaphor, Humor and Sarcasm: An Analysis of the 2012 Legislative Council Election Debates in Hong Kong

  • Foong Ha YapEmail author
  • Ariel Shuk-ling Chan
  • Brian Lap-ming Wai
Part of the The Humanities in Asia book series (HIA, volume 5)


This chapter examines how politicians use metaphor, humor and sarcasm to construct favorable political identities for themselves and unfavorable ones for their rivals. Data for analysis come from five televised debates during the 2012 Hong Kong Legislative Council Election. The chapter adopts Fauconnier and Turner’s (2002) Conceptual Blending framework and analyzes how rival candidates spar with each other using characterization metaphors, and pays special attention to how politicians make use of metaphors as verbal indirectness strategies that mitigate the negative impacts of their face-threatening acts and in this way help them enhance, or at least maintain, their positive image with the general public.


Political identities Metaphor Humor Sarcasm Electoral discourse 



We wish to gratefully acknowledge funding from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University for support through an Internal Competitive Research Grant (HKPU G-YK85) for the research project entitled “Establishing Common Ground in Public Discourse: An Analysis of Electoral Speeches, Press Conferences and Q&A Sessions in Hong Kong”. We also wish to thank William Feng, Dennis Tay, Tak-sum Wong, Steven Ming-chiu Wong and Vivien Yang for invaluable comments. Various parts of this research have been presented earlier at the following conferences: the 2012 Annual Research Forum of the Linguistic Society of Hong Kong (ARF), the 21st Annual Meeting of the International Association for Chinese Linguistics (ICAL-21), the 7th Free Linguistics Conference (FLC-7), the 2013 International Pragmatics Conference (IPRA-13), the 2013 International Conference on Political Humour in China, the 7th International Conference on Multimodality (7-ICOM), and the 2nd American Pragmatic Conference (AmPrA-2). We wish to thank the participants at these conferences for their helpful feedback, some of which relate to cross-cultural analyses on electoral strategies in other cultures.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Foong Ha Yap
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ariel Shuk-ling Chan
    • 1
    • 2
  • Brian Lap-ming Wai
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EnglishHong Kong Polytechnic UniversityHung Hom, Kowloon, Hong Kong SARChina
  2. 2.Department of Asian Languages and CulturesUCLALos AngelesUSA

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