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Metaphorical GIFs and humour online: the case of “when” posts on Tumblr


“When” posts have now become a staple of microblogging platforms such as Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook. They consist of two things: a verbal caption opening with “When” followed by an assertive clause describing a situation of life on the one hand, and a static or moving image presenting a visual elaboration of the situation described in the caption on the other hand. “When” posts rely on the striking relationship between what the caption describes and what the image shows. In the case of the posts selected for the present study, this relationship is metaphorical: the caption and the image, which are juxtaposed without mediation, act respectively as a verbal tenor and a visual vehicle. What this study explores is hence a case of multimodal metaphor, as defined by Charles Forceville, “metaphors in which target, source, and/or mappable features are represented or suggested by at least two different sign systems (one of which may be language) or modes of perception” (Forceville 2008: 5). It more precisely concerns metaphors combining text, in the form of a written message, and moving image, in the form of a GIF. Drawing on previous studies of metaphor and humour (Mio and Graesser 1991, Kyratzis 2003, Dynel 2009 and 2012), and previous investigations on multimodal metaphors (Forceville 2008, El Refaie 2003), the primary objective of the study is to explore the potential humorousness of those posts and the way it is built through this multimodal metaphorical association. More specifically, it focuses on the notions of incongruity and relatability as potential factors of humorousness. The data mainly come from three Tumblr pages that are highly popular among PhD students and academics: PhD in Gifs!, When in Academia, and Ciel mon doctorat!, which all rely on the use of metaphorical GIFs to share one’s experience of PhD and/or academic life.
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hal-03272726 , version 1 (28-06-2021)


  • HAL Id : hal-03272726 , version 1


Célia Schneebeli. Metaphorical GIFs and humour online: the case of “when” posts on Tumblr. 17th International Pragmatics Conference, "Communicating meanings through multimodal humour on social media" panel, IPrA (panel organizer: Marta Dynel), Jun 2021, Winterthur, Switzerland. ⟨hal-03272726⟩


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