Skip to content

Picture of Tay, Dennis (Dr)
Tay, Dennis (Dr)
Associate Professor

BA(Hons) in English Language, National University of Singapore (2005)
MA in Language Studies, National University of Singapore (2009)
PhD in Linguistics, University of Otago, New Zealand (2011)
PgCert in Quantitative Analysis, Open University of Hong Kong (2017)

Room No.AG413
Tel3400 3654
EmailThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Find Dennis Tay at Google Scholar

Research Overview

My research covers four overlapping areas: cognitive linguistics, metaphor theory, mental healthcare communication, and data analytics applied to discourse processes and products. One example of how these areas converge is language use in psychological counselling, an important type of mental healthcare communication. This language is often full of metaphors, which according to cognitive linguistics can provide insights into how people conceptualize their psychological issues. Furthermore, there is fascinating variability across speakers, cultures, time, and so on, which needs to be understood using both statistical modelling and qualitative analysis. I often engage with mental healthcare researchers and practitioners to work out the practical implications of linguistic research.

I am currently focusing on two research strands: i) the relationship between metaphor use and psycho-physiological indicators of affect such as galvanic skin response, and ii) applying data analytic techniques (e.g. time series analysis, cluster analysis, sentiment analysis) to different discourse processes and phenomena (e.g. in counseling, newspapers, classrooms, and social media). I also have a secondary interest in language acquisition and pedagogical research, particularly the relevance and acquisition of quantitative literacy in humanities education. I am keen to collaborate on or supervise undergraduate/postgraduate research in any of the areas described above.

Academic & Professional Experience

Mar 2018-Jun 2020 Associate Dean, Faculty of Humanities, PolyU

Sept 2017-present. Associate Professor, Department of English, PolyU

Dec 2012-Sept 2017. Assistant Professor, Department of English, PolyU

Dec 2011-Dec 2012. Teaching Fellow, Centre for English Language Communication, National University of Singapore

Dec 2009-Dec 2011. Tutor, Department of English, University of Otago, New Zealand

Teaching Areas

Discourse analysis
Research methods and design
Psycholinguistics and language acquisition 

Research Interests

Cognitive linguistics
Healthcare communication
The language of psychotherapy
Data analytics and statistical modeling of discourse


Tay, D. (2019). Time Series Analysis of Discourse. Method and Case Studies. London and New York: Routledge

Tay, D. (2013). Metaphor in Psychotherapy. A Descriptive and Prescriptive Analysis. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Journal Articles

Tay, D., Huang, J., & Zeng, H. (2019). Affective and discursive outcomes of symbolic interpretations in picture-based counseling: A skin conductance and discourse analytic study. Metaphor & Symbol, 34(2), 96–110.

Tay, D. (2019). Death in a multicultural society. Metaphor, language and religion in Singapore obituaries. Cognitive Linguistic Studies, 6(1), 84–102.

Tay, D. (2018). Metaphors of movement in psychotherapy talk. Journal of Pragmatics, 125, 1–12.

Tay, D. (2017). Time series analysis of discourse. A case study of metaphor in psychotherapy sessions. Discourse Studies, 19(6), 694–710.

Jin, Y., & Tay, D. (2017). Comparing doctor–elderly patient communication between traditional Chinese medicine and Western medicine encounters: Data from China. Communication & Medicine, 14(2), 121–134.

Tay, D. (2017)Exploring the metaphor-body-psychotherapy relationship. Metaphor & Symbol, 32(3), 178-191.

Tay, D. (2017)Quantitative metaphor usage patterns in Chinese psychotherapy talk. Communication & Medicine, 14(1), 51-68.

Tay, D. (2017). Metaphor construction in online motivational posters. Journal of Pragmatics112, 97–112.

Tay, D. (2017). The Nuances of Metaphor Theory for Constructivist Psychotherapy. Journal of Constructivist Psychology30(2), 165–181.

Tay, D. (2016)Metaphor and psychological transference. Metaphor & Symbol, 31(1)11–30.

Tay, D. (2016). A variational approach to deliberate metaphors. Cognitive Linguistic Studies, 3(2), 278–299.

Tay, D., & Huang, J. (2016). 隐喻在网络心理健康咨询中的应用. 外语研究, 160(6), 31–38.

Tay, D. (2015). Metaphor in case study articles on Chinese university counseling service websites. Chinese Language and Discourse, 6(1), 28 – 56.

Tay, D., & Jordan, J. (2015). Metaphor and the notion of control in trauma talk. Text & Talk, 35(4), 1–21.

Tay, D. (2014). Bodily experience as both source and target of meaning making: Implications from metaphors in psychotherapy for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Cognitive Linguistic Studies, 1(1), 84–100.

Tay, D. (2014). At the heart of cognition, communication, and language: The value of psychotherapy to metaphor study. Metaphor and the Social World, 4(1), 48-64.

Tay, D. (2012). Applying the notion of metaphor types to enhance counseling protocols. Journal of Counseling & Development90(2), 142–149.

Tay, D. (2011). Discourse markers as metaphor signalling devices in psychotherapeutic talk. Language & Communication31(4), 310–317.

Tay, D. (2011). THERAPY IS A JOURNEY as a discourse metaphor. Discourse Studies13(1), 47–68.

Tay, D. (2010). Revisiting metaphor types as discourse strategies: The case of psychotherapeutic discourse. Text & Talk30(4), 445–463.

Tay, D. (2007). Investigating the universality of primary metaphor - A perspective from Buddhism. Linguagem em Discurso7(3), 453–485.

Book Chapters  

Tay, D. (2019). Language in mental health disorders. Oxford Bibliographies (Linguistics). Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.

Tay, D. (2017). Using metaphor in mental healthcare. In E. Semino & S. Demjen (Eds.). The Routledge Handbook of Metaphor and Language (pp. 371-385). London and New York: Routledge

Tay, D. (2016). Finding the Middle Ground between Therapist-Centred and Client-Centred Metaphor Research in Psychotherapy. In M. O’Reilly & J. N. Lester (Eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Adult Mental Health (pp. 558–576). London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Tay, D. (2015). Words and neuro-psychological disorders. In J. R. Taylor (Ed.), Oxford Handbook of the Word (pp. 508–520). Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.

Tay, D. (2015). 电子健康医疗服务的隐喻使用研究. In 高一虹 & 陈向一 (Eds.), 心理咨询与治疗的话语研究 (pp. 255–280). 南开大学出版社.

Tay, D. (2015). Pesquisa aplicada à metáfora: tendências, questões, metodologicas e ferramentas de software. In A. G. Vieira, W. R. Silva, & M. L. de S. Góis (Eds.), Visibilizar A Linguística Aplicada: Abordagens Teóricas E Metodológicas (pp. 111–130). Pontes.

Tay, D. (2014). Metaphor theory for counselling professionals. In J. Littlemore & J. R. Taylor (Eds.), Bloomsbury Companion to Cognitive Linguistics (pp. 352–367). London: Bloomsbury.

Tay, D. (2014). Lakoff and the Theory of Conceptual Metaphor. In J. R. Taylor & J. Littlemore (Eds.), Bloomsbury Companion to Cognitive Linguistics (pp. 49–60). London: Bloomsbury.

Tay, D. (2014). An analysis of metaphor hedging in psychotherapeutic talk. In M. Yamaguchi, D. Tay, & B. Blount (Eds.), Approaches to Language, Culture, and Cognition (pp. 251–267). Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan.

Other Outputs - Edited volumes

Yamaguchi, M., Tay, D. & Blount, B. (2014). Towards an Integration of Language, Culture, and Cognition. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.


Research Projects (funded projects – both internal and external)

External Research Grants

2020-2022. Diachronic discourse structure and typology with time series models. General Research Fund, Research Grants Council, HKSAR government

2019-2021. A multi-perspectival study of attitudes and responses towards metaphor use in the university counseling context. General Research Fund, Research Grants Council, HKSAR government

2015-2018. Metaphor in Hong Kong psychotherapy talk - description, comparison, and application. General Research Fund, Research Grants Council, HKSAR government

Internal Research Grants

2018-2020. A Mixed-methods Study of Prompting Strategies in Picture-based Counseling. Department of English Research Grant

2017-2019. Modeling Response Patterns to Metaphor in Discourse. Central Research Grant

2017-2019. A Time Series Approach to Interactional Discourse. Department of English Research Grant

2016-2018. Conscious and unconscious attitudes towards metaphor use in psychotherapy. Central Research Grant

2015-2017. The relationship between metaphor and psychological transference. Department of English Research Grant

2014-2017. Quantitative approaches to metaphor in psychotherapy talk. Central Research Grant

2014-2016. Metaphor and e-health: A case study of Chinese university counseling service websites.  Department of English Research Grant

2014-2016. Investigating attitudes towards group assessment and translating them into a learning resource. Faculty of Humanities Dean’s Reserve Grant for Learning and Teaching

2013-2015. Metaphor as a psychotherapeutic strategy: Towards a correspondence between units of metaphor activity and units of therapeutic activity.  Faculty of Humanities Dean’s Reserve Grant

2013-2015. An exploratory study of metaphor use in Hong Kong mental health practice. Department of English Research Grant


Plenary/Keynotes Talks

Apr 2019. Data analytics for applied cognitive linguistic research. 12th International Forum on Cognitive Linguistics. Southwest University, Chongqing.

Apr 2019. Emotional effects of metaphor in psychotherapy. A skin conductance approach. 12th International Forum on Cognitive Linguistics. Southwest University, Chongqing.

June 2016. A discourse analytic roadmap of metaphor in psychotherapy. 5th International Cognitive Semantics Conference. Southwest University, Chongqing.


Esteem Measures

Journal editorship

Academic Editor, PLOS ONE

Review Editor, Cognitive Linguistic Studies

Awards and honours

2016-7. Faculty Award for Excellent Performance in Teaching, Faculty of Humanities, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

2015-6. Faculty Award for Excellent Performance in Research and Scholarly Activities, Faculty of Humanities, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

2015. ‘Outstanding Finalist’ of Hong Kong Academy of Humanities First Book Prize

2012. Early Career Research Paper Prize, International Association of Researching and Applying Metaphor (RaAM)