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Prof. Dennis Tay
PolyU Scholars Hub

Prof. Dennis Tay

Associate Head and Professor

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.

Education and Academic Qualifications

  • Bachelor of Arts in English Language, National University of Singapore
  • Master of Science in Quantitative Analysis and Computational Mathematics, The Open University of Hong Kong
  • Master of Arts, National University of Singapore
  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of Otago

Academic and Professional Experience

  • Mar 2018 - Jun 2020. Associate Dean, Faculty of Humanities, PolyU
  • Sept 2017 - present. Associate Professor, Department of English and Communication, 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

  • Research methods
  • Quantitative literacy
  • Psycholinguistics

Research Interests

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

Research Output

  1. Tay, D. (under contract). Data analytics for discourse analysis. New York: Routledge.

  2. Tay, D. (2022). Navigating the realities of metaphor in psychotherapy research. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.

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

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

    1. Tay, D. & Pan, X. (Eds.). (2022). Data Analytics in Cognitive Linguistics. Method and Case Studies. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter

    2. Lin, K. L., Mwinlaaru, I. N., & Tay, D. (Eds.). (2020). Approaches to Specialized Genres. London and New York: Routledge.

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

    1. Tay, D. (in press). Turning metaphor on its head: A 'target-to-source transformation' approach in the case of statistics education. Frontiers in Psychology. 
    2. Qiu, H and Tay, D. (in press). A mixed-method comparison of therapist and client language across four therapeutic approaches. Journal of Constructivist Psychology.
    3. Yu, Y., Tay, D., & Yue, Q. (2023). Media representations of China amid COVID-19: A corpus-assisted critical discourse analysis. Media International Australia. Online ahead of press.
    4. McMullen, L., & Tay, D. (2023). Psychotherapists’ use of metaphors. Psychotherapy. Online ahead of press.
    5. Liu, Y., & Tay, D. (2023). Modelability of WAR metaphors across time in cross-national COVID-19 news translation: An insight into ideology manipulation. Lingua¸103490.
    6. Jin, Y., & Tay, D. (2023). Offensive, hateful comment: A networked discourse practice of blame and petition for justice during COVID-19 on Chinese Weibo. Discourse Studies, 25(1), 3-24.
    7. Pan, M. X., & Tay, D. (2022). Individual differences in identifying creative metaphors from video Ads. Metaphor and the Social World. Online ahead of press.
    8. Tay, D., & Qiu, H. (2022). Modeling Linguistic (A)Synchrony: A Case Study of Therapist–Client Interaction. Frontiers in Psychology, 13. 

    9. Qiu, H., Watson, B., & Tay, D. (2022). Metaphors and trauma: An image schematic analysis of symptom-specific metaphors. Lingua, 103244. 

    10. Tay, D. (2022). Metaphor types as strategies for teaching regression to novice learners. Journal of  Statistics and Data Science Education, online ahead of press, 1–23. 

    11. Tay, D. (2021). Modelability across time as a signature of identity construction on YouTube. Journal of Pragmatics, 182, 1–15. 

    12. Tay, D. (2021). Automated lexical and time series modeling for critical discourse research: a case study of Hong Kong protest editorials. Lingua, 255, 103056.

    13. Tay, D. (2021). Is the social unrest like COVID-19 or is COVID-19 like the social unrest? A case study of source-target reversibility. Metaphor and Symbol, 36(2), 99-115.

    14. Tay, D. (2021). Metaphor response categories and distribution between therapists and clients: A case study in the Chinese context. Journal of Constructivist Psychology, 34(4), 378-394.

    15. Tay, D, & Neimeyer, R. (2021). Making meaning with metaphor in grief therapy: A single-session segmental approach. Cognitive Linguistic Studies, 8(1), 158-181.

    16. Jin, Y. & Tay, D. (2021). Discretion. The final particle ou and its functions in medical advice-giving. Chinese Language and Discourse. Advance online publication.

    17. Tay, D. (Ed.) (2020). Metaphor in mental healthcare [Special issue]. Metaphor and the Social World, 10(2)

    18. Tay, D. (2020). Surveying view of metaphor vs. literal language in psychotherapy: A factor analysis. Metaphor and the Social World, 10(2), 273-291.

    19. Yu, Y, & Tay, D. (2020). A mixed-method analysis of image-schematic metaphors in describing anger, anxiety and depression. Metaphor and the Social World, 10(2), 253-272.

    20. Tay, D. (2020). A computerized text and cluster analysis approach to psychotherapy talk. Language and Psychoanalysis, 9(1), 1–22.

    21. Tay, D. (2020). Affective Engagement in Metaphorical versus Literal Communication Styles in Counseling. Discourse Processes, 57(4), 360–375.

    22. Zeng, H., Tay, D. and Ahrens, K. (2020). A Multifactorial Analysis of Metaphors in Political Discourse: Gendered Influence in Hong Kong Political Speeches. Metaphor and the Social World,10(1), 141-168

    23. Tay, D. (2019). Metaphor response categories and distribution between therapists and clients: A case study in the Chinese context. Journal of Constructivist Psychology. Advance online publication.

    24. 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 & Symbol34(2), 96–110.

    25. Tay, D. (2019). Death in a multicultural society. Metaphor, language and religion in Singapore obituaries. Cognitive Linguistic Studies6(1), 84–102.

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

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

    28. 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    35. 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.

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

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

    38. 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.

    39. 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.

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

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

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

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

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

    1. McMullen, L. & Tay, D. (in press). Metaphors. In C. Hill & J. Norcross (Eds.), Skills and Methods That Work in Psychotherapy. New York: Oxford University Press.

    2. Yu, Y. and Tay, D. (2022). Formulating a discourse of solidarity amid COVID-19. In F. Rossette-Crake and E. Buckwalter (Eds.), COVID-19. Communication, and Culture. (pp. 76-94). New York: Routledge.

    3. Han, Q. and Tay, D. (2022). The interaction between metaphor use and psychological states: a mix-method analysis of trauma talk in the Chinese context. In D. Tay and X. Pan (Eds.), Data Analytics in Cognitive Linguistics. Method and Case Studies. (pp. 197-228). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter

    4. Tay, D., & Xie Pan, M. (2022). Data analytics in cognitive linguistics. In D. Tay & M. X. Pan   (Eds.), Data Analytics in Cognitive Linguistics (pp. 1–12). Berlin: Mouton De Gruyter. 

    5. Tay, D. (2022). Time Series Analysis with Python. In D. Tay and X. Pan (Eds.), Data Analytics in Cognitive Linguistics. Method and Case Studies. (pp. 49-74). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter

    6. Tay, D. (2021). COVID-19 Press Conferences Across Time: World Health Organization vs. Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In A. Musolff, R. Breeze & K. Kondo (Eds.), Pandemic and Crisis Discourse. Communicating COVID-19 and Public Health Strategy. (pp. 13-30). London: Bloomsbury

    7. Tay, D. (2021). Image schemas. In X, Wen & J. Taylor (Eds.), Routledge Handbook of Cognitive Linguistics. (pp. 161-172). New York: Routledge

    8. Pan, X. and Tay, D. (2020). Identifying creative metaphors in video ads. In Lin, K. L., Mwinlaaru, I. N., & Tay, D. (Eds.). (2020). Approaches to Specialized Genres. (pp. 216-240). London and New York: Routledge.

    9. Tay, D. (2020). Co-constructing crisis with metaphor: A quantitative approach to metaphor use in psychotherapy talk. In M. Huang and L. Holmgreen (Eds.), The Language of Crisis: Metaphors, Frames, and Discourses. (pp.231-255). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

    10. Tay, D., Huang, J., and Zeng, H. (2020). Prompting Strategies and Outcomes in Picture-Based Counseling. In B.Watson and J. Krieger (Eds.), Expanding Horizons in Health Communication. (pp. 29-46). Singapore: Springer

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

    12. 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

    13. 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.

    14. 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.

    15. 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.

    16. 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.

    17. 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.

    18. 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.

    19. 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.

    Esteem Measures


    • Associate Editor, Metaphor & Symbol

    • Associate Editor, Metaphor and the Social World

    • Academic Editor, PLOS ONE

    • Review Editor, Cognitive Linguistic Studies

    • 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)

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