Deconstructing modal metaphors and mapping empathy: The fictionalized reality of linguistic assimilation

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


Learning a new language is often associated with migration narratives and, in picturebooks, the visual and verbal texts interanimate to depict a character’s trials and tribulations in adapting to a new culture and its language(s). Hadaway and Young (2009) analyzed 21 picturebooks with language learning or acquisition as central themes. They concluded that most of their corpus ‘perpetuated unrealistic expectations’ (p. 175) i.e. the simplistic nature of language acquisition, the duration of the process, and the adaptation process. Daly (2020) analyzed five picturebooks which she inferenced supported an awareness of linguistic experiences, including learning a new language. She concluded that more research is needed to understand how ‘empathy can be engendered through specific aspects of text and illustration’ (p. 34).
Rising to Daly’s challenge, this paper presents an analysis of two picturebooks, My Two Blankets (Kobald & Blackwood, 2014) and Gib.ber.ish (Vo, 2022) which are both migration narratives depicting linguistic assimilation. With a view to determining how these picturebooks inspire empathy, I will take a literary perspective (Serafini & Reid, 2022) to my analysis and present my interpretation of the ‘intermodal connections’ (p. 11) between the pictures, words and design. I aim to deconstruct the fictional representation, through ‘modal metaphors’ (Dooley, et al., 2016, p. 102), of the reality of encountering new sounds, and map how empathy is nurtured in the reader as a result of a visual flow across the organic entity that is the picturebook.
Period29 Sept 2023
Event titleInternational Conference of The European Network of Picturebook Research: The Picturebook Between Fiction and Reality
Event typeConference
Conference number9
LocationOsijek, CroatiaShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational