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Building Bridges for Multimodal Research

International Perspectives on Theories and Practices of Multimodal Analysis


Edited By Janina Wildfeuer

While multimodality is one of the most influential semiotic theories for analysing media artefacts, the concepts of this theory are heterogeneous and widespread. The book takes the differences between approaches in Germany and those in international contexts as a starting point, offering new insights into the analysis of multimodal documents. It features contributions by researchers from more than 15 nations and various disciplines, including theoretical reflections on multimodality, thoughts about methodological, empirical, and experimental approaches as well as analyses of various multimodal artefacts.
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Visual Rhetoric and Cognitive Semantics: The Relevance of Entrenched Conceptual Patterns for the Reconstruction of Visual and Multimodal Arguments


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Sandra Handl

Visual Rhetoric and Cognitive Semantics:The Relevance of Entrenched Conceptual Patterns for the Reconstruction of Visual and Multimodal Arguments

1 Examining pictorial and multimodal documents: Visual rhetoric and cognition

In a time where “visual communication is ubiquitous in public, private and even academic discourse” (McComiskey 2004: 188), theories which provide tools for the analysis of pictorial messages become increasingly relevant. However, visual communication is often not fully pictorial. Frequently, pictures are combined with other modes of expression – particularly often words play an important part. Examples from academic discourse are the nowadays so popular slideshow presentations (cf. Kjeldsen 2013). Most of them comprise pictorial material which is usually combined with language, at least in the sense that slideshows accompany verbal communication, but they also commonly contain verbal elements such as, for example, headlines, keywords, captions of diagrams, etc. So, ideally, the scope of theories that seek to explicate how addressees decode such visuals is not limited to the pictorial mode but flexible enough to also account for the role played by accompanying or interspersed linguistic elements.

One such theory is visual rhetoric, which was developed to describe rhetorical features of visuals (cf. Foss 2005: 141, 143). Similar to verbal rhetoric, it focuses on the effect of a message on the addressee, and in order to assess this effect, which is often equated with rational persuasion (cf. Blair 2012), it looks at the means employed to achieve it. These...

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