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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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Multimodality in Perspective: Creating a Synergy of the Discourse Historical Approach and the Framework of Visual Grammar


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Shaimaa El Naggar

Multimodality in Perspective:Creating a Synergy of the Discourse Historical Approach and the Framework of Visual Grammar1

1 Introduction

Over the past few decades, Critical Discourse Studies (CDS), an interdisciplinary approach to language analysis, has systematically contributed to the deconstruction of practices of hegemony and exclusion (cf., e.g., Baker et al. 2008 on the representation of refugees and asylum seekers in the UK press and Richardson/Wodak 2012 on the discourse of the far-right in Europe).

The aim of this chapter is to propose a synergy of two approaches of CDS, namely the Discourse Historical Approach (DHA) and the theory of Visual Grammar. This synergy is a response to literature (cf., e.g., Bezmer/Jewitt 2000; Stöckl 2009: 203) that has noted that the pictorial element has yet to be recognised as salient as verbal language in discourse analysis. Stöckl (2009: 203), for instance, remarks that “linguistics is still under quite some pressure to legitimize the pictorial or semiotic turn”. In the same vein, Bezemer/Jewitt (2010: 181) refer to a “methodological privileging” of language over other modes such as image and colour. It is worth quoting them at length:

“Multimodality is differently construed in social-linguistic work. Some studies are based on the assumption that speech or writing is always dominant, carrying the “essence” of meanings and that other, simultaneously operating modes can merely expand, exemplify or modify these meanings.” (Bezemer/Jewitt 2010: 181)


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