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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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Structure and Multimodal Texts



1 Introduction

Structure is often associated with order, a routine or cycle, a shape, formula or form. But structure is not an “empty vessel” into which content is put (cf. Christie 1987: 27). Rather, “a structure is a set of relations, and the elements of structures are the values defined by these relations” (Halliday 1981a: 29). A common term for structure in relation to semiotic artefacts is ‘generic structure’. The term ‘genre’ may also be used to refer to structure, but typically, it refers to a ‘text type’2 – a group of texts which display a common set of identifying characteristics which are socially recognised and meaningful. Text structure, is a “response to context, and therefore only comprehensible because of its relationship to the context. The text, and the generic shape it realises, are as they are because of context” (Christie 1987: 27).

Structure in relation to multimodal texts is yet to be fully understood, and so this chapter attempts to add to an understanding of multimodal text structure. The chapter views structure through the lens of generic structure potential (GSP), an analytical concept in systemic-functional linguistic theory (cf. Hasan 1985), which realises a configuration of features of a text’s context of situation. A GSP analysis seeks to answer the following questions: “(a) what elements/parts must/may occur in each and every instance of a particular discourse type; and (b) how [do] these various elements stand in relation to each other” (Hasan 1994: 128, emphasis...

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