What is it about?

Jewitt's Handbook (whose second, revised & expanded version was published in 2014) is rooted in the Social Semiotics/Systemic Functional Linguistics paradigm rooted in Hallidayan linguistics and made famous by Kress & Van Leeuwen's Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design (third edition: 2022). The review begins by briefly presenting the contents of the more than 20 chapters.

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Why is it important?

Multimodality -- roughly, the discipline theorizing discourses and representations that communicate in two or more "modes" -- is quickly gaining more scholarly attention in humanities research. But it is still in its early stages, and arguably still needs to come into its own as far its methods of analysis are concerned.


My own work on multimodality is robustly based on cognitivist theories -- and these are completely absent from the book under review. My most serious concern with many of the chapters' authors in the book is that they agree with its editor that the concept of "mode" can only be defined dynamically. In my view, we should have a stable, fairly short list of modes, and the number of modes must be as closely as possible be tied to sensory perception. In Forceville (2021) I propose the following modes: (1) visuals; (2) written language; (3) spoken language; (4) sound; (5) music; (6) smell; (7) taste; (8) olfaction; (9) bodily behaviour. Only a generally agreed-upon list of modes can help further the discipline. Moreover, we need to learn the basics from social science research to make possible corpus research. This is also the claim made by the handbook by Bateman, Wildfeuer, and Hiippala (2017). Almost all work in the book -- and the discipline as a whole -- comprises the visual mode (however defined), usually combined with the verbal mode (however defined). Future work in multimodality studies needs to focus on other modes. Film is an excellent medium to study how visuals and language combine with music, sound, and bodily behaviour.

Dr Charles Forceville
Universiteit van Amsterdam

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: The Routledge Handbook of Multimodal Analysis, Journal of Pragmatics, September 2010, Elsevier, DOI: 10.1016/j.pragma.2010.03.003.
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