What is it about?

Can one only argue or persuade with the use of language? We claim that there are certain visual "formats" that fulfill this role, too. Traffic signs constitute such a format. Thanks to their coded form and colors, traffic signs warn, prohibit, instruct, or inform. Because of this, one can use the format (" genre") of a traffic sign for humorous purposes, but also to persuade people of the need to change their mind about something.

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Why is it important?

In a world in which non-verbal (specifically: visual) communication is constantly becoming both more ubiquitous and more sophisticated, it is important to understand how visuals, on their own or in combination with language, can function to (help) make a specific point, or even to make an argument.


The best way to begin charting this scholarly territory is by analyzing visuals that are, in one way or another, heavily coded. Related work can be found in Forceville (2014), Forceville and Clark (2014) -- both relevance-theory oriented -- and in Tseronis & Forceville's (2017) paper on subvertisements. Tseronis and Forceville edited a book on multimodal argumentation with Benjamins in 2017. In 2020 I published my monograph Visual and Multimodal Communication: Applying the Relevance Principle (Oxford UP), adapting relevance theory to mass-communicative visuals.

Dr Charles Forceville
Universiteit van Amsterdam

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: The affordances and constraints of situation and genre, International Review of Pragmatics, January 2018, Brill, DOI: 10.1163/18773109-01002002.
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