Multimodal Discourse Analysis of Two English Learning Visual Advertisements

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Multimodal Discourse Analysis of Two English Learning Visual Advertisements It was not until the advent of “new media age”, which by definition involves prevailing digital-mediated communication modes and substantial usage of multiple semiotic resources combined in the realization of discourses, did the mainstream preference of monomodality unprecedentedly challenged (Kress & Van Leeuwen, 2001). Language, as one of the semiotic resources, is by no means the only carrier to realize discourses. Diversity should be acknowledged in the current age when visual, audio and other kinds of semiotic resources are convenient and efficient in delivering the abstract discourses concept into expressions (Kress, 2003). The present study will base its analysis primarily on the multimodal discourse analysis framework and visual grammar proposed by Kress and Van Leeuwen (1996, 2001), as an application of their theoretical framework into practices. Since the multimodal discourse analysis (hereafter MDA) theory has been established only within this recent decade, and it is relatively hard to find solid references to support this theory, flaws and limitations are therefore unavoidable. As MDA is considered the subdivision of Systemic Functional Linguistics (hereafter SFL) which focus on social semiotic approach of critical discourse analysis (hereafter CDA), this present study should be considered as an experimental attempt of utilizing MDA in incorporating social culture and ideology into discourse analysis[1]. Firstly, the rationale underneath this present research is based on Kress and Leeuwen’s four-layered meaning rendering domains known as “strata” (Kress & Leeuwen, 2001), as well as their theoretical construction of visual grammar, which is an outspread, or more specifically generalization of verbal grammar (Kress & Leeuwen, 1996). Basically, the theory of strata gives an overall account of meaning-making in multiple articulations among discourse, design, production and distribution, the first two of which being associated with content and the latter two with expression. The basic meaning making flow is conceptualization (from discourse to design), materialization (from design to production) and reproduction (from production to distribution). In this research, only the first phase of meaning articulation will be dealt with, because the data analyzed here are visual advertisement posters on the internet without tangible material texture such as paper or stone, which made the analysis less complex and more focused. According to Kress and Van Leeuwen (2001, pp.21), the process of design involves three things simultaneously: (1) a formulation of a discourse or combination of discourses, (2) a particular (inter)action, in which the discourse is embedded, and (3) a particular way of combining semiotic modes. This threefold process has at least two implications: (1) the realization of social communication by encoding the abstract discourse into a specific design and (2) deliberate choice of communication media through which the meaning could be more effectively delivered, such as the combination of music, image and sequence in films. For the second implication, this present research only involves visual mode of semiotic resource which further reduced the complication of analysis. The first implication is actually the central focus in this research paper. If the process of designing is, to some extend, a process of encoding, then using the visual grammar to analyze this design is exactly the reverse process, namely decoding. That is to say, this paper is aiming at using visual grammar as a tool to decode the visual image so that to find out the hidden social constructed discourses underneath the poster. The similarity between visual grammar and verbal grammar lies in their system underlying the language-use, the ubiquitous fundamental elements of linguistic rules (Chomsky, 1972). This generative grammar lends validity to the set of rules...
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