A Multimodal Discourse Analysis of Print Commercial Advertisements

Abstract: With the development of science and technology, the dominant role of language in communication and mass media is challenged by other semiotic resources such as image, sound, and color. The deployment of more than one semiotic resource in constructing meaning and forming social relations is gaining popularity. Accordingly, traditional discourse analysis which deals with the exclusive field of language is compelled to take into serious consideration of other semiotic resource systems and the so called Multimdodal Discourse Analysis comes into being. To produce a comprehensive account of the different meanings carried by different modalities, new grammars that are sensitive to specific modalities must be formulated. Drawing on Systemic Functional Grammar, Kress and van Leeuwen (1996) proposed a framework for visual analysis which interprets images in terms of their representatioinal, interactive and compositional meanings. This approach to multimodal discourse provides us a powerful toolkit to account for meanings arising from images and the integrated use of the visual and verbal sources in print media.Meanwhile, advertising discourse is also involved in the multimodal trend of the world communication and mass media. Traditional advertising discourse analysis focuses on the verbal aspect of ads, while the existence of other expression systems such as image, sound and color is neglected. The construction of Visual Grammar proposed by Kress and van Leeuwen makes possible the multimodal analysis of advertising discourse. This thesis, with reference to the Systemic Functional approach, analyzes images and verbiage in print commercial ads within Kress and van Leeuwen's framework, aiming to find how the visual and verbal semiotics construe meaning and construct social reality and how the two cooperate to produce synergistic effect in influencing the consumers. The analysis of page-based synergy also borrows Royce's intersemiotic complementarity framework, as well as Bathes'and van Leeuwen's classification of word-image relations.The researcher makes an attempt of a qualitative analysis based on incisive exploration of typological data. When the framework is introduced in Chapter Three, tentative analysis of eight example ads is given to test the applicability of Visual Grammar to print commercial advertisements. And then in Chapter Five, two case studies are carried out. The two ads are analyzed from the perspective of three metafunctions within each mode according to Visual Grammar and Systemic Functional Grammar. Interaction between the two modes is studied within the framework of Royce's page-based intersemiotic complementarity and relevant image-verbiage relation theories. The data used in this analysis are chosen from domestic advertisings and designing gateways and the prize winning work of One Show Competition. Therefore, they are all creative in designing and comply well with Visual Grammar. The two ads in case study both comprise the verbal and visual parts, ready for intersemiotic analysis.The findings of the present study are basically consistent with the findings in the previous study of image-verbiage relations. That is:in print ads, both the image and the verbal text are able to depict states-of-affairs (ideational), design some social interactions between represented participants and interactive participants (interpersonal) and structuring the text (textual). Although the metafunctions of the two modes are separately analyzed in this thesis, they are actually fused together and fulfilled simultaneously, and through this process they form various intersemiotic complementary relations. To be more specific, in realizing the ideational or compositional metafunction of the ad, the image and the verbiage form relations of anchorage and illustration. Interpersonally or interactively, intersemiotic complementarity realizes in the form of complementarity of address and attitudinal complementarity. Compositionally, the rules of information value, salience and framing work in harmony to form a coherent text. When dissonance appears among these rules, compromise is made for the good of all.This research validates the applicability and practicality of Visual Grammar in interpreting commercial ads, demonstrates how the three metafuncitons of image and verbiage are realized, and thus complete a multimodal analysis of print commercials. Going beyond the traditional field of verbal analysis to do a multimodal analysis, this research opens a new dimension for ad analysis. Besides, the successful application of Visual Grammar and Page-based Intersemiotic Complementartiy framework to some Chinese ads shows that these theories are also feasible in Chinese culture.Due to the limited personal academic capacity of the researcher, the present study only deals with static image of commercial ads, while the effect of sound and music is left untouched. A vast field of research is waiting for further study…
Key words: Multimodal Discourse Analysis; Visual Grammar; Image-verbiage Relation; Print Commercial Advertisements

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