Reading images (including moving ones)

Authored by: Chris Taylor

The Routledge Handbook of Systemic Functional Linguistics

Print publication date:  January  2017
Online publication date:  January  2017

Print ISBN: 9780415748407
eBook ISBN: 9781315413891
Adobe ISBN: 9781315413884


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The first important contributions with a systemic functional linguistics (SFL) twist on the concept of ‘reading images’, a term coined by Kress and van Leeuven (1996), appeared in the 1990s. O’Toole’s (1994) The Language of Displayed Art can be said in many ways to have set the ball rolling in that it was a genuinely multimodal set, consisting of a book and a CD using a range of semiotic modes to provide an SFL perspective on the interpretation of visual works of art. Kress and van Leeuven’s work, both together (Kress and van Leeuven 1996, 2006) and separately (Kress 2003; van Leeuven 2011) expanded the field to examine many types of multimodal text, from school textbooks to bus tickets. The images that were being read were initially largely static pictures, photos, drawings, diagrams, etc. It was the work of Baldry and Thibault, again working together (Baldry and Thibault 2006) and separately (Baldry 2000; Thibault 2000), that was most responsible for breaking into moving pictures and providing an SFL interpretation of video text – first television advertising, but moving into documentary and film – providing Taylor (2004) with the material for an analysis of multimodal texts with a view to their translation. 1 Other writers have produced important work that hinged on multimodal analysis from an SFL point of view (among others, Martinec 2000; Iedema 2001; Lemke 2002; Unsworth 2006) and continue to do so (Martin and Rose 2008; O’Halloran 2008; Martinec and van Leeuven 2009; Painter et al. 2013), but the abovementioned pathfinders will form the springboard for the approach adopted in this chapter.

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