Abstract for ISFC 1997 - Toronto


J L Lemke

Extending previous work on semantic resources for evaluative meaning (Lemke 1996), I will consider how language, visual representation, and modes of human action work together to construct Warrantability, Usuality, Desirability, Normativity, Importance, Seriousness, and Comprehensibility judgments and implications. These dimensions of evaluative meaning have previously been identified for the orientations of speakers' and writers' voices or viewpoints toward verbal propositions and proposals. When we analyze multimedia genres, in which verbal text is closely integrated with pictorial and more abstract visual representations, and with gesture and human social activity generally, visual and general actional semiotic resources are also available to establish or modify evaluative orientations towards verbal propositions and proposals, and all these resources may also contribute to analogous evaluative stances toward images and actions.

Evaluations are made not just locally in text or action, but also propagate along cohesive and thematic chains through a text or activity, coloring later or prior units of meaning with their implications. The interpretation of evaluative meaning depends on assumptions about the voice or viewpoint from which an evaluative orientation is being constructed, and the heteroglossic relations among different possible voices in the community, or directly implicated in the text/activity. Thus evaluative meaning provides an important link between textual instances and microsocial acts on the one hand, and larger social ideologies and political relations on the other. To the extent that ideational meanings help shape human action in the world, they do so according to evaluative judgments of the kinds noted above.

The analysis will be based on examples taken from newspaper editorials and cartoons, print advertisements, video-recordings of social activity, and multimedia objects designed for CD-ROM and WorldWideWeb distribution.

Lemke, J.L. 1996. Resources for Attitudinal Meaning: Evaluative Orientations in Text Semantics. To appear in Functions of Language. (= Editorials paper)

Political Cartoons, NOTES for the analysis.