IPrA 2015 Panel

14th Conference of the International Pragmatics Association, 26-31 July 2015, Antwerp, Belgium

Pragmatic insights for analysing multimodal argumentative discourse.

Deadline for abstract submission: Wednesday, 15th October 2014.

Contact: Assimakis Tseronis (A.Tseronis@uva.nl), Chiara Pollaroli (chiara.pollaroli@usi.ch)

Panel organizers

Assimakis Tseronis, University of Amsterdam

Chiara Pollaroli, Università della Svizzera italiana

Charles Forceville, University of Amsterdam


In the last two decades or so, scholars from discourse analysis, cognitive linguistics, as well as pragmatics and argumentation studies have started paying attention to the non-verbal modes that interact with the verbal in a variety of media and communicative genres. Within multimodal discourse analysis, each mode is studied as realising part of the information communicated and their interaction as contributing to meaning-making processes. In most of the studies within multimodal analysis, however, the focus is more on the image-internal aspects than on the interaction between the image and the viewer and the properties of the context that play a role in the interpretation process.

Cognitive approaches to visual communication, by contrast, have focused on the interpretation processes involved in understanding multimodal texts. However, the focus on the cognitive processing has left the discussion of the effects of the choice among the various modes and of their combinations largely implicit. Pictorial tropes, for example, such as metaphor, metonymy and irony, have been studied more with an interest in identifying their verbal and nonverbal cuing than an interest in the rhetorical effects of their use, or of the choice to cue them visually instead of verbally in a given piece of discourse.

Scholars from argumentation studies who have taken seriously the role that visual images play in argumentative discourse have paid little attention to the affordances of the various modes, focusing on what is depicted and overlooking issues of style and composition. Two approaches have emerged, one thematizing the persuasive effect and emotional appeal of visuals, the other examining their indexical properties and thereby reducing them to their evidentiary function.

For an assessment of the use of non-verbal modes in argumentative communication, a combination of insights from pragmatics, multimodal analysis, and argumentation studies is required if one is to account for their role in rational and cognitive terms rather than in purely aesthetic and affective terms. Discourse-oriented approaches to argumentation have traditionally drawn insights from pragmatics in an attempt to account for the context dependency of the identification and interpretation of arguments. The question we then raise is: how can pragmatics also benefit the analysis of multimodal argumentative discourse?

For this panel, we invite papers that discuss ways in which insights and concepts from speech act theory, relevance theory or other pragmatic approaches can prove useful in accounting for the argumentative function and effect of the use of visuals and other non-verbal modes in communication. Which concepts and distinctions operative within pragmatic analysis of verbal communication developed so far can also account for the interpretation of multimodal communication? How can the different communicative effects of the verbal and the visual modes be accounted for in pragmatic terms? Which pragmatic principles can help the analyst justify the verbalisation of non-verbal modes for the purposes of identifying the elements of an argument put forward in a multimodal text? How can pragmatic approaches account for the ways in which various modes interact in order to create a coherent argument?

Practical information on submission:

  • Abstracts are submitted through the IPrA conference website: http://ipra.ua.ac.be/main.aspx?c=.CONFERENCE14&n=1468
  • After logging in to your account, select ‘contribute’ and then ‘conference contribution as a panel participant’, then click on the title of our panel.
  • Abstracts must be min. 250 and max. 500 words, excluding references and data.
  • All abstracts will be reviewed by the panel organizers for their relevance to the theme of the panel and their overall quality.

IPrA Membership: Note that, according to IPrA policy, you need to be a member of the IPrA Association both for this year in order to submit your abstract and for next year when the conference is held. Membership costs 80 euros per calendar year. For information on membership application see: http://ipra.ua.ac.be/main.aspx?c=*HOME&n=1266. IPrA members must also pay the registration fee for the conference, see:


Recommended bibliography

Abell, C. (2005). Pictorial implicature. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 63: 55-66.

Bateman, J. (2008). Multimodality and Genre. A Foundation for the Systematic Analysis of Multimodal Documents. London: Palgrave.

Bateman, J. (2014). Text and Image. A Critical Introduction to the Visual / Verbal Divide. London: Routledge.

Birdsell, D. S., and L. Groarke. (eds.) (1996). Toward a theory of visual argument. Argumentation and Advocacy, 33: 1-10.

Birdsell, D. S., and L. Groarke. (eds.) (2007). Outlines of a theory of visual argument. Argumentation and Advocacy, 43: 103-113.

Clark, B. (2013). Relevance Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Cohn, N. (2013). The Visual Language of Comics. Introduction to the Structure and Cognition of Sequential Images. London: Bloomsbury Academic.

Forceville C. (1999). Educating the eye? Kress and Van Leeuwen’s Reading images: The grammar of visual design (1996). Language and Literature, 8: 163-178.

Forceville, C. (2009). Non-verbal and multimodal metaphor in a cognitivist framework: Agendas for research. In Multimodal Metaphor, Charles Forceville and Eduardo Urios-Aparisi (eds.), 19-42. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.

Forceville, C. (2014). Relevance Theory as model for analysing visual and multimodal communication. In Visual Communication, David Machin (ed.), 51-70. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Forceville, C., and B. Clark (in prep.). Can pictures have explicatures?

Horn, R. (1998). Visual Language. Global Communication for the 21st Century. Macro VU Incorporated.

Ifantidou, E., and A. Tzanne. (2006). Multimodality and relevance in the Athens 2004 Olympic Games televised promotion. Revista Alicantina de Estudios Ingleses, 19: 191-210.

Jackendoff, R. (1987). On beyond zebra: The relation of linguistic and visual information. Cognition, 26: 89-114.

Jewitt, C. (ed.) (2013). Handbook of Multimodal Analysis. 2nd Edition. London: Routledge.

Kenney, K., and L. M. Scott. (2003). A review of the visual rhetoric literature. In Persuasive Imagery: A Consumer Response, Linda M. Scott and Rajeev Batra (eds.), 17-56. Mahwah,NJ: Lawrence, Erlbaum Associates.

Kjeldsen, J. (2012). Pictorial argumentation in advertising: Visual tropes and figures as a way of creating visual argumentation. In Topical Themes in Argumentation Theory: Twenty Exploratory Studies, Frans H. van Eemeren and Bart Garssen (eds.), 239-255. Amsterdam: Springer Publications.

Kjeldsen, J. (2013). Strategies of visual argumentation in slideshow presentations: The role of the visuals in an Al Gore presentation on climate change. Argumentation, 27: 425-443.

Kjørup, S. (1978). Pictorial speech acts. Erkenntnis, 12: 55-71.

Machin, D. (2007). Introduction to Multimodal Analysis. London: Bloomsbury Academic.

Mazzali-Lurati, S., and C. Pollaroli. (2014). A pragma-semiotic analysis of advertisements as multimodal texts: A case study. In Multimodal Epistemologies: Towards an Integrated Framework, Arianna Maiorani and Christine Christie (eds.), 66-82. London: Routledge.

Müller, J. E. (ed.) (1995). Towards a Pragmatics of the Audiovisual: Theory and History (Vols. 1-2). Münster: Nodus Publikationen.

Novitz, D. (1977). Pictures and Their Use in Communication. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.

Pateman, T. (1980). How to do things with images. Theory and Society, 9: 603-622.

Rocci, A., S. Mazzali-Lurati, and C. Pollaroli. (2013). Is this the Italy we like? Multimodal argumentation in a Fiat Panda TV commercial. In The Multimodal Analysis of Television Commercials, Barry Pennock-Speck and María M. del Sanz Rubio (eds.), 157-187. Valencia:Publicacions de la Universitat de València (PUV).

Smith, K.L., S. Moriarty, K. Kenney, and G. Barbatsis. (eds.) (2004). Handbook of Visual Communication: Theory, Methods, and Media. London: Routledge.

Snoeck Henkemans, A.F. (2014). Speech act theory and the study of argumentation. Studies in Logic, Grammar and Rhetoric, 36: 41-58.

Stöckl, H. (2004). In between modes: Language and image in printed media. In Perspectives on Multimodality, Eija Ventola, Cassily Charles and Martin Kaltenbacher (eds.), 9-30.Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Tseronis, A. (2014). Argumentative functions of visuals: beyond claiming and justifying. In Virtues of Argumentation. Proceedings of the 10th International Conference of the Ontario Society for the Study of Argumentation (OSSA), Dima Mohammed and Marcin Lewiński (eds.), 1-17. Windsor: OSSA.

van den Broek, J., W. Koetsenruijter, J. de Jong, and L. Smit. (2012). Visual Language. Perspectives for both Makers and Users. The Hague: Eleven International Publishing.

van Eemeren, F. H., R. Grootendorst, S. Jackson, and S. Jacobs. (1993). Reconstructing Argumentative Discourse. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press.

Wharton, T. (2009). Pragmatics and Non-verbal Communication. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Worth, S. (1975). Pictures can’t say ain’t. Versus: Quaderni di studi semiotici, 12: 85-105.

Yus Ramos, F. (1998). Relevance theory and media discourse: A verbal-visual model of communication. Poetics, 25: 293-309.


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