Dear All,
We have already discussed the APPRAISAL-ENGAGEMENT framework for the analysis of verbal texts. However, not all texts consist of verbal content only. In addition to the verbal mode, the visual mode is also often enabled in modern texts. Visual texts, however, do not function in the same way as verbal texts. For example, verbal texts rely on words and sounds to communicate a particular meaning while visual texts may use colour or focus. Therefore, the verbal APPRAISAL-ENGAGEMENT framework cannot be used effectively to analyze visual texts. The present post addresses precisely this issue, namely, it looks into how visual texts (photographs in particular) can be analyzed effectively using the APPRAISAL-ENGAGEMENT framework.

Due to their considerable communicative potential, images have drawn attention of linguists (e.g. Economou, 2009; Le, 2012; Knox, 2009; Kress & Van Leeuwen, 2009). However, up to now there have been few studies applying the APPRAISAL framework for the analysis of visual texts. The advantage of using the APPRAISAL framework for analyzing visual texts is that this would give researchers tools necessary to analyze not only the verbal content of multimodal texts, but also their visual mode and, thus, to assess communicative potential of multimodal texts more accurately. It is worth mentioning that the visual mode is particularly important in the context of digital media with its emphasis on images (e.g. Flickr, Pinterest, news websites combining verbal texts and images). Therefore, in order to complement the verbal APPRAISAL-ENGAGEMENT framework which I have posted previously, I am going to develop the visual APPRAISAL-ENGAGEMENT framework. Two major studies are going to help me in this task: “Gateways to the news: Headlines on Le Monde’s home page and front page” by Le (2012) and”Photos in the news: Appraisal analysis of visual semiosis and verbal-visual intersemiosis” by Economou (2009).

In her study, Le (2012) is interested in the interplay between the verbal and the visual modes. Consequently, the distinction is made between monoglossic and heteroglossic images. The former can be defined as images in which “[s]peakers do not make any reference to other voices or viewpoints in the expression of their own positions” (p. 38) beyond those already mentioned in the verbal content. The latter (heteroglossic images) are defined as images which add “a voice to a monoglossic headline and thus render […] the story heteroglossic” or when they add “new voices to an already heteroglossic headline” (p. 42). In other words, images which do not add any new voices to a story are termed as monoglossic, whereas those images which contribute new dialogic voices to the story are termed as heteroglossic.

In her study, Economou (2009) has been interested not only in the possibility of analyzing images in their relation to verbal texts, but also in the possibility of analyzing stand-alone images. This interest is reflected in the taxonomy that she is using. In Economou’s  taxonomy, visual monoglossia is registered when an image is a photographic representation of the world, while visual heteroglossia, in contrast, is registered when an image deviates from what would be a naturalistic depiction of the real world (Economou, 2009).

Although Economou tries to follow closely the verbal APPRAISAL-ENGAGEMENT framework in developing the visual APPRAISAL-ENGAGEMENT framework, she notes that that this is not always possible since “explicit engagement* resources are more restricted in the visual [mode] – both for sourcing visual meanings to external voices, and for positioning the author with respect to external voices” (2009, p. 221). Significantly, in terms of monoglossia, visual ENGAGEMENT does not distinguish between taken-for-granted and up-for-discussion faculties, while in terms of heteroglossia, “the distinction between expanding and contracting engagement resources, which provides the initial entry options in the verbal system, is not used as an entry system in the visual”** (Economou, 2009, p. 221). Therefore, the visual framework is somewhat different from the verbal one.

In order to take into consideration the interplay between the verbal and visual modes and also to distinguish between different subtle ways in which images communicate interpersonal meanings, it is possible to combine Le’s (2012) and Economou’s (2009) frameworks. The combined visual APPRAISAL-ENGAGEMENT framework is given in the figure below:

visual-APPRAISAL-ENGAGEMENTSimilar to the verbal ENGAGEMENT framework, the point of entry for the visual ENGAGEMENT is monoglossia and heteroglossia. Monoglossic images do not contain any other voices or dialogic alternatives than those already mentioned in the verbal content; in addition to this such images are “a congruent, photographic representation of the material world, with the camera as substitute for the human eye” (Economou, 2009, p. 203).

Heteroglossic images, on the contrary, open space for dialogic alternatives by invoking other voices into the text.With heteroglossic images, three major options are open for communicating interpersonal meaning: attribute (incorporate or substitute), entertain, and suggest:

a) attribute – alternative voices or positions are referenced through the choice of embodied gestures and/or signs or other images as a part of the given image. Such visual ENGAGEMENT resources are called visual quotes (Economou, 2009). There are two distinguishable sources of visual attribution:
(i) incorporate – images in which alternative voices are invoked through an incorporated visual quote;
(ii) substitute – images acting as a “visual quote”;

b) entertain – the image opens up dialogic alternatives for the text by positioning the authorial voice as “one of a number of possible positions” (Martin & White, 2005, p. 104); in the visual ENGAGEMENT framework, it is realized by “selecting extreme levels in either spatial or textural expression forms” such as light, colours or camera focus (Economou, 2009, p. 214);

c) suggest – the image is given in an alternative context to that of the verbal text which can be done through changes in the background in the image or eliminating it.

In sum, this post has discussed the visual APPRAISAL-ENGAGEMENT framework. This framework can contribute to the analysis of the overall interpersonal meaning of texts which include not only verbal resources, but also images. The visual ENGAGEMENT framework relies on the verbal ENGAGEMENT taxonomy. Similar to the verbal taxonomy, the main distinction is made between monoglossic and heteroglossic resources. In contrast to the verbal taxonomy, however, the visual ENGAGEMENT framework does not distinguish between different monoglossic resources (taken-for-granted vs up-for-discussion); heteroglossic resources are not divided into contractive and expansive. Thus, the visual APPRAISAL-ENGAGEMENT framework has fewer options (than the verbal one) for communicating interpersonal meanings via distinguishable ENGAGEMENT resources.

The advantage of the suggested visual APPRAISAL-ENGAGEMENT framework is that it allows analyzing texts more accurately since it considers not only the verbal mode, but also the visual mode in determining the overall communicative potential of texts. This framework is particularly important in the context of Web communication because modern Web texts are increasingly visual. The main limitation of the suggested framework is that it has been applied to the analysis of naturalistic photographs rather than any other kinds of images. This limitation, however, should not pose a barrier for the analysis of most newspaper articles or other similar texts on the Web or in print media.

Economou, D. (2009). Photos in the news: appraisal analysis of visual semiosis and verbal-visual intersemiosis. PhD dissertation, University of Sydney, Department of Linguistics, NSW, Aurstralia.
Knox, J. S. (2009). Multimodal discourse on online newspaper home pages: Asocial-semiotic perspective. PhD dissertation, University of Sydney, Department of Linguistics, NSW, Australia.
Kress, G., & Leeuwen, van T. (2006). Reading images: the grammar of visual design. New York: Routledge.
Le, E. (2012). Gateways to the news: Headlines on Le Monde’s home page and front page. Discourse, Context & Media, 1, 32-44.
Martin, J. R., & White, P. R. (2005). The language of evaluation: Appraisal in English. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan

*Economou (2009) is using lowercase letters for “ENGAGEMENT”. In contrast, I follow the classic spelling which uses upper-case register (Martin & White, 2005).
**Italics added.


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