Introducing Social Semiotics

By Theo Van Leeuwen | Go to book overview

12

Dialogue

The logic of dialogue

Multimodal cohesion can also be looked at in terms of interactional dynamics, of dialogue. Particularly through the influence of Vološinov, dialogue has become a central concept in social semiotics. According to Vološinov there is, alongside the semantic logic I have described in the previous chapter, another more emotive and interactive kind of logic, the logic of dialogue. He wrote (1986 [1929]: 38) that 'alternating lines of dialogue':

are joined with one another and alternating with one another not according to the laws of grammar or logic, but according to the laws of evaluative (emotive) correspondence, dialogical deployment, etc., in close dependence on the historical conditions of the social situation and the whole pragmatic run of life.

It is this logic I will try to describe in this chapter - again, as a multimodal logic. There is no contradiction with the kind of logic I described in the previous chapter. Our brains are perfectly capable of understanding the same text or communicative event at two or more levels simultaneously. It is just that, in a book like this, I have to deal separately with what, in reality, is inextricably linked together.

To start, let us think back to the example I used in chapter 6, the 'apprenticeship' episode from Paddy Chayevsky's play Printer's Measure' (1994):

Mr Healey: Hey! Come here!

Call to attention

The boy looks up and comes scurrying down the shop, dodging the poking arm of the Kluege press, and comes to Mr Healey.

Mr Healey pulls out a letterhead, points to a line of print

Demonstration

Mr Healey: What kind of type is that?

Boy: Twelve point Clearface

Quizzing

Mr Healey: How do you know?

Boy: It's lighter than Goudy, and the lower case 'e' goes up

Probing

Mr Healey: Clearface is a delicate type. It's clean, it's clear. It's got line and grace. Remember that

Instruction

Beat it!

Dismissal

The boy hurries back to the front of the shop to finish his cleaning

-248-

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