Highlighting

Highlighting: the semiotic principle of lending particular prominence to an element in a text or other semiotic arrangement (cf. ‘making salient’, ‘emphasizing, ‘centralizing’, ‘stressing’, ‘marking). Highlighting can serve different functions. Highlighting is at the same time a way of giving special weight (‘significance’) to selected features, that is, to represent a particular view on the world; and a way of pointing to these features to draw the attention of the readers to them and shape their interpretation of the text, that is. to produce a social relation between those who make and those who engage with the text. Highlighting is differently realized in different modes. For instance, in image, writing and other modes, a part or feature of a text can be highlighted by giving it a size, style, weight, colour, spacing or placement that ‘stands out’ (so that it is bigger or smaller, thicker or thinner, more or less saturated, or more or less central than most other parts of the text). In speech, music and other modes, salience can be realized by giving the part of the text that is to be highlighted a loudness that stands out, i.e. by varying the levels of energy in sound; or by pitch movement, ie varying tone; or by stress. In writing, highlighting is also indicated by position, in a sentence, paragraph or the text as a whole.

Editor: Jeff Bezemer
Other contributors: Gunther Kress and Arlene Archer

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