Linguistics is the study of language. The degree to which modes of communication other than speech and writing are taken to belong to the realm of linguistics varies significantly from sub-discipline to sub-discipline. For instance, Chomskian linguistics focuses on language alone, whereas studies in interactional sociolinguistics (Gumperz, 1999) also attend to modes that operate alongside speech. Linguistic approaches that do look beyond language may or may not work on the assumption that speech or writing are always the dominant modes of communication and that they have more potential for making meaning than other modes. For instance, terms such as ‘extra-linguistic’, ‘para-linguistic’, and ‘non-verbal’ all suggest that ‘language’ is prior. In multimodality, the function of modes and the relations between them are investigated, not assumed. At the same, researchers often incorporate linguistic categories into multimodal analysis, and explore whether or not these categories can be extended and/or redefined to apply to other modes of communication. For instance, in Systemic Functional Linguistics, the types of relations that people establish between clauses and sentences have been identified. Subsequently these types of relations have been found to apply to the relations between writing and image (see e.g. Martinec and Salway, 2005).

Editor: Jeff Bezemer
Other contributors: Jan Blommaert

Key References
Gumperz, J. J. (1999)
‘On interactional sociolinguistic method’, in S. Sarangi and C. Roberts (eds), Talk, Work and Institutional Order. Discourse in Medical, Mediation and Management Settings
Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 453–71.

Martinec, R. and Salway, A. (2005)
A system for image–text relations in new (and old) media
Visual Communication 2005; 4; 337

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