Intersemiotic Complementarity in Legal Cartoons: An Ideational Multimodal Analysis

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Journal Article
International Journal for the Semiotics of Law, 2015, 28 (4), pp. 719 - 744
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© 2015, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht. The analysis of legal communication has almost exclusively been the domain of discourse analysts focusing on the ways that the linguistic system is used to realise legal meanings. Multimodal discourse analysis, where visual forms in combination with traditional linguistic expressions co-occur, is now also an area of expanding interest. Taking a Systemic Functional Linguistics “social semiotic” perspective, this paper applies and critiques an analytical framework that has been used for examining intersemiotic complementarity in various types of page-based multimodal texts by analysing a cartoon satirizing the demands that verdict deliberations can make on a citizen jury seated in a Crown Court. While the multimodal analysis reveals that a straightforward application of this analytical framework is useful in and of itself, it is argued that the framework needs to be extended to also account for further and more complex layers of represented meaning. The analysis is also situated in the wider legal social semiotic, and draws attention to international debates on the efficacy of the jury system itself.
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