CfP | Drawing Multimodality’s Bigger Picture: Metalanguages and Corpora for Multimodal Analyses

Abstract Submission Deadline 31 July 2023

Manuscript Submission Deadline 15 November 2023



Multimodality has most recently been described no longer as a research field or discipline on its own, but rather as a “stage of development within a field” (Bateman 2022a, 49). The realization that (1) many different fields and disciplines now enter their own multimodal phase with new interest in multimodal phenomena and that (2) these disciplines all commit to the development of multimodality research with their own theoretical principles and methodological tools, brings with it not only an immense breadth of potential analytical objects, but also many new meta-methodological issues.

“We need to find ways of ‘combining’ insights from the variously imported theoretical and methodological backgrounds brought along by previous non-multimodal stages of any contributing disciplines” (Bateman 2022a, 49).

At the same time, the search for a meta-methodology for multimodal analyses is pushed further by the recent trend towards more empirical approaches to multimodal phenomena and the development and use of larger multimodal corpora that just as well require theoretical and methodological refinements.

“We need to develop ways of strengthening claims with robustly applicable methods which nevertheless remain firmly anchored theoretically” (Bateman 2022b, 64).

For a productive handling of these issues, disciplinary triangulation and finding a ‘common language’ or metalanguage (Maton & Chen 2016) for an ‘integrationist interdisciplinarity’ (van Leeuwen 2005) are the greatest challenges in contemporary multimodality research (Bateman 2022a). Also, there is a need for reconceptualizing the practice of analysis by making available large-scale corpora and broader and more complex empirical setups to fully process the ‘move from theory to data,’ and to substantiate long-lasting theoretical and methodological hypotheses (Pflaeging et al. 2021).

For this project, we see these challenges productively as “a multimodal task from the ground up,” as John Bateman (2022b, 64) has phrased it in one of his most recent papers. This Research Topic will address this task by convening the most recent theoretical, methodological, practical, and empirical developments within contemporary multimodality research.

The aim is to gain new insights in

  • the metalanguages or external languages that are currently being developed for multimodal analysis in many different research fields and disciplines, e.g., in pedagogy, literary theory, cultural studies, design, argumentation theory, computer science, and (experimental) psychology;
  • newest results from data collection methods and multimodal corpus analyses that expand the current quantitative work by, e.g., applying existing theories and methods to larger datasets, or exploring the newest communication technologies.

We are particularly interested in seeing how works addressing these aspects contribute to finding ways of productive triangulation and integration for and within a meta-methodology for multimodality research.

This Research Topic aims to bring together scholars from a variety of disciplines interested in multimodality research to review, explore, and advance the contributions that John Bateman, as one of the key figures in multimodality research, has made to both theory- and method-building as well as to the driving forward of multimodal empirical and corpus analyses. We welcome contributions that, for example,

  • critically address the theoretical and methodological advancements that John Bateman has made with regard to the notions of semiotic mode, discourse semantics, genre, textuality, etc.;
  • apply one of the many approaches that John Bateman has developed for the empirical analysis of multimodal artefacts (e.g., the GeM model for page-based documents, his work on multimodal film and audio-visual analysis, and the discourse semantics and/or annotation approach to visual narratives) to larger corpora or currently newly developing communicative situations;
  • expand on one of the abovementioned aspects with new ideas and insights from disciplines that have not yet been included in multimodality research.