Multimodal Discourses of Immigration: Language , Image, Gesture


5:00 PM - 6:00 PM


  • Time: 17:00-18:00
  • Date: 11 May 2022
  • Venue: Zhumu, please for Zhumu details


In this talk, I apply a cognitive linguistics lens to critically analyse representations of immigration in different semiotic modes and the interaction between them in multimodal texts and talk. The talk is structured in three parts. Given that migration is most fundamentally the movement of people from one place to another, in the first part, I start by outlining the ‘default motion event’ as it is encoded in English ( Talmy 2000). I then go on to highlight some of the conceptual parameters along which attested language usages found in online news coverage of migration to the UK depart from this basic model to enact alternative construals which contribute to the legitimation of discriminatory social action. Such conceptual parameters relate, for example, to the MANNER of motion, the TIME FRAME in which the motion event is construed as occurring, and the PERSPECTIVE from which it is construed. In the second part of the talk, I show how, in multimodal news texts, language and image may converge in encoding parallel conceptualisations of immigration so that, for example, metaphorical construals evoked by language usages may also receive representation in co-text images. Such intersemiotic convergence, I argue, has a ‘ratcheting’ effect in discursive constructions of prejudice and the legitimation of discriminatory action. I analyse language image combinations in the form of news photographs and their captions. In the final part of the talk, I focus on gesture in the situated performance of anti immigration discourse, taking as a case study the discourse of Nigel Farage. I show how many of the rhetorical moves associated with (de)legitimating discourse, including Othering and threat construction through deictic distancing/ proximising , quantification and denial are performed multimodally through specific gesture speech combinations. I therefore argue that gesture is an important discursive means by which prejudice is performed in spoken political discourse.


Christopher Hart is Professor of Linguistics at Lancaster University. His research is focussed on the links between language, cognition and social action in political contexts of communication. He is author of Critical Discourse Analysis and Cognitive Science: New Perspectives on Immigration Discourse (2010), Discourse, Grammar and Ideology: Functional and Cognitive Perspectives (2014) and Language, Image, Gesture: The Cognitive Semiotics of Politics (in prep.) as well as numerous articles published in international journals, including Discourse & Society, Critical Discourse Studies, Journal of Language and Politics, Journal of Pragmatics and Cognitive Linguistics .

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