Visual grammar in practice: Negotiating the arrangement of speech bubbles in storyboards


It is generally acknowledged that we live in an increasingly visual culture, populated with a variety of visual objects. Researchers have recently started to investigate the underlying regularities, the “visual grammar,” according to which these objects are assembled. While most existing studies base their analysis on products (such as advertisements, movies or pages from newspapers), this paper studies the processes through which such products are assembled, thereby investigating visual grammar in practice.

The particular objects analyzed are storyboards that were produced by secondary school pupils using a new computerized storyboarding tool as part of their engagement with Shakespeare's Macbeth. The paper focuses on situations in which pupils explicitly discuss and negotiate the placement of speech bubbles, thereby revealing aspects of the “meaning-effects” of such placements.

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The official journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies, founded in 1969 as one of the first scholarly journals in the field, Semiotica features articles reporting results of research in all branches of semiotic studies, in-depth reviews of selected current literature in the field, and occasional guest editorials and reports. The journal also publishes occasional Special Issues devoted to topics of particular interest.