Specificity of formation of English discourse sense system multimodality and its integrative functional analysis


The article is devoted to the analysis of English discourse sense space formation with the help of multi-level resources and modes, each of which offers its own options and limitations. Language means used in a certain discourse form meanings that, under the influence of pragmatic and extralinguistic factors, are transformed into broader sense. The communication process also involves various non-verbal means that enrich represented meanings, which can affect the discourse integral sense and the result of communication as a whole. Linguistic (verbal) and non-linguistic (non-verbal) means of sense representation correlate and complement each other; this leads to structuring of multimodal plane, hierarchically organized and encoding certain functional areas. The objective of the article is to study multi-level speech units and relations (links) between the constituents of English discourse that form meanings and senses from the perspective of the integrative functional paradigm. The application of this scientific methodology to the research of discourse is relevant and appropriate, since the integrative analysis helps understand how synergetic interaction and functioning of a certain set of linguistic and non-linguistic means and factors lead to a comprehensive representation of the semantic and pragmatic potential of discourse and formation of its multimodal sense space. The main research methods are integrative functional analysis and discourse analysis. The results of the study reveal the dependence of formation of a multimodal sense system on interaction of discourse language data with extralinguistic information and factors, as well as on the pragmatic potential of the discourse itself. This leads to higher-level modelling of language processes, which the integrative functional paradigm helps comprehend and characterize.

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The nature of discourse and of language communication is characterized by multimodality which implies the complex interaction of various sign [Kharkovskaya, Krivchenko 2017; Kress 2011]. Combining verbal modes with visual-spatial components of discourse structuring (for example, spelling, punctuation, different modes of text presentation, pictures, images) can convey not only the sense of a message but also the emotional background of the communicative situation. Due to this, an extensional picture is formed – the smallest details are intertwined with more global relations, which as a result contributes to the presentation of a linguistic object in full scale [Aleksandrova 2020]. The formed sense, therefore, is based on linguistic representation in interaction with non-linguistic content and extralinguistic knowledge of communicants and is characterized by dynamism, since it is constantly enriched and reconstructed.

The objective of the article is to conduct a combined coherent analysis of various functional parameters of speech activity through the perspective of the integrative methodology. The integrative paradigm operates with principles of multilevel study, taking into account all kinds of modes involved in construction of the sense of a message and fixing somehow non-verbal signals expressing the psychological state of the speaker and providing a more adequate interpretation of the discourse by the addressee. An integrative analytical approach to the object of study helps not only understand strategies and tactics for meanings and sense implementation but explores various ways and means of influencing the interlocutor [Grigorieva 2018]. This makes the current research highly relevant.

The functional plane of speech receives the most complete representation with a comprehensive, rather than segmental, consideration of various functional parameters (semantic, pragmatic, cognitive) of a speech work in their inseparable unity and interaction. That is why the application of an integrative analytical paradigm to the study of multimodality of English discourse is considered appropriate for it gives a full idea of functional properties of speech activity.

Materials and methods

The theoretical basis of the study comprises modern works of linguists devoted to issues of discourse, formation of meanings and sense in certain communicative conditions and structuring of the functional sense space of English discourse through both verbal and non-verbal codes. For the analysis of illustrative material, modern English-speaking fiction is used.

The main research methods are integrative functional analysis and discourse analysis. They provide deeper understanding of the processes of formation and interpretation of the multimodal sense space of English discourse.


Results and discussion

Being a means of transmitting information, discourse encodes sense, and its decoding is not limited only to understanding of linguistic units but is largely determined by the external environment of the discourse (the world perception, social and cultural experience, ability to regulate the deployment of discourse). This is reflected in selection of the most significant in this context and for these communicants of sense content and the choice of the most appropriate and optimal forms of its verbalization [Rarenko 2008]. The functioning of language means in their coherent interaction with extralinguistic factors modifies the multimodal sense space of English discourse.

Communicative codes of formation of discourse sense space are usually divided into verbal and non-verbal; the latter in turn falls into paralinguistic and extralinguistic ones [Efimenko, Ivanova 2020; Kress 2011]. The verbal code accounts for transmission of information, message, sense communicated by language means, which carries out speech activity. The paralinguistic code is a prosodic means (intonation, tone, tempo, pause, etc.) of representation of sense expressed by verbal means. The extralinguistic code enriches language means, as it transfers an emotional aspect of meanings and sense and involves body language (facial expressions, gestures, postures, eye contact, etc.), as well as the location/movement of interlocutors in space.

The language (verbal) code actualizes the sense of a speech work. It is predominant, but often it is the non-verbal code that conveys more significant communication information, as senses can be represented without the use of language means. Since linguistic forms serve only to launch the processes of conceptual integration, this enables communicants to build configurations of mental spaces at their discretion [Luzina 2008, p. 45]. This determines the spontaneity of discourse, the dependence of its formation on the behavior of the communicants and a possible change of their communicative roles. Therefore, the task of the integrative analytical approach is to identify how the speaker’s communicative intent is structured into the proper sense through the integration of split-level modes and what ensures its adequate perception is ensured. Let us study some examples.

(1) “Something’s happened between you”.

“No, it hasn’t”.

“Is he bothering you?”

For God’s sake!” (McEwan 2014).

(2) “Is there a difference?” “OF COURSE…” (Hornby 1995).

(3) I’m tired. Oh, God, I’m tired (Cheever 2000).

(4) “If you’d stop moving and listen”, I said.

“Your voice carries, I’ll say that. Lady I know, three blocks from where you found the body, said because of your yell that night, her cats still haven’t come home. Okay, I’m standing here. And?” (Bradbury 2013).

In the fragments, not only language means but also the certain formatting of the discourse represent the proper pragmasemantic sense and the emotional side of communication. Thus, in (1) and (2) the speaker’s tone obviously rises; this expresses irritation and unwillingness of the speaker to continue the topic (1) and the speaker’s bewilderment at the partner’s not understanding the elementary thing (2). In (3), on the contrary, we observe a downturn – inexpressiveness, ‘colorlessness’ of the speaker’s voice. Situation (4) reveals the nervous state of the partner expressed in his fast moving, ‘tearing around’ the room and wordiness, up to incoherent mumbling.

The emotional state of the communicators is often conveyed through parcelling and other kinds of graphical division of one sentence that is complete in meaning into two or even more. For example:

(5) Ladies and gentlemen. Start your engines (Brown 2005).

(6) “Well. So. Platt. How are you?” I said after an uncomfortable silence, stepping backwards. “Are you still in the city?” (Tartt 2016).

Such a mode of discourse constructing reflects the officiality and importance of what is happening, to a certain extent even solemnity in (5) and some confusion, thinking about what to say in an awkward situation (perhaps even “stalling for time”) in (6). Moreover, such representation of the discourse turns it into a kind of minitexts, the system properties of which determine formation of a formal-structural plane and functional space of discourse [Kharkovskaya, Ponomarenko, Radyuk 2017].

Intonation shifts, focus on some elements of discourse that are important for enhancing the formed sense (logical stress) can also be done in different ways, for example, writing a word, phrase or even a sentence in capital letters (7), italics or bold, etc. (8):

(7) I would say that if you really want to STOP knowing someone, you have to divorce him (Gilbert 2006).

(8) “Poor boy”, said Fannie. “You do look sad”. (Bradbury 2013).

As we see, paralinguistic contextual resources prove to be as significant for sense formation as verbal ones: any contextual signal functions in conjunction with grammatical and lexical signs and serves as the basis for situational interpretation. The integrative analysis covers a wide range of different language and contextual modes, interaction of which leads to a synergetic complex communicative effect. A multi-signal structure provides optimal expression of the formed sense and its fast and adequate decoding. The synthesis and synergetic interaction of all modes of meanings representation, which guide the creation of communicative sense and its interpretation, determine a holistic impression of what is being communicated.

Adequate reproduction and interpretation of senses largely depend on the cognitive abilities, psychological and mental state of communicative partners. Considering a certain system of rules and principles, communicants build up mental structures and correlate mental representations of different types, perform various operations with them, and even construct activity models [Chomsky, Hornstein 2005; Johnson-Laird 2010]. This confirms the interdependence of the language and psychological characteristics of a person, on the one hand, and the close link of the language with his/her other cognitive abilities, on the other hand, as well as the importance of language processing of information coming through different channels, the dependence of the language representation and organization on the specificity of the worldview and conceptual system of an individual [Kubryakova, Demyankov 2007].

The integrative functional paradigm allows combining all the identified aspects into a holistic analysis; it takes into account maximum factors in the process of generating and understanding sense space, namely, studies how and under the influence of which factors one meaning transforms into another, logically leads to formation of integral sense, as well as what possible linguistic and non-linguistic means are engaged. This creates dynamic models of sense enriching static ones: on the one hand, the initial level of sense space is static statement of a fact (a structural component of sense verbalization), but on the other hand, this space is formed as a extensional ‘stereoscopic’ construct evolving in the process of deploying meanings based on different rules [Alefirenko, Agleev, Kesner 2018; Ponomarenko 2013].

Developing the algorithm for sense formation, the integrative approach relies to a greater extent on the functional core and pragmatic perspective of discourse, which makes it possible to correspond a specific set of functions with optimal language means of their representation, that is to establish the connection between a chosen form of expression with the proper content (function). The relevance of the approach is defined by the opportunity of a multidirectional analysis of sense transformation: from a language means to a meaning or function, and from the function and meaning to ways of their representation [Bondarko 2002; Ponomarenko 1999]. This, in turn, makes it possible to explain what exact categories and objects are represented in the consciousness of a person, how he/she operates with these representations, and due to which internal speech mechanisms generates or interprets senses.

In addition, analyzing the processes of sense transformation, this approach applies linguosynergetic principles of evolution and dynamic systemicity, bringing to the fore the structural-systemic and functional aspects of sense formation. It provides systematization of the rules for its transformation and structuring of functional discourse relations (such as explanation, specification, alternative, extension, sequence, pragmatic comment, etc.). For example:

(9) Bobby walked over to them and observed the shapes –




– drawn beside the grid (King 2012).

In the presented fragment, the functional discourse plane is constructed by language means in combination with a visual object. The creolized content, forming a hybrid form of the discourse, contributes to a more vivid presentation and perception of the message than if the author simply expressed the idea through only language means (cf.: Bobby walked over to them and observed the shapes – a star, a comet, a crescent – drawn beside the grid). In such a way, the author most accurately conveys the image he has, which is necessary in this particular context. In addition, formation of functional relations of specification (through enumeration, albeit non-verbal, with the generalizing word shapes) by means of creolized discourse once again demonstrates the possibilities of synergetic interaction of elements of different levels in the process of creating the integral functional and sense space of English discourse.



Formation of discourse multimodality supposes generation of non-linearity, synergy of sense when, relatively speaking, ‘two plus two equals five’, that is, when discourse sense space is formed not as sequentially summed meanings of the elements of a speech chain but as a ‘new sense’ going beyond such sum [Khramchenko 2017; Ponomarenko 2013; Shcherba 2004]. A special role in this process is assigned to the transformation of meanings in interaction with other meanings and under the influence of linguistic and non-linguistic factors that determine formation of discourse sense space [Kubryakova, Demyankov 2007; Wharton 2009].

A comprehensive analysis of discourse multimodality can be carried out through the integrative analytical approach which helps specify principles for selecting certain means to express the proper sense in the process of communication, to develop the algorithm for transforming meanings into sense and its interpretation by communicants. The stated approach studies a more complex integrated way of idea expression, when formation of meanings and sense depends on different modes of interaction – verbal and non-verbal signs, various information exchange codes, etc. [Husserl 2019; Manerko 2019].

The potential of the integrative approach contributes to expansion of our understanding of the mechanisms of creating sense not as a static phenomenon but as a dynamic, complex, evolving process and multimodal plane.


About the authors

V. L. Malakhova

MGIMO University

Author for correspondence.
Email: v.l.malakhova@inno.mgimo.ru
ORCID iD: 0000-0002-0261-5493

Candidate of Philology, assistant professor, associate professor of English Language Department № 4

Russian Federation, 76, Vernadskogo Avenue, Moscow, 119454, Russian Federation.


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