Oyama, Rumiko
Institute of Education, University of London

Rumiko Oyama
Culture Communication & Societies
Institute of Education
University of London
20 Bedford Way
London WC1H 0AL
England, UK

E-mail address: teemrro@ioe.ac.uk

Strand: semiosis in language and other modalities

Title: Visual Semiotics Across Cultures - A Study of Advertisements in Japan and Britain

This paper arises out of my current research into visual semiotics of Japanese and British textual objects. The aim of this paper is to explore elements and structures of visual representations in Japanese and British advertising texts. I will focus on specific features and differences between Eastern (Japanese) and Western (British) visual semiotics in these texts, such as 'directionality', the semiotics of the use of space and relations between linguistic and visual aspects. I hypothesize that a visual layout in one culture is read differently with different meanings in other cultures due to the cultural specificness of visual semiotics.

The work takes, as its starting point, the recent study on visual grammar by Gunther Kress and Theo van Leeuwen: 'Reading Images - The Grammar of Visual Design' (1996) based on Halliday's theory of functional grammar. They argue that there are three metafunctions at work (the ideational, interpersonal, textual metafunctions) in visual communication. This paper will focus on the textual metafunction. In particular, I will argue that centrality / marginality plays a stronger role in the Japanese examples than in British ones, where the notion of the information value of Given and New and the ontological distinction of Ideal and Real, are more strongly present.