Glossary of Multimodal Terms


“This term refers to a set of socially and culturally shaped resources for making meaning. Mode classifies a ‘channel’ of representation or communication for which previously no overarching name had been proposed (Kress and van Leeuwen, 2001). Examples of modes include writing and image on the page, extending to moving image and sound on the screen, and speech, gesture, gaze and posture in embodied interaction. It is not that other modes of communication had not been formerly recognized and studied; for example, extensive research and theorization has been undertaken into gesture (e.g. McNeill, 1992). Embracing a variety of communicational means as worthy of investigation constitutes a challenge to the prior predominance of spoken and written ‘language’ in academic work, and opens up possibilities for recognizing, analyzing and theorizing the variety of ways in which people make meaning, and how those meanings are multimodally interrelated. Modes are not autonomous and fixed, but, created through social processes, are fluid and subject to change. For example, the words ‘wicked’ and ‘cool’ have recently taken on fresh meaning. Nor are modes universal, but are particular to a community where there is a shared understanding of their semiotic characteristics. Making marks in the sand as they recounted stories was a mode for the Walbiri women of central Australia (Munn, 1973) that is not available in other communities.”


Mavers, D. & Gibson, W. (2012). National Centre for Research Methods. Retrieved on November 26, 2012 from

Jewitt, C. (2009). The Routledge handbook of multimodal analysis. London: Routledge

Kress, G. (2010). Multimodality: A social semiotic approach to contemporary communication. London: Routledge

Please refer to the LINK for all terms of multimodality.

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