ArgLab • Colloquium

Andrea Rocci

The argumentative function of multimodal metonymy. Examples from environmental campaigns

In this talk I will present a research developed in close collaboration with Chiara Pollaroli and Sabrina Mazzali-Lurati at IALS. Results of this research appear in a joint article forthcoming in special issue of the journal Semiotica and in Chiara’s forthcoming PhD thesis.


Here I will focus on the analysis of multimodal metonymy in social, and, more specifically, environmental campaigns and on the argumentative and rhetorical role that the trope can fulfil in them. A model for the analysis of multimodal tropes in page-based advertising messages is developed drawing insights from different disciplines. Ads are subject to a comprehensive layered analysis including (a) the description of the multimodal structure of the text (in terms of the visual structure and the contribution of the verbal component), (b) the reconstruction of its meaning operation, and (c) the reconstruction of its enthymematic structure. To represent meaning operations I resort to a substantially revised version of Conceptual Integration Theory, which we capable of a better account for metonymical mappings. The enthymematic structure is reconstructed following the Argumentum Model of Topics, a model of argument schemes which enables to make explicit the contextual and the logical dimensions of arguments.


The analysis of environmental ads shows that metonymy condenses and gives access to a complex chain of connections, which mirrors the argumentation the audience is invited to infer. This argumentation is based on causal loci. The “foreshortening” of causal chains effected by multimodal mentonymy fits particularly well, as a presentational device, the needs of environmental campaigners who need to bring the environmental effects of long causal chains involving far-away places and unknown actors closer to the interest and affection of the audiences they need to mobilize.


Andrea RocciUniversità della Svizzera italiana, Lugano, Switzerland