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Multimodal exemplification: The expansion of meaning in electronic dictionaries

Xiqin Liu


This article investigates electronic dictionaries under the framework of Systemic-Functional Multimodal Discourse Analysis (SF-MDA) and argues for improving their exemplifica-tion multimodally. Multimodal devices, if well coordinated, can help optimize e-dictionary exam-ples in informativity, diversity, dynamicity and  interactivity. The term multimodal exemplification is tentatively proposed under the umbrella of multimodal lexicography (Lew 2010), and defined as the selection and presentation of examples with multimodal devices for achieving greater effec-tiveness in exemplifying than language does alone, especially in an e-dictionary. Evidence shows that multimodal exemplification can expand the three  metafunctional meanings of the e-dictionary discourse: ideational, interpersonal and textual. Ideational meaning can be enriched by not only multimodal examples per se but also cross-modal example–definition ties, and hyperlinks facilitate meaning flow in the semantic network. Interpersonal meaning can be expanded by user  participa-tion and design options, including those for page layout (spatial mode) and example genre style (verbal mode). Textual meaning can be reinforced by  information value, composition, salience and framing. This article makes a first  attempt to explore the intermodal relationship between a defini-tion and the  examples under the same sense, and to present a diagram illustrating a typical design of visual space in e-dictionaries. By exploring the special features of multimodal example texts, it may deepen our understanding of the emerging multimodal lexicography and complement multi-modal discourse studies from a lexicographical perspective.


Keywords: E-Dictionary, Example, Metafunctional Meaning, Multimodal Discourse Analysis, Multimodal Exemplification, Multimodal Lexicog-Raphy
AJOL African Journals Online