Ever since BARTHES’ (1977/1964) seminal essay the relative status of language and image has been a major focus in systemic functional descriptions of multimodal genres (BATEMAN 2014: 191ff.). Its importance is reflected in recent applications to news genres, where a different status of press photographs leads to the contrasting text types ‘image-nuclear (or centric)’ vs. ‘verbiage- nuclear news story’ (CAPLE 2008; CAPLE 2013: 127ff./142ff). While this distinction seems intuitively plausible, it is far from clear which criteria contribute to image-centricity. What is more, the binary typology obscures the genre variety resulting from different inter-semiotic relations.

Based on a theoretical reflection of image-centricity the present contribution sets out to draw up a typology of image-centric media stories, which indicates the genre variety of such texts and the diversity of multimodal design-options. Using a corpus of image-centric media stories drawn from national German and English print- newspapers (e.g. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Welt; Guardian, New York Times, USA Today) the paper aims to sketch out genre proto- types (e.g. news-in-brief, story-intro, preview, explainer, editorial, gallery etc.) that respond to different text functions (e.g. narrating, commenting, surveying etc.).

The distinctions between the various image-centric media genres will be based on linguistic and multimodal descriptions. In this sense the paper is not purely empiri- cal but also highlights an analytical method applicable to other multi-semiotic genres. First, we will look at generic structure, which may include headline, image, prosodic tail and caption and produces various multimodal rhetorical clusters (STÖCKL forthcoming). Second, the type of image used and its visual grammar (MACHIN 2007: 109ff.) exert a strong influence on genre. Third, rhetorical relations between image and text will differ as to how captions contain ‘experiential orienta- tion’ and ‘contextual expansion’ (CAPLE 2013: 130ff.). Finally, genre distinctions may emerge from different logical conjunctive relations and from differences in the types and frequency of cohesive ties (CAPLE 2013: 142ff.; STÖCKL 2015). The paper demonstrates that image-centricity in media stories takes different generic forms and comes in different multimodal patterns, reflecting various journalistic/media cultures.



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  • STÖCKL, H. (forthcoming): Multimodality in a Diachronic Light. Tracking Changes in Text- Image-Relations within the Genre Space of a Printed Medium. In: Discourse, Context & Media. Special Issue ‘Media Evolution and Genre Expectations’.