Can pictures have explicatures?

Charles Forceville, Billy Clark


This paper considers the question of whether pictures can be understood to give rise to explicit meanings. In relevance-theoretic terms, this means asking whether pictures give rise to ‗explicatures‘. The definition of the term ‗explicature‘ seems to rule out this possibility except in cases where pictures include or are accompanied by material with coded meanings. The paper considers a range of non-verbal phenomena with coded meanings, including pictograms (FORCEVILLE 2011, FORCEVILLE et al 2014). It then considers whether the explicature-implicature distinction could be relevant to pictures without such elements. Some assumptions communicated by pictures seem to be more ‗explicature-like‘ than others, so it is possible that the distinction will be useful. The question is not merely terminological as the discussion leads to a fuller understanding of ways in which pictures communicate.


Relevance theory; Pictures; Explicature; Pictorial codes; Visual communication; Multimodality

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Ling. disc. Universidade do Sul de Santa Catarina, Santa Catarina, ISSN 1982-4017

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