Silence: a modality of its own

Silvia Adler, Ayelet Kohn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Multimodality theories are based on the assumption that the process of meaning making does not operate in isolation, but usually integrates various modalities. While visual, aural, and spatial modalities are dealt with extensively, the theoretical framework of multimodality tends to overlook silence as a modality of its own. Yet, seminal studies established that silence is not a mere absence of sound or text. Insofar as the communicative dimension is concerned, scholars have proven that silence carries illocutionary force and perlocutionary effect, thus considering silence as a means of communication within human interaction. As opposed to studies that do not relate to silence from the perspective of multimodality, and in contrast to multimodality theories that disregard the centrality of silence in the multimodal product, we claim that silence should be integrated in the multimodal product along with other “established” modalities such as words, sound, and image. In other words, we argue in favor of a model where silence is considered a modality of its own, not a complement to sound or text. We focus on the medium of comics, although a more comprehensive analysis of the thesis of silence as a modality should also take into account other multimodal media.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial Semiotics
Early online date2021
StatePublished - Aug 2021

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  • Israeli comics
  • Modality
  • comics
  • multimodal meaning
  • silence typology


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