Worked example: Semiotic systems at work in the text
Text: Avoid Being a Convict by Meredith Costain, pages 18 and 19
|Semiotic system||What can you identify in the text and what meaning does this have for the reader?|
The first letter of the text is highlighted or featured (visual feature). Does this signal a new chapter?
You may use the text on this page to closely study the use of particular grammar features and vocabulary to create meaning for the reader.
Objects as symbols
Main image: framing/shot – long shot on main picture giving information about the setting (unloading items from the ships).
Guards/Indigenous people: medium shot (from the waist up) showing interactions between the groups; looks like the guards are trying to trade. Indigenous people are illustrated with spears and there is a reference in the text to ‘stabbings and death’.
Governor Phillip hoisting the flag: medium shot. Flag is salient feature: bright colour and blowing out of the frame.
Props: clothing looks in good condition.
|Call-out boxes: ‘Keep moving – we’ll soon sort out those sea-legs!’|
Soldiers’ facial expressions: mean, angry and dumbfounded.
Convicts: strained, exhausted. (Does their appearance match the text?)
Indigenous people: inquisitive.
Layout and landscape
How things are organised
How things are placed on a page
Setting and props
Placement, size and design of handy hint – same on every page – cohesion of text.
Chain border: cohesion of text.
Use of a main image and two smaller images in boxes giving additional information. Plus handy hint.
You could ask the following questions for further discussion:
- How do the visual elements of a text assist us as readers? How much information do we get from the visuals?
- What are some of the opinions we could form using this text for our inquiry?
- How do the gestural features of the different groups of people influence our opinion about their roles and relationships? Is this stereotypical?
- What has the illustrator used to create salience (highlighting the important features of the text)?
- Does the use of cartoon type illustrations and call-out boxes make the reader question the information in the text? Is this an informative or narrative text? Why? Why have the author and illustrator used this format for presenting an informative text?
- Look specifically at the smaller frame of the guards perhaps trading with the Indigenous people:
- What information can we gain from that text?
- Only Indigenous males are featured, carrying spears: are they friendly?
- What do the facial expressions of the guards tell us?
- Text underneath says ‘new neighbours’: a friendly term, but also refers to stabbings and death – juxtaposition.
- Guards have jewels, gold and riches. Did they have these on the First Fleet?