Bahaa-Eddin Mazid: "Deconstructing a Contemporary Egyptian Newspaper Caricature"



The caricature text analyzed is taken from the second page of the March 2, 2000 issue of the Egyptian national daily newspaper Al-Akhbar ('the news') and it bears the signature of Amr Fahmi, a contemporary Egyptian caricaturist.

The method used is semiopragmalinguistic analysis, one that addresses the semiotic, linguistic, and pragmatic aspects of the text. Pragmalinguistic analysis alone is not enough, because the text is made up of a verbal code and a nonverbal code. A semiotic analysis can accommodate anything that has meaning, anything that signifies: a word, a sound, a color, a smell, a photo, an illustration, a movement, a posture, or a gesture, and so on.

Those signifiers belong to different semiotic codes, e.g., the linguistic code, the garment system, body language, traffic signals, to mention only few codes. A signifier does not function in isolation, but it does so in relation to other signifiers and within a code. The relations between signifiers may' be paradigmatic (i.e., selectional and vertical), or syntagmatic (i.e., combinational and horizontal). The relation between a signifier and its meaning (the signified), on the other hand, may be iconic (i.e., one of resemblance, e.g., a photograph), indexical (i.e., one of causal association, e.g., smoke and fire), or symbolic (i.e., arbitrary and conventional, e.g., a number).

A group of signifiers that combine into a cohesive and coherent whole make up a text. A text has affinities to other texts — previous, contemporaneous, as well as forthcoming. Each text inevitably belongs to a genre, a text-type, and it may have similarities with texts from other genres. And each text normally consists of a body and a periphery. The periphery of a text subsumes its title and subtitles, preface, introduction, signature and publisher information, although not all of these exist in every text.

A semiotic analysis also addresses the modality in a text — its formal and content modality, the address forms used therein, as well as the connotation/s of signifiers. The connotations of a signifier may be so universal and far-reaching as to make up a myth (Chandler, WWW; Lane, 1992).

This is not an exhaustive list of the possible aspects of semiotic analysis. It is , however, a partially adequate framework for the analysis given below. The analysis takes the notions of conversational analysis, pragmatics and functional grammar for granted.

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AS/SA Nº 9, Article 3 : Page 2 / 9

© 2000, Applied Semiotics / Sémiotique appliquée

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