Can pictures say no or not? Negation and denial in the visual mode

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In principle, verbal and image languages have different ways of coding conceptual content. Moreover, there is no reason to believe
that both modes, the linguistic and the visual, can convey identical contents, and indeed, linguists have claimed that images are not suited
for expressing the meaning of certain linguistic categories, like negation. As the linguistic literature argues convincingly, in natural
language a distinction between negation and denial is justified. Employing insights in visual communication and cognition science, this
paper explores the possibilities for visually expressing negation and/or denial. At the hand of both the analysis and an empirical pilot study
of a set of advertisements, we come up with a positive answer to the title question: yes, pictures can say ‘no’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-106
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Publication statusPublished - 3 Sept 2014


  • Negation; Denial; NLsemantics; Images; Erasure; Experiment


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