A systemic functional-multimodal discourse analysis of selected road safety awareness texts used by the road transport and safety agency

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Mwelwa, Kelvin
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The University of Zambia
This study investigated the multimodal nature of texts used in road safety publicity campaigns in Zambia by the Road Transport and Safety Agency (RTSA). The study analysed the use of graphic and visual forms of semiosis in transmitting road safety information. The idea was to establish the coherence and correlation between these semiotic modes and how they are used to enact meaning in RTSA texts. In light of this, the study carried out a textual analysis of the design features of selected billboards, posters and brochures, by focusing on the choice of words, image and colour, so as to establish how the composition of these elements act as an aid or barrier to the decoding of the intended message. Due to its scope, the study employed an integrative theoretical framework. Firstly, the study applied Halliday‘s (1994) Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) theory based on the ‗choices‘ and ‗meaning potential‘ made in the metafunctions of language. Secondly, the study adopted Kress and van Leeuwen‘s (1996) text-based Multimodal Discourse Analysis (MDA) approach to reading visual images. An exploratory case study design was employed to investigate the little known aspects of road safety awareness campaigns. The study applied qualitative methods in the collection and analysis of data. The results of the study indicate that semiotic resources in RTSA texts are incoherently packaged and this negatively affects the enactment of meaning. The incoherence, in most instances, is due to the use of abstract modes as well as ungrammatical and complex linguistic constructions which require sophisticated intertextual knowledge and schemas to interpret. Additionally, the misplacement of elements in RTSA texts obscures compositional meaning. The study concludes that RTSA road safety publicity texts, in most cases, contain incoherent messages and this ultimately renders the awareness campaign somewhat ineffective.
Traffic safety--Zambia , Traffic accidents--Zambia--Prevention. , Language Arts & disciplines--Communication Studies