Socio-semiotic distance and its measurement in narrative discourse


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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  • Man Kit Marvin LAM


Awarding Institution
Award date4 Oct 2010


This study investigates, through the notion of distance, the development of interpersonal relationship of individuals in a course of social activities. Based on sociological and linguistic studies on interpersonal distance, this study proposes the concept 'socio-semiotic distance' - an individual's degree of familiarity and his/her polarity of affect to the other resulting from their co-engagement in meaning-making processes. This study also proposes a systemic functional linguistic approach to measure socio-semiotic distance with the construction of interactive biography (Hasan, 1985:57) and response profiling (Lam & Webster, 2009), which respectively reflect the familiarity and the affect of the socio-semiotic distance between individuals. The chronological development of the interactive biography and the response profiles can reflect the development of the socio-semiotic distance during the course of social activities. This study applies the proposed methodology on a narrative discourse, Dan Brown's novel 'The Da Vinci Code', to investigate the development of the socio-semiotic distance between the two main characters, Sophie Neveu and Robert Langdon. The novel, as a narrative discourse, is treated as a record of the social activities individuals co-engage that are as-if occurred in the real world. The methodology is argued to be appliable on the study of real-life interpersonal relationships vis-à-vis linguistic behaviours of individuals.

    Research areas

  • Semiotics, Social aspects, Sociolinguistics, Discourse analysis, Narrative, Interpersonal relations