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My interest in comics from an academic standpoint is how language codes function. Mostly I examine how dialogue is structured and how characters build their relationships and identities through their talk. This approach blends tenets of conversation analysis, discourse analysis, and pragmatics. (For an example of this kind of research, see my article on The Rawhide Kid in the journal ImageTexT.)

One methodological concern for analysts who do similar work is this: how is the language in the comic best prepared for analysis? To analyze dialogue, we can create a transcript to account for typical features of conversation. For grammatical analysis, we can track the relative distribution of features–for example, comparing simple past tense verbs with past perfect verbs (‘walked’ vs ‘had walked’). In most cases, linguists need to examine 100% of the language in the comic to make sure that whatever analysis they’re doing is complete. In some cases, only a sample of the language is needed, but that requires asking the right research question and setting parameters effectively.


This blog post was originally published here: