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Social distance and the multimodal construction of the Other in sectarian song

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Simon McKerrell



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


This paper introduces the concept of ‘tonal gravity’ through a multimodal analysis of a YouTube video to demonstrate how multimodality is key to the construction of ‘Rule Britannia’ as a sectarian song. The analysis focuses upon the multimodal semiotics of social distance which has been a key concept in sociological and anthropological traditions in recent times. This concept offers a means to understand the social semiotic relationship between Self and Other in multimodal discourse. Following previous work in social semiotics and music studies which examine how visual composition, music and the voice have constructed social distance or expressions of intimacy, I introduce the concept of tonal gravity which extends the metaphors of semiotic space in previous work (Machin 2007; Van Leeuwen 1999) in the musical mode, to account for a fuller understanding of how music helps narrate the multimodal Self and Other. This is introduced via a close multimodal analysis of ‘Rule Britannia’ as a Rangers Football fan video which is only transformed into a sectarian text through multimodal collocation where different semiotic resources in various modes act in combination to produce a dominant Self actively prejudiced against a low Other.

Publication metadata

Author(s): McKerrell S

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Social Semiotics

Year: 2015

Volume: 25

Issue: 4

Pages: 614-632

Online publication date: 31/07/2015

Acceptance date: 26/04/2015

Date deposited: 18/04/2017

ISSN (print): 1035-0330

ISSN (electronic): 1470-1219

Publisher: Taylor & Francis


DOI: 10.1080/10350330.2015.1046216


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