[Multimodality Talks series] Translation Studies meets Social Semiotics. Recontextualization of images and changing multimodal depictions of agency, gender and diversity

Date and Time: Fri, March 31, 2023, 12:00 PM – 1:30 PM BST

Speaker: Dr Sara Van Meerbergen, Stockholm University, Sweden

Place: online via Zoom (register to receive the link)

To attend the talk please register here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/sara-van-meerbergen-multimodality-talks-series-tickets-477191331117

Please note that due to illness, this event has been cancelled.


In this talk I will explore how theoretical and methodological insights from Descriptive Translation Studies (DTS) and Social Semiotics can be united in order to study multimodal texts in translation. While DTS sees both the act of translation and its end-products, the actual translations, as shaped by social and cultural norms within the context of a specific target culture (Toury, 2012), within Social Semiotics all forms and acts of communication, thus including translation, are considered as socially motivated (Van Leeuwen, 2005; Kress and Van Leeuwen, 2020). United together, DTS and Social Semiotics can provide us with a framework to study translation as “motivated by and within its specific social and situational context, depending on the signs that are culturally available within this context” (Van Meerbergen and Lindgren, 2020, p.244). In my talk I will present examples from some of my previous research projects in which multimodal discourse analysis is used as a tool to analyse (changing) meanings of agency, gender and diversity in character depiction in translated picture books and other media for children. Furthermore, I describe and analyse these translations as ‘glocalised’ artefacts in which the images from the source text are combined with translated or ‘rewritten’ words recontextualizing these images and affording new potential meanings to be connected to them within the context of the translation.


Kress, Gunther and Van Leeuwen, Theo. (2020). Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design. London/ New York: Routledge.

Toury, Gideon. (2012). Descriptive Translation Studies and Beyond. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Van Leeuwen, Theo. (2005) Introducing Social Semiotics. London: Routledge.

Van Meerbergen, Sara and Lindgren, Charlotte. (2020). Pettson and Findus go glocal: Recontextualization of images and multimodal analysis of simultaneous action in Dutch and French translations. In: Van Coillie, Jan and Jack McMartin (eds.), Children’s Literature in Translation. Texts and Contexts. Leuven University Press, pp. 231–248. DOI: 10.2307/j.ctv17rvx8q.16


Sara Van Meerbergen is Associate Professor in Dutch Studies at Stockholm University. Her research interests include social semiotics, multimodal and spatial discourse analysis, picture book studies, (descriptive) translation studies and translation sociology. She has a specific interest in visual and global communication and in multimodal discourses depicting and constructing childhood and womanhood in (translated) picture books and other multimodal media (for children). Current projects are within translation sociology and evolve around transnational circulation and consecration of Dutch language children’s literature and female metamodern millennial authors. Sara is also currently working on the project: “Semiotics of hair: cultural provenance, social identity and discourses of womanhood. A posthuman feminist perspective”.