Kalantzis and Cope on Five Questions about Meaning

Reference ... raises the question, ‘what do the meanings refer to?’

What are their reference points? What do they denote? What is their subject?—remembering of course that answers to this question may be fluid and ambiguous and a matter of interpretation.

Interaction … raises the question, ‘how do the meanings connect the people who are communicating?’

How do the happenings appear, who/what makes them happen, and what are the effects of their happening? How are the people communicating connected? What interpersonal relations, person-to-thing or thing-to-thing relationships do the meanings try to establish?—remembering of course, that the social participants may not see the social connections in the same ways.

Composition … raises the question, ‘how does the overall meaning hold together’?

What makes it cohere as a text? What is its composition? What are its parts, and how do the parts fit together? What is the organisation and structure of the whole text? What is its structure?—not that everyone will necessarily feel that their own meanings or the meanings they encounter in communication are always totally coherent, or ever get to the bottom of everything that could be meant in a text.

Context … raises the question, ‘where are the meanings situated?’

and ‘how are they connected into their surroundings?’ How do the meanings fit into the larger world of meaning?

Purpose … raises the question, ‘whose interests do these meanings serve’?

Why are the meaning makers involved in meaning-making activities? What motivates them? How do the text, its context and its reception reveal the interests of those involved? How does the communicator regard their audience? Who is more and less powerful? The interests of different message makers always varies, depending on who they are, and interpreters of these messages always bring their interests and identities to bear in what they make of the messages.

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