Cinematography techniques and their interpretative power

  • Francesca Proni
Keywords: cinematography techniques, iconicity, theory of depiction, multimodality, discourse coherence


Schlenker’s proposal of “Super Semantics”, which is aimed at the extension of the application field of formal semantics to non-linguistics objects, based on the assumption that language represents one of the vast modalities of human representation, paved the way for many studies and approaches in the field of depiction. This extension is allowed by iconicity, which is a property that can be retrieved not only in language (gestures) but also in pictures. In this paper I will try to present the most relevant studies in the field of depiction, such as the ones by Abusch and Greenberg, to underline those concepts which are suitable to the development of my own proposal. In fact, with this work I am willing to investigate the mutable relation between natural language and cinema throughout some examples of cinematography techniques that may replicate the way in which verbal discourse produces meaning. More specifically I will focus on those modalities and characteristics that establish a coherent cinematographic discourse.


Abusch, Dorit (2013), «Applying discourse semantics and pragmatics to co-reference in picture sequences», in Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung, vol.17, n. 1, pp. 19-25.

Abusch, Dorit (2015), Possible Worlds Semantics for Pictures, Manuscript, Cornell University, 2015.

Abusch, Dorit, & Root, Mats (2017), The formal semantics of free perception in pictorial narratives, in Alexandre Cremers, Thom van Gessel & Floris Roelofsen (eds), Proceedings of the 21st Amsterdam Colloquium, Available online at

Adamson, Lauren B. (1996), Communication development during infancy, Boulder, 2019.

Bateman, Joh A., & Schmidt, Karl H. (2012), Multimodal Film Analysis: How films mean. London 2011.

Berliner, Todd and Dale, J. Cohen (2011), «The Illusion of Continuity: Active Perception and the ClassicalEditing System», in Journal of Film and Video, vol. 63 n. 1, 2011, pp. 44-63.

Bordwell, David (2002), «Intensified Continuity Visual Style in Contemporary American Film», in Film Quarterly, 1 March 2002; 55 (3): pp. 16–28.

Braningan, Edward R. (1984), Point of View in the Cinema: a Theory of Narration and Subjectivity in Classical Film, Berlin 2010.

Chomsky, Noam (1957), Syntactic Structures, Paris, 2022.

Cumming, Samuel, Greenberg, Gabriel, Kelly, Rory (2017), «Conventions of viewpoint coherence in film», in Philosophers' Imprint, vol. 17.

Fitch, W. Tecumseh and Hauser, Mark D. (2004), «Computational constraints on synctactic processing in a nonhuman primate», in Science, vol. 303, n. 5656, pp. 377-380.

Greenberg, Gabriel(2011), «The semiotic spectrum» in Graduate School - New Brunswick Electronic Theses and Dissertations, from

Greenberg, Gabirel. (2018), «Content and Target in Pictorial Representation», in Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy, vol. 5, n. 30.

Guasti, Maria Teresa (2016), Language Acquisition, Cambridge, 2016.

Heim, Irene and Kratzer, Angelika (1998), Semantics in Generative Grammar, Malden, 1998.

Katz, Jonag and Pesetsky, David (2011), «The identity thesis for language and music» from http://ling. auf. net/lingBuzz/000959.

Kraft, Robert N.; Cantor, Phillip; Gottdiener, Charles (1991), «The Coherence of Visual Narratives», in Communication Research, vol. 18, n. 5, pp. 601-616.

Kravanja, Peter and Coëgnarts, Maarten (2014), «Metaphor, bodily meaning, and cinema», in Image and narrative, vol. 15, pp. 1-4.

Lakoff, George and Johnson, Mark. (1980), Metaphors we live by, University of Chicago Press, 2nd ed. 2003.

Lewis, David (1970), «General Semantics», in Synthese, vol. 22, no. 1/2, 1970, pp. 18–67.

Metz, Christian. (1964), «Lecinéma: Langue ou langage?», in Communications, vol. 4, pp. 52-90

Morris, Charles (1938), «Foundations of the Theory of Signs», in International encyclopedia of unified science, vol.1, pp. 1-59.

Patel-Grosz, Pritty, Grosz, Patrick G., Kelkar, Tejaswinee, Jensenius, Alexander R. (2018), «Coreference and disjoint reference in the semantics of narrative dance», in Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung, vol 22, n. 2.

Potts, Chirstopher (2005), «The Logic of Conventional Implicatures», in Journal of Linguistics, vol 42, n. 2, pp. 490-495.

Potts, Christopher (2004), The Logic of Conventional Implicatures, Oxford Scholarship Online, 2007.

Rebuschat, Patrick, Rohmeier, Martin, Hawkins, John A. and Cross, Ian (2011), Language and Music as Cognitive Systems, Oxford Scholarship Online.

Pistoia-Reda, Salvatore (2020), «Una nota sulla pragmatica musicale», in de Musica, vol. 1, n. 24, pp. 173-178.

Schlenker, Philippe (2019), «What is Super Semantics?», in Philosophical Perspectives, vol. 32, n. 1, pp. 365-453.

Schlenker, Philippe, Chemla, Emmanuel, Schel, Anne M., Fuller, James, Gautier, Jean-Pierre, Kuhn, Jeremy, Veselinović, Dunja, Arnold, Kate, Cäsar, Cristiane, Keenan, Sumir, Lemasson, Alban, Ouattara, Karim, Ryder, Robin and Zuberbühler, Klaus (2016), «Formal monkey linguistics», in Theoretical Linguistics, vol. 42, n. 1-2, 2016, pp. 1-90.

Stalnaker, Robert (1998), «On the Representation of Context», in Journal of Logic, Language and Information, vol. 7, pp. 3-19.

Tieu, Lyn, Pasternak, Robert; Schlenker, Philippe and Chemla, Emmanuel (2018), «Co-speech gesture projection: Evidence from inferential judgments», in Glossa: a journal of general linguistics, vol. 3, n. 1, pp. 109.

Tomasulo, Frank P. (1987), «Review of "Point of View in the Cinema: A Theory of Narration and Subjectivity in Classical Film"», in The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, v. 45, n. 3, pp. 309-312.

How to Cite
Proni, F. (2022) “Cinematography techniques and their interpretative power”, Rivista Italiana di Filosofia del Linguaggio, 16(1). doi: 10.4396/20220606.