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Typeface effects in written language: functions of typeface change for signalling meaning within text

McAteer, Erica (1989) Typeface effects in written language: functions of typeface change for signalling meaning within text. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

Typeface change is one of the resources of written language which, in combination with other paralinguistic signs available to that system (use of space, punctuation, syntax manipulation are examples), can facilitate the author's intended interpretation. The thirteen studies undertaken for this research project explored the effects of typeface manipulations upon subjects' interpretations of brief texts, testing the efficiency of two conventional forms of emphasis, capital letters and italic print. Studies one to four specifically addressed issues of distinction between the two typefaces. It was found that both forms of typeface could function to intensify certain adjectives on a simple measurement scale, with capital letters providing quantifiably `more' to a referent than italics, as italics did over plain case. Both typefaces were tested for their ability to provide modulatory or contrastive emphasis for a word, where it was found that effects differed between the typefaces, suggesting divergent functions. Subjects' responses to a direct request to describe differences between capital and italic print, supported these findings. Studies five to nine examined the effects of typeface change and sentence sequence upon texts, by asking subjects to rank versions where these variables were manipulated. Strong concordances were found to be linked to information structure within the texts. Study ten took the same set of texts and presented versions individually to subjects in a story continuation task. The effects of emphasis and information sequence which were found suggest again the importance of content, which cooperated or conflicted with other paralinguistic signals in a text. The `foregrounding' effect of typeface emphasis on secondary information increased its availability for the production of continuation content. Studies eleven to thirteen looked at typeface change as a facility for signalling theme maintenance or enhancement, operating to disambiguate texts by reinforcing their `default' or natural readings, as well as its efficiency in signalling theme shift by contrastive emphasis. Different strategies of typeface emphasis were found to function for each of these requirements. Throughout all the studies, both forms of typeface emphasis were tested, either in contrast or in combination. Evidence accumulated to suggest that capital letters functioned best for providing modulatory emphasis, italic print for contrastive. Outside this issue of individual differences, typeface change itself was found to be an efficient strategy for indicating the author's intended interpretation to the reader.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Colleges/Schools: College of Science and Engineering > School of Psychology
Supervisor's Name: Supervisor, not known
Date of Award: 1989
Depositing User: Mrs Marie Cairney
Unique ID: glathesis:1989-1105
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 02 Sep 2009
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:33
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/1105

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