Barthes’ Linguistic Messages – Anchoring and Relaying


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Comic strips rely on images and words to form meanings. Image by David Singleton

Linguistic Messages – Relaying

Another function of linguistic messages is relaying. The relaying function is rarely used in one fixed image; in still images, we find it mainly in cartoons and comic strips.

Take for example the cartoon strips found in the Bazooka Joe Bubble Gum.

Here, language is seen as fragmented dialogue with a sequence of complimentary images.

The words are parts of a more general syntagm, or language chain, as are the images.

The message’s unity occurs on a higher level, as that of a story or anecdote, and language works in unison with the images to relay the message of the story.

The language fills the gap that the images cannot and vice versa, and it has a relaying value in storytelling.

Comic Strips: Words vs. Images

In certain comic strips that are meant to be read rapidly, the words are the most essential part of the story, and the images are used to add known attributive information – for example, the behaviours of the stereotypical characters we are familiar with.  This relay-text is essential in film, where dialogue not only clarifies but advances the action of the plot by providing a sequence of  meanings that cannot be relayed by the images themselves. In comic strips, like the late great Bazooka Joe, a combination of image and words work together to tell the story.


Newman, A. Bazooka Gum Overhauls Brand. (2012). Accessed December 7, 2012.

Barthes, Roland. The Rhetoric of the Image. Éléments de sémiologie. (1964). Communications 4, Seuil, Paris.

Barthes, Roland. Elements of Semiology. (1968). Hill and Wang, New York.

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