Identity in Online Personal Ads: A Multimodal Investigation

  •  Kesumawati A. Bakar    


A personal advertisement constitutes a distinct form related to the small ad family of genres. While small adstraditionally offer an object or a service, the personal ad offers but, most essentially, seeks a romantic partner. Todate, studies of personal ads have mainly focused on patterns of represented traits in relation to identity, gender,age and sexuality in the verbal text. Given the self-promotional nature of the genre, image is also a powerful toolused as one of the resources for representing identity and engaging with others. Using social semiotic perspectiveand the framework of systemic functional linguistics, this study focuses on how identity is verbally and visuallyrealised in online personal ads. This paper has two aims: the first is to show how resources from verbal andvisual systems combine and complement one another to construe a variety of personal and social traits,clustering into different identity types. The second is to indicate the usefulness of these descriptions infacilitating a multimodal approach to the analysis of identity. The results revealed a convergence of verbal andvisual resources in identity performances, construing the slim and attractive woman and the funny but sensitiveguy, both aimed at invoking interest from potential partners. Identities emerged through the use of nominalgroups and processes and the categorizations associated with these resources. Images that are displayed on theprofile pages contain features that correspond to the tendered traits in the verbal description creating a holisticperformance of online identities.

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