Thursday, 11 February 2016

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David Rose Promoting Misunderstandings Of SFL Theory

It seems to me that transitivity and ideation (lexical relations) are complementary resources for realising register. They make different kinds of generalisations about experience that both need to be captured in text analysis to interpret what it’s saying. Ideational metaphor is a particular type that makes this complementarity obvious. What’s more, neither transitivity nor ideation define lexical items, just relations between them. Recognising the relations depends on intuitive recognition of the lexical items that instantiate them.

Blogger Comments:

[1] By 'ideation', Rose means the experiential discourse semantic system in Martin (1992); see hundreds of critiques here.  By 'register' Rose means the misconstrual of context as register in Martin (1992); see the dozens of critiques here.

[2] As the many critiques on Discourse Semantic Theory demonstrate, Martin's experiential discourse semantic system of ideation is a confusion of lexical cohesion (textual metafunction), lexis as most delicate grammar (delicacy) and logical relations between elements of clause structure (mostly misapplied).

[3] Martin (1992) misunderstands and misrecognises grammatical metaphor, interpreting it largely in terms of the transcategorisation of elements through nominalisation.  Evidence here.  Moreover, the discourse semantic systems of ideation (experiential) and conjunction (logical) don't provide the means of determining congruent realisations from metaphorical realisations of the semantics in the grammar.  The system of conjunction is a confusion of textual (non-structural cohesion) and logical (structural) deployments of expansion relations, and largely misinterprets the expansion categories.  Evidence here.

[4] In SFL theory, lexical items are the synthetic output of the most delicate grammar.  That is, they are the output of increasingly more delicate subcategorisations of grammatical systems, such as process type and the rest.  A phonological analogue of this is the phoneme /p/ being the synthetic output of features from the systems of phonation, place, manner: [voiceless], [bilabial], [stop].

[5] This misunderstanding arises from the confusion in Martin's (1992) experiential discourse system of ideation between lexical cohesive relations (hyponymy etc.) and lexis as most delicate grammar, both subsumed there under 'lexical relations'.

[6] This misunderstands the architecture of SFL theory.  Defining is an identifying relation.  Identifying relations obtain between different levels of abstraction, such between strata or between system and structure.  On the other hand, the dimension of delicacy is structured by the attributive relation: i.e. class membership; more delicate features are members (carriers) of less delicate classes (attributes).  Lexical items are the output of attributive relations, and the question of identifying (defining) relations is irrelevant.

[7] The claim here is that recognising the relations between lexical items depends on intuitive recognition of the lexical items that "instantiate" the relations between lexical items.

Again, this misunderstanding arises from the confusion in Martin's (1992) experiential discourse system of ideation between lexical cohesive relations and lexis as most delicate grammar.  The relations of lexical cohesion — such as hyponymy, meronymy, synonymy and repetition — are mistaken for systemic relations between lexical items as the output of the most delicate grammatical systems.

Note, also, the illogicality of the claim that lexical items instantiate the relations between lexical items.

For Rose's misunderstanding and misuse of the notion of instantiation, see here.


Rose's post immediately triggered the following complaisant response on the lists from Shooshi Dreyfus:
I think the rub between transitivity and ideation is REALLY important - that line between the lexicogrammar and the discourse semantics. I cross it all the time - back and forth. Not sure whether it’s “right” but it makes sense to me...

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

David Rose Confusing Grammar With Lexis And Context With Register

Shooshi Dreyfus wrote to sys-func and sysfling on 10 February 2016 at 7:48:
Yeah the ones with grammatical metaphor like this are proving to be the most tricky!

One reason they [clauses with grammatical metaphor] are tricky is that what’s being classified are lexical items. We are still unable to say what a lexical item is. We call these items ‘verbs’, but a verb is a structural unit in grammar. A glance at a dictionary tells us that most lexical items can be realised as various word classes. Grammatical metaphor increases this potential. 
Relations between lexical items and grammatical units like ‘verb’ are really probabilistic, depending on register variables. So interpreting the ‘meaning’ or ‘sense’ of items really has to start with register. Hence the dictionary definitions in Eugeniu Costetchi’s word lists, or David Banks’ ‘conceptual’ analyses. This fact is problematic for models that would like to subsume lexical items within grammatical categories like process types, as though they were register neutral. … 
PS By register variables I mean field/tenor/mode

Blogger Comments:

[1] One thing that makes transitivity analysis, in general, difficult is not taking a trinocular perspective — the perspective on which SFG was theorised.  One thing that makes transitivity analysis difficult, in the specific case of grammatical metaphor, is not unpacking the metaphor, at least enough to see the junction of meanings being construed by the metaphor.  See, for example, Metaphor As Junctional Construct and Grammatical Metaphor: A Junction Of Perspectives.

[2] Despite being unable to say what a lexical item is, Rose is able to say that lists of verbs that can serve as specific process types are classifications of lexical items.

[3] As Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 568) point out:
The folk notion of the “word” is really a conflation of two different abstractions, one lexical [lexical item] and one grammatical [word rank].
When we are talking about words that can serve as a process type, we are talking about the grammatical abstraction, not the lexical.  Rose follows Martin (1992) in confusing these two abstractions, as demonstrated in the critiques Misconstruing The Difference Between Lexical Item And Grammatical Word and Confusing Lexis With Grammar

[4] A verb is not 'a structural unit in the grammar'.  A verb is a classification of form at the rank of word, just as a verbal group is a classification of form at the rank of group/phrase.

[5] The relations between verbs and lexical items are mapped out by the architecture of the theory. For example, verbs are related to processes by a chain of realisation along the rank scale, and processes are related to lexical items in terms of delicacy.  Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 198-9):
… we can differentiate both processes and participants into finer and finer subcategories, until we reach a degree of differentiation that is associated with the choice of words (lexical items). Note that it is not (usually) the lexical items themselves that figure as terms of the systems in the network. Rather, the systems are systems of features, and the lexical items come in as the synthetic realisation of particular feature combinations.
[6] Here Rose follows Martin (1992) in confusing context with register; see some of the critiques here. In SFL, context refers to the culture as a semiotic system whose expression plane is language.  Context is more abstract than language.  Language realises context.  Register, on the other hand, is a functional variety of language.  It is not more abstract than language, it is language.  Whereas context is a level in the stratification hierarchy, register is a point (of variation) on the cline of instantiation between language as potential (system) and language as instance (text).

[7] The so-called 'conceptual' analysis is the view of transitivity 'from above' — that is, viewing the wording in terms of the meaning it realises.

[8] The model that 'subsumes lexical items within grammatical categories like process types' is called Systemic Functional Linguistic Theory.  This subsumption is the systemic dimension termed 'delicacy'; see [5] above.  Registerial variation according to context is modelled in SFL in terms instantiation and stratification: in terms of different situation types being realised by different registers.

[9] The notion of 'register neutral' comes from Martin (1992: 289) and is based on misunderstandings of Systemic Functional Linguistic Theory, as demonstrated, for example, in the critique Relocating Lexis Outside Language.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Robin Fawcett On Complement Vs Adjunct

  • It’s been read by everyone  
  • Ivy handed the vase to Peter.
My position (like that of a good many other SFL scholars) was (and is) that the referents of the nominal groups within these are Participant Roles rather than Circumstantial Roles (since they are explicitly ‘predicted’ by the Process), and that the underlined portions should therefore, in a functional analysis, be treated as Complements rather than Adjuncts. 
… for me the formal evidence of the presence of a preposition was weaker than the functional evidence that if Peter in Peter was handed the vase by Ivy is a PR, Peter in Ivy handed the vase to Peter is a PR too, this being evidence for treating to Peter as a Complement.) 
My point is not to try to persuade you that I was right

Blogger Comments:

[1] In SFL theory, where meaning is immanent rather than transcendent, participants such as Senser and Actor are not referents of nominal groups, but functions of nominal groups at clause rank.

[2] In SFL theory, nominal groups within prepositional phrases are designated as indirect participants (Halliday and Matthiessen 2004: 261).  No-one who understands SFL theory would argue that these nominal groups serve as circumstances.

[3] The underlined portions are not nominal groups; they are prepositional phrases.  (Fawcett's argument about the function of nominal groups is here used to justify a claim about the function of prepositional phrases.)  The nominal groups within the prepositional phrases do function as Complements, but at group/phrase rank, not clause rank.  Each serves as Complement of its minor Predicator.

minor Predicator

minor Predicator

Fawcett assumes, without providing any supporting argument, that an experiential participant should be treated as interpersonal Complement and that an experiential circumstance should be treated as interpersonal Adjunct.  However, the criteria for determining interpersonal Complement and Adjunct are not experiential but interpersonal.  Halliday and Matthiessen (2004: 122-3):
A Complement is an element within the Residue that has the potential of being Subject but is not; in other words, it is an element that has the potential for being given the interpersonally elevated status of modal responsibility — something that can be the nub of the argument. …
An Adjunct is an element that has not got the potential of being Subject; that is, it cannot be elevated to the interpersonal status of modal responsibility.
In Fawcett's examples, neither by everyone nor to Peter has the potential of being Subject, and so both are Adjuncts, not Complements.  What does have the potential of being Subject is the Complement within each of these prepositional phrases: everyone and Peter.

The motivation for realising Agent, Beneficiary or Range as a prepositional phrase is textual.  Halliday and Matthiessen (2004: 295-6):
… the choice of ‘plus or minus preposition’ with Agent, Beneficiary and Range … serves a textual function. … The principle is as follows. If a participant other than the Medium is in a place of prominence in the message, it tends to take a preposition (i.e. to be construed as ‘indirect’ participant); otherwise it does not. Prominence in the message means functioning either (i) as marked Theme (i.e. Theme but not Subject) or (ii) as ‘late news’ — that is, occurring after some other participant, or circumstance, that already follows the Process. In other words, prominence comes from occurring either earlier or later than expected in the clause; and it is this that is being reinforced by the presence of the preposition. The preposition has become a signal of special status in the message.
See clause transitivity and mood analyses here.
See also previous argumentation here.
See further on indirect participants here.

[4] Fawcett posted this on the sysfling list after the person he was arguing with had died and could no longer put his case.  As this post demonstrates, it was the man who can no longer defend himself that better understood SFL theory and the reasoning behind its categories.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

David Rose On Lexical Items

'enable' and ‘understand’ are lexical items realised as verbs… 
It is very common to confuse lexical items with grammatical process types, which is why I am posting this reply to the list 

Blogger Comments:

[1] In SFL, the relation between lexical item and verb is not one of realisation — a lexical item is not more symbolically abstract than a verb.

A lexical item is a composite of lexical features, whereas verb is a grammatical class at the rank of word.  The two are therefore related in terms of delicacy.

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 568):
The folk notion of the “word” is really a conflation of two different abstractions, one lexical [lexical item] and one grammatical [word rank].

[2] The common error is to assign verbs to process types, not 'to confuse lexical items with grammatical process types'.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

David Rose On Instantiation, Stratification & Field

Ralph disentangled himself cautiously and stole away through the branches. In a few seconds the fat boy's grunts were behind him and he was hurrying toward the screen that still lay between him and the lagoon. (Lord of the Flies)
What type of process is “were” in “the fat boy’s grunts were …”? Is it relational: circumstantial, with “behind him” as Attribute? It looks like a verb that denotes transformation in Location and could therefore be a material process with “behind him” as a circumstance construing movement in space. …

As you can clearly see, transitivity is insufficient to interpret what is going on in the field here 
First, grammatically: “were” is not a type of process. Process type is a clause rank system, not a verb classification. The whole clause instantiates a relational process, as you have analysed. By definition it is a relation between Carrier and Attribute. 
Second, you want to re-interpret it as a material process, because it realises a step in a sequence of movements. But this is not a grammatical meaning, it is discourse semantic, as follows. 
Ralph disentangled himself cautiously
stole away through the branches
In a few seconds the fat boy's grunts were behind him
he was hurrying toward the screen
This sequence of figures at the level of discourse realises an activity sequence at the level of field. In principle, the sequence could be realised at the level of grammar in many ways, with the same or similar lexical items, e.g...
Following cautious disentanglement and escape through the branches, Ralph ran quickly away from the grunting fat boy, and the screen grew rapidly nearer.
Classifying clauses is only one step towards understanding text

Blogger Comments:

[1] Instantiation is the relation between potential and instance, not function and form.  It is, for example, the relation between relational process as potential, and an instance of a relational process; it is the relation between a clause as potential and an instance of a clause.  The relation between a clause and a relational process, in the sense of a figure, is realisation — the relation between different levels of symbolic abstraction.

[2] In terms of ideational semantics, the text involves two sequences, the first a sequence of happening figures, the second a sequence of a being figure and a happening figure.

[3] This misunderstands stratification.  The content plane is stratified into meaning (semantics) and wording (lexicogrammar).  The grammar realises meaning; the meaning that grammar realises is semantics.

[4] It is misleading to refer to the model of sequences and figures (Halliday & Matthiessen 1999) as discourse semantics.

[5] In SFL theory, field is the ideational dimension of context, and context is the culture construed as a semiotic system that is realised by language; that is, context and language are distinct levels of symbolic abstraction.  The field that is realised by the ideational meaning of a text is 'what is going on' in a situation, as an instance of the culture.  The misunderstanding of field as 'activity sequence' can be traced back to Martin (1992).

This misunderstanding is compounded by Martin's (1992) misconstrual of context as register, which in SFL theory, is a point of variation on the cline of instantiation (of language, not context).  See other posts for why this creates inconsistencies that make the model internally incoherent, and thus untenable.  See also Discourse Semantic Theory.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

David Rose On Field, Register And Discourse

Another difficulty for analysis is ambiguity without any co-text, especially with metaphor. Without it, its hard to know what they’re pursuing - attacking us or whoever is attacking us. And without knowing the field, its hard to say whether the circumstance is expanding the clause or qualifying the group.
So there’s another problem for linguistics in general… to focus on features of grammar we push register and discourse to the background. But in reality, we can’t read grammar examples without reading register and discourse.

Blogger Comments:

[1] In SFL theory, field is the ideational dimension of context — the culture construed as a semiotic system that is realised by language.  Field is theorised as more abstract than language.

Register, on the other hand, in SFL and elsewhere, is a functional variety of language itself.  It is, therefore, not more abstract than language.  In SFL theory, register refers to a point of variation on the cline of instantiation.  It is 'text type' viewed from the system pole of the cline.  Registers vary according to the probabilities of linguistic choices being instantiated.

[2] Circumstances don't expand clauses or qualify groups.  Circumstances and Qualifiers can be realised by prepositional phrases, and prepositional phrases can be expanded in prepositional phrase complexes.

For expansion (and projection) relations between circumstances and the Nucleus, see Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 172-6) on degree of involvement: circumstantial rôles.

[3] In using SFL theory, grammatical analysis is done by shunting between lexicogrammar and semantics, giving priority to the view from semantics.  Grammatical analysis includes using cohesion, the non-structural text-forming resources of the textual metafunction: reference, ellipsis & substitution, conjunction and lexical cohesion.  See Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 524-85) around the clause: cohesion and discourse.

See clause analysis here.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

David Rose On The Relations Between Grammar, Semantics and Text

That said, there is an interesting ambivalence in recent IFG editions about the relations between grammar, semantics and text, both realisational and instantial. … 
In fact IFG explicitly models ‘text’ both as the unit of analysis of the semantic stratum, consistent with discourse semantic theory, and as instantiating grammatical systems. It also discusses domains of instantiation of semantic systems as stretches of discourse, also consistent with discourse semantic theory. What it doesn’t admit is the discourse semantic systems described in English Text, Working with Discourse, and a considerable body of other scholarly work. 
My own view is that this omission has as much to do with personal institutional politics within the SFL leadership, as it does with the relative merits of the theory.

Blogger Comments:

 [1] In SFL, the word 'text' is used to refer to the highest semantic unit and to the instance pole of the cline of instantiation.  Its valeur depends on what it is contrasted with.  It is misleading to call this 'ambivalence', which means:
  • uncertainty or fluctuation, especially when caused by inability to make a choice or by a simultaneous desire to say or do two opposite or conflicting things.
[2] The notion of text as a semantic unit was imported, unaltered, by Martin into 'discourse semantic theory' from Halliday's Systemic Functional linguistics; hence the "consistency".

[3] Each text is an instance of systemic potential — whatever the linguistic stratum; just as, above the linguistic strata, at the level of context, situation is an instance of culture.

[4] IFG (Halliday and Matthiessen 2004), as the name suggests, is an introduction to functional grammar, not 'discourse semantic systems'.  Halliday and Matthiessen (2004: 550-1):
for a systemic description of this [cohesive reference] as a semantic system, see Martin (1992).
Martin's English Text and Martin and Rose's Working With Discourse and 'a considerable body of other scholarly work' are also listed in the References.  

Considering how inconsistent 'discourse semantic theory' is with the core architecture of Systemic Functional Linguistics (e.g stratification and metafunction), its citing in IFG is an act of great generosity, especially in face of bullying insults, such as those of Rose quoted above (appraisal analysis here).

For a rigorous assessment of the "relative merits" of 'discourse semantic theory', including the degree to which it is consistent with (a sound knowledge of) Systemic Functional linguistic theory, see here.

Monday, 6 April 2015

David Rose On 'Semantics Instantiating Grammar'

The main problem with your argument is that it hinges on this partial quoting of me
in (b), semantics is 'merely instantiating grammar systems in text’
This section of my analysis actually discussed ‘discourse semantic systems’ not ‘semantics'
The models differ in their view of discourse semantic systems, such as conjunction, ideation, appraisal 
In a) discourse semantic systems are not possible, as semantics is consumed with grammatical functions, in b) they merely instantiate grammar systems in texts, In c) grammatical structures realise higher rank functions, but structure and function are properties of both grammatical and semantic strata

Blogger Comments:

[1] Semantics does not instantiate grammar, regardless of whether Rose is discussing semantics or 'discourse semantic systems'.  Instantiation is the relation between system and instance, not the relation between strata, such as semantics and grammar.

Using the verb 'instantiate' is problematic, because it does not serve as an attributive Process, and instantiation is an attributive relation.  Rose's use of the verb results in a construal of discourse semantic systems as less abstract, a lower stratum, than grammar systems:

discourse semantic systems
grammar systems
in texts

Process: identifying

[2] The 'discourse semantic systems' conjunction and ideation are Martin's (1992) rebranding of two of Halliday's lexicogrammatical resources of cohesion: conjunction and lexical cohesion (see Halliday & Matthiessen 2004: 524ff).  Martin took Halliday's textual lexicogrammatical systems and reconstrued them as ideational systems — conjunction is logical, ideation is experiential — on a higher stratum of content.  Doing so violated the meaning of both stratification and metafunction.

[3] Appraisal is a genuine interpersonal semantic system realised in, and construed by, the lexicogrammar.  Viewed from below, it lies within evaluation, between grammar and lexis.  Halliday (2008: 49):
With options in the way something is evaluated (“I approve / I disapprove”) or contended (“I agree / I disagree”), the borderline between grammar and lexis is shaded over; systems of appraisal, as described by Martin & White (2005), represent more delicate (more highly differentiated options within the general region of evaluation.