Saturday, 1 November 2014

Monday, 30 June 2014

Robin Fawcett On Why Hypotaxis Is Unnecessary

Robin Fawcett wrote to the sysfling list on 30 June 2014 at 09:57:
Just consider the concept of Hypotaxis" for a moment. It models a relationship between, let us say, two clauses, such that one clause is said to be "dependent" on another, but without functioning as an element of it - so without "filling`' it, in Cardiff Grammar terms.

An IFG analysis of "She knows his name" would show that "his name" is a nominal group that fills a Complement/Phenomenon, whereas an analysis of "She knows that he is called Peter" would show "that he is called Peter" as a clause that would be said to be "dependent on" the "main" clause but without filling an element of it. But that misses out a central aspect of the functional analysis. i.e. that "that he is called Peter"Is a Phenomenon in the Process of "someone knowing something". Moreover, this analysis asks us to accept that "She knows" is a main clause. I find that a rather unpersuasive position to take, because we recognize it - don't we? - as an incomplete clause that requires its Complement/ Phenomenon to complete it.

My Comments:

[1] In the case of mental projection, the distinction between embedded clauses and dependent clauses is a very useful and important one.  It is the distinction between a pre-projected fact (embedded clause) and a reported idea (dependent clause).  It is the distinction between a metaphenomenon that is the Range or Agent of the mental Process (embedded clause) and a metaphenomenon that is projected into semiotic existence by the mental Process.  See sample analyses here, and Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 441-482).

However, contrary to claim made by Fawcett, an IFG analysis of She knows that he is called Peter would not
"show "that he is called Peter" as a clause that would be said to be "dependent on" the "main" clause but without filling an element of it".  
The clause that he is called Peter is here an embedded fact, not a dependent clause — She knows (the fact) that he is called Peter — and as such, functions as the Phenomenon of the clause, thereby "filling an element" or "completing the clause" in Fawcett's terms.  See analysis  here.  Cf agnate receptive clause: (the fact) that he is called Peter is known by/to her; agnate theme predication clause: it is (the fact) that he is called Peter that she knows.

In other words, Fawcett has misunderstood and misrepresented the IFG analysis of this clause and then "argued" against his own misunderstanding/misrepresentation in favour of the default SFL analysis.

[2] Unlike Halliday & Matthiessen (2004), Fawcett provides no actual reasoned grammatical argumentation for his unintentional agreement with them, merely:
… the central aspect of the functional analysis …
I find that a rather unpersuasive position to take …
… we recognise it — don't we? — as …
This might be compared to what Fawcett wrote on the Sysfling list at 02:32:43 (GMT) on 9/1/12:
Not all readers will be comfortable with my next point, which is that I suggest that contributions to sysfling that relate to how a given piece of text should be analysed should be expressed in the framework of the assumption that we are scientists of language, i.e. scholars who are seeking, using scientific methods appropriate to our subject of investigation, to understand the nature of language. But this means that we should regard it as inadequate to simply say "I would analyse Text X as follows: ....", without giving reasons for preferring that analysis to others that might be proposed.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

David Rose On Theme

David Rose wrote to the Sysfling list on 24 June 2014 at 21:07:
If theme is a clause rank system, whose textual function is point of departure for a message, and a message is realised by a finite ranking clause +/- dependent clauses, and an unmarked Theme is realised (in English) by the Subject of a clause, then a prepositional phrase or dependent clause preceding the Subject of the primary clause functions textually as a marked Theme of the message (if the duke gives anything to my aunt, it'll be that teapot; from the duke, my aunt received a teapot). An embedded (downranked) clause may function as Subject (what the duke gave my aunt was that teapot). (IFG editions notwithstanding:)

My Comment:

Themes may be unmarked or marked, but not both; i.e. marked^unmarked is not a structural configuration of (topical) Theme.  When a marked Theme — Adjunct or Complement — is chosen in a declarative clause, the Subject does not function as (unmarked) Theme.  For example:

from the duke
my aunt
a teapot

Friday, 9 May 2014

David Rose On What Counts As Grammar And What Counts As Discourse Semantics

At 09:33 on 9/5/14, Margaret Berry asked David Rose on sys-func:
how do you decide what counts as grammar and what counts as discourse semantics?

To which David Rose replied at 09:37:
What a great question! And what counts as discourse semantics or register?
and later at 12:50:
Technically, entry conditions for grammatical systems must be a grammatical rank.

My Comments:

[1] It's an obvious and fundamental question, and one that should yield a ready answer, since it would have formed the basis of theorising discourse semantics as a stratum of language; yet Rose gives the impression, through his initial exclamation and ultimate inability to answer the question, of never having considered it before.

Since Martin (1992) proposes discourse semantics as a stratum above lexicogrammar on the content plane, and strata represent levels of symbolic abstraction, "what counts as discourse semantics" is linguistic content that is more symbolically abstract than "what counts as lexicogrammar".  Because the relation between strata is one of realisation, "what counts as discourse semantics" is realised by "what counts as lexicogrammar", and "what counts as lexicogrammar" realises "what counts as discourse semantics".

This means that the systems of each stratum have to be accounted for with respect to those of the other.  This includes specifying congruent lexicogrammatical realisations of discourse semantic features and distinguishing them from metaphorical realisations.

It also means that relations between grammatical units, such as clauses, need to be first specified at that level of abstraction, that is: lexicogrammar, and such relations then be related to the discourse semantic features they realise.  It is not sufficient to model the relations between clauses only at the level discourse semantics.

[2] What counts as discourse semantics or register only becomes problematic when register, a functional variety of language, is misconstrued as a stratum of context above semantics (Martin 1992), and thus, misconstrued as being more symbolically abstract than semantics (as argued elsewhere on this site).  The problem is further compounded by misconstruing context as language — Martin's register and genre — instead of as a semiotic system that is realised in language (as argued elsewhere on this site).  One potential pitfall of this latter misconstrual is that discourse analysts, in dealing with texts, run the risk of confusing field and tenor, the ideational and interpersonal dimensions of the situational context, with the ideational and interpersonal meanings of the text itself.  This confusion is one source of Rose's difficulty of distinguishing "what counts as discourse semantics" from "what counts as register".

[3] This raises the issue of entry conditions for discourse semantic systems.  It is a theoretical requirement that the entry conditions for all systems be specified.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

David Rose On "Metalanguage"

At 11:44 on 8/5/14 David Rose wrote to sysfling:
One reason I think why children can readily recognise clauses from an experiential perspective, is the tacit metalanguage in their own grammar… who or what it's about, what they're doing, where, when, how. But these are not directly related to transitivity categories, which are specified by process type or ergativity. Rather they are discourse semantic elements, that Ruqaiya Hasan has referred to as 'message parts', and Jim Martin as nuclear relations. 
From this existing intuitive knowledge of children it is a simple step to consciously recognise a clause as a process involving people and things in places and times.

My Comments:

[1] The elements Rose talks about — 'who or what it's about, what they're doing, where, when, how' — are not "the tacit metalanguage in their own grammar".  Metalanguage is not "in their own grammar".  Metalanguage is language about language.  In this instance, the metalanguage is Rose's language about the language of children, not the language of children.

[2] On the SFL model, these are experiential meanings, and as such, are indeed directly related to  the "transitivity categories" of the lexicogrammar; as meanings, they are of a higher stratum of symbolic abstraction, semantics, and thus related to lexicogrammar by realisation.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Context Vs Cotext

Halliday (2007 [1991]: 271):
Originally, the context meant the accompanying text, the wording that came before and after whatever was under attention. In the nineteenth century it was extended to things other than language, both concrete and abstract: the context of the building, the moral context of the day; but if you were talking about language, then it still referred to the surrounding words, and it was only in modern linguistics that it came to refer to the non-verbal environment in which language was used. When that had happened, it was Catford, I think, who suggested that we now needed another term to refer explicitly to the verbal environment; and he proposed the term “co-text”.
For the difference between material setting, context and co-text, click here.
For material setting vs context see here.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Context Of Situation Vs Setting

Halliday (2007 [1991]: 278):
The setting, on the other hand, is the immediate material environment. This may be a direct manifestation of the context of situation, and so be integrated into it: if the situation is one of, say, medical care, involving a doctor and one or more patients, then the setting of hospital or clinic is a relevant part of the picture. But even there the setting does not constitute the context of situation …

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Martin’s Cline Of Instantiation Applied To Martin’s Stratification

Martin's stratification
genre, register, discourse semantics, lexicogrammar, phonology

Martin's cline of instantiation
system, genre/register, text type, text, reading.

On this model,

(1) genre is simultaneously more abstract than register (in terms of stratification), and a sub-potential of register (in terms of the latter stratum's instantiation) — which is logically incoherent;

(2) register is simultaneously more abstract than discourse semantics (in terms of stratification) and a sub-potential of discourse semantics (in terms of the latter stratum's instantiation) — which is logically incoherent;

(1) genre is simultaneously a stratal system and a sub-potential of itself (in terms of that stratum's instantiation) — which is logically incoherent;

(2) register is simultaneously a stratal system and a sub-potential of itself (in terms of that stratum's instantiation) — which is logically incoherent;

etc …

Friday, 28 March 2014

Process Types As "Spectrum"

System Networks Construe A Continuous Semiotic Space

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 173):
Like all system networks, this [PROCESS TYPE] network construes a continuous semiotic space.

Terms In Systems Are Fuzzy Categories

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 174n):
Systemic terms are not Aristotelian categories. Rather they are fuzzy categories; they can be thought of as representing fuzzy sets rather than ‘crisp’ ones …

Grammatical Labels Reflect Core Category Signification

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 199):
… grammatical labels are very rarely appropriate for all instances of a category — they are chosen to reflect its central or ‘core’ signification ( … ‘prototypes’ …). These core areas are the central region for each process type … and the non-core areas lie on the borders between the different process types, shading into one another as the colours of a colour spectrum.

The Principle Of Systemic Indeterminacy

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 173):
The world of our experience is highly indeterminate; and this is precisely how the grammar construes it in the system of process type. Thus, one and the same text may offer alternative models of what would appear to be the same domain of experience, construing for example the domain of emotion both as a process in a ‘mental’ clause … and as a participant in a ‘relational’ one …

Process Types: Spherical Ordering

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 171-2):
There is no priority of one kind of process over another. But they are ordered; and what is important is that, in our concrete visual metaphor, they form a circle and not a line. (More accurately still … a sphere … .) That is to say, our model of experience, as interpreted through the grammatical system of transitivity, is one of regions within a continuous space; but the continuity is not between two poles, it is round in a loop.

Process Types As Continuous Regions With Core & Peripheral Areas

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 172):
The regions have core areas and these represent prototypical members of the process types; but the regions are continuous, shading into one another, and these border areas represent the fact that the process types are fuzzy categories.

Behavioural, Verbal & Existential Process Types As Categories At Boundaries

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 171):
Material, mental and relational are the main types of process in the English transitivity system. But we also find further categories at the three boundaries; not so clearly set apart, but nevertheless recognisable in the grammar as intermediate between the different pairs — sharing some features of each, and thus acquiring a character of their own.

Behavioural Processes At The Borderline

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 171):
On the borderline between ‘material’ and ‘mental’ are the behavioural processes: those that represent the outer manifestations of inner workings, the acting out of processes of consciousness and physiological states.

Verbal Processes At The Borderline

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 171):
On the borderline between ‘mental’ and ‘relational’ are the verbal processes: symbolic relationships constructed in human consciousness and enacted in the form of language, like saying and meaning …

Existential Processes At The Borderline

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 171):
And on the borderline between the ‘relational’ and the ‘material’ are the processes concerned with existence, the existential, by which phenomena of all kinds are simply recognised to ‘be’ — to exist or to happen …

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Halliday & Matthiessen On Martin's Theme, Method Of Development And Field

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 407):
Thematic spaces in an ideational semantic network can be seen as a model of the systemic understanding of Theme and method of development articulated by Martin, where [Martin’s] “field” corresponds to what has been discussed here in terms of ideational semantic networks in the ideation base.

That is:

(1) Halliday & Matthiessen's thematic spaces in an ideational semantic network
is a systemic understanding of
Martin's Theme and method of development

(2) Halliday & Matthiessen's ideational semantics
corresponds to
Martin's field

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Halliday & Matthiessen On Martin's Transitivity

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 504): 
As we have already noted, Martin, in his systemic treatment of processes in Tagalog, offers a different interpretation of nuclear transitivity: he defines it in terms of orientation, rather than configuration, and hence operates with a significantly different concept of participant function.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

How To Distinguish Complement And Adjunct


Halliday & 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.

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 123):
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.


(a) Consider the following clause:
Maureen gave David the book.
Q1. Can ‘David’ be raised to Subject?
A. Yes, as follows: David was given the book by Maureen.
Conclusion: ‘David’ is Complement.

Q2. Can ‘the book’ be raised to Subject?
A. Yes, as follows: The book was given to David by Maureen.
Conclusion: ‘the book’ is Complement.

(b) Consider the following clause:
Maureen gave the book to David.
Q1. Can ‘to David’ be raised to Subject?
A. No. *To David was given the book by Maureen.
Conclusion: ‘to David’ is Adjunct.

(c) Consider the following clause:
The book was given to David by Maureen.
Q1. Can ‘to David’ be raised to Subject?
A. No. *To David was given the book by Maureen.
Conclusion: ‘to David’ is Adjunct.

Q2. Can ‘by Maureen’ be raised to Subject?
A. No. *By Maureen gave the book to David.
Conclusion: ‘by Maureen’ is Adjunct.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Material Vs Semiotic Abstractions

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 190ff) provide a taxonomy of simple things based on the participant roles they play in semantic figures — critically those of Senser, Sayer and Actor.

The most general distinction is between conscious and non-conscious.
Within non-conscious, the distinction is between material and semiotic.
Within material, the distinctions are animal, object, substance and abstraction.
Within semiotic, the distinctions are institution, object and abstraction.

Material abstractions — eg depth, colours — typically play the roles of Phenomenon, Carrier and Value. They have no extension in space and are unbounded, and are typically some parameter of a material quality or process.

Semiotic abstractions — eg information, truth — are typically realised by the Range of mental and verbal processes. They are unbounded semiotic substance with no material existence.

There are also intermediate categories in this taxonomy. For example:

Human collectives — eg family — are intermediate between conscious beings and institutions.

Discrete semiotic abstractions — eg thoughts and fears (mental entities) and questions and orders (speech functions) — are intermediate between semiotic objects and non-discrete semiotic abstractions.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

A Useful Way To Visualise Instantiation

1. Think of a system network, such as that of TRANSITIVITY (IFG3 p302). Think of it as coloured black.
2. Now, for example, think of a clause.
3. Now colour green all the features and realisation statements that are selected for that clause.

The term 'system' refers to the entire TRANSITIVITY network.
The term 'instance' refers to just the green bits.
The term 'instantiation as process' refers to the process of applying the colour green.
The term 'instantiation as scale' — 'the cline of instantiation' — refers to the relation between the entire system and the green bits.

The green bits are both a subpotential of the system, and the "activation" of that subpotential.

The instance is the "activated" portion of the system. The relation of the instance to the system is the relation of the "activated" portion to the system as a whole.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Two Reasons Why Halliday’s And Martin’s Models Of Stratification Cannot Be Integrated

1) They do not mean the same thing by ‘register’.

For Halliday, ‘register’ means a functional variety of language (with roots back to the Prague School and Firth).

Martin, on the other hand, equates ‘register’ with Halliday’s ‘context’, which removes the notion of register as a functional variety of language from the model. This is because a higher stratum is not a functional variety of a lower stratum; eg lexicogrammar is not a functional variety of phonology.

2) They do not mean the same thing by ‘context’.

For Halliday, ‘context’ is
  • what people do with language (H&M 1999: ix),
  • the ‘semiotic environment’ of language (p375),
  • the “culture”, considered as a semiotic potential (p606).
Halliday’s ‘context’ is a level of abstraction that is realised by language.

Martin, on the other hand, in describing his model of stratification writes (1992: 496):
… the size of the circles also reflects the fact that the analysis tends to focus on larger units as one moves from phonology to ideology.  Thus the tendency at the level of phonology to focus on syllables and phonemes, at the level of lexicogrammar to focus on the clause, at the level of discourse semantics to focus on an exchange or "paragraph", at the level of register to focus on a stage in a transaction, at the level of genre to focus on whole texts …
As this quote makes clear, Martin’s ‘context’ refers to levels within language, since 'a stage in a transaction' and 'whole texts' are units of language.