Friday, 25 May 2018

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David Rose On Different "Takes" On The Theory

David Rose replied to himself on sysfling list on 13 May 2018 at 13:51:
PS Re our take on the theory 
Robert’s story also highlighted how our different takes are shaped by who trained us and when. Himself by MAKH when it was still a bunch of notes. Myself by Xian and Jim with 1st IFG as textbook while theirs were still photocopies. Others were trained by Robin Fawcett or his students, whom MAKH trained in the 60s, in early stages of the theory. Others by Ruqaiya and colleagues and many more. 
If only these discussions would involve more diverse experiences of its evolution, as well as the same old wrinklies correcting each other ;-)

Blogger Comments:

The implication here is that any take on the theory is as good as another — an example of the anti-intellectualism identified by Asimov:

Thursday, 24 May 2018

David Rose On Observations As Instances Of Theory

[Halliday's] ‘weather and climate’ analogy for instantiation is an apt metaphor for the observation/theory relation in SF research. Unquestionably the theory shapes observations, and observations change the theory, but over 60 years the shape of change has been continual refinement and expansion of its description of semiosis.
Absolutely, observations instantiate the theory (or at least our take on it). The line I have trouble with is between theory and description, since SFL purports to mimic its object of description.

Blogger Comments:

[1] To be clear, in SFL theory, an instance of a theory is an instance of a higher-level socio-semiotic system that is realised in language.  Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 605):
Socio-semiotic systems that are realised through language. This category corresponds to Hjelmslev's (1943) concept of a "connotative semiotic": a higher-level system that has language as its plane of expression. These include theories: every theoretical construction, scientific, philosophical, aesthetic, and so on, is a higher-level semiotic realised in language.
On the SFL model, an instance of theory potential is, by definition, an actual theory, whereas an actual observation is, by definition, an instance of observation potential — both at the level of context.

[2] Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 55) provide a useful distinction between theory and description:
While a description is an account of the system of a particular language, a theory is an account of language in general. So we have descriptions of various languages such as English, Akan and Nahuatl; but we have a theory of human language in general (see e.g. Halliday, 1992e, 1996; Matthiessen & Nesbitt, 1996).
[3] Here Rose confuses the relation between theory and description with the relation between theory and data ("its object of description").  Linguistic theory "mimics" language in the sense that linguistic theory is language about language, metalanguage, or, in the words of Firth (1957: 190): 'language turned back on itself'.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

David Rose On Popper, Socrates, Einstein, Halliday, Marx, Hegel, Empiricism And "Materialist Dialectics"

Popper didn’t invent falsifiability, just described it. The idea goes back at least to Socrates. Einstein is supposed to have said, "No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong.” It is the essence of dialectics’ thesis-antithesis method. It is what you are offering here, Ed. 
It was also central to the practice of that great dialectical thinker, Michael Halliday, as Robert Spence recounted for us, "Michael, having once lost an argument on this and therefore being rather cautious about it”. Halliday gave us the method for empirically describing semiotic systems that became SFL. 
He belonged to a very long and diverse tradition of applying empiricism to semiosis, but he devised a particularly powerful method that deployed materialist dialectics, to explain language systems in terms of social functions. He turned idealist lx argumentation on its head, as Marx did for Hegel.

Blogger Comments:

[1] Here Rose confuses the falsifiability of Popper's Falsificationism with the Socratic method.
The concept of falsifiability was introduced by the philosopher of science Karl Popper, in his exposition of scientific epistemology. He saw falsifiability as the criterion for demarcating the limits of scientific inquiry. He proposed that statements and theories that are not falsifiable are unscientific. Declaring an unfalsifiable theory to be scientific would then be pseudoscience.
[2] Here Rose confuses his confusion of the falsifiability of Popper's Falsificationism and the Socratic method with Kant's thesis/antithesis dyad, itself mistaken for Fichte's triad of thesis/antithesis/synthesis in Hegelian dialectics

[3] Here Rose provides what he understands as an example of (Kant's) "thesis-antithesis method": losing an argument and becoming more cautious on the matter.

[4] The word "empirically" here is redundant. Halliday designed a theory that could be used to describe language and other semiotic systems.  To be clear:
Empiricism in the philosophy of science emphasises evidence, especially as discovered in experiments. It is a fundamental part of the scientific method that all hypotheses and theories must be tested against observations of the natural world rather than resting solely on a priori reasoning, intuition, or revelation.
[5] Here Rose confuses a purported type of dialectic (materialist) with a type of materialism (dialectical), and falsely attributes the dialectic method to Halliday in his approach to theorising.  To be clear:
Dialectical materialism adapts the Hegelian dialectic for traditional materialism, which examines the subjects of the world in relation to each other within a dynamic, evolutionary environment, in contrast to metaphysical materialism, which examines parts of the world within a static, isolated environment.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Tom Bartlett On Interstratal Tension

Exactly - if I understand you right you are saying that like elements at the semantic stratum can be combined and this can result in dissimilar elements being coordinated at the LG stratum if these dissimilar elements realise the 'same' semantic function. So, grammatically we have different ranks being coordinated but for good semantic reasons - just another example of interstratal tension. That would be exactly my opening gambit.

Blogger Comments:

[1] Bartlett's proposal is that SFL theory would be improved if paratactic extension is held to obtain between units of different ranks. Apart from the misunderstandings involved — identified here and here — such a proposal creates theoretical inconsistencies with regard to both constituency and complexing.

[2] 'Interstratal tension' is Martin's characterisation of grammatical metaphor.  None of the examples provided by Bartlett involves grammatical metaphor.

Monday, 21 May 2018

David Rose On Register And Discourse Semantics

David Rose replied to Tom Bartlett on sysfling on 11 May 2018 at 16:15:
Iterated activity is a register level meaning, that may be realised in discourse semantics as an event sequence, or as one event x quality, that may be realised in grammar as a clause complex and clause simplex respectively.

Blogger Comments:

The series of propositions declared by Rose can be represented as follows:

iterated activity
↘ discourse semantics
↘ event sequence
↘ event x quality
↘ lexicogrammar
↘ clause complex
↘ clause

[1] 'Iterated activity' is a rebranding of 'activity sequence', a term which Martin (1992: 537) adapted from Barthes' (1966/1977) notion of 'sequence' in narrative, and misunderstood as an ideational unit of context, field, itself misunderstood as a dimension of register.  For some of the theoretical inconsistencies in Martin's notion of activity sequence, see any of the 48 clarifying critiques here.

[2] Within and without SFL theory, a 'register' is a functional variety of language.  In SFL theory, register is modelled as a point of variation on the cline of instantiation.  Here Rose follows Martin (1992) in misconstruing register as a level of context rather than as a sub-potential of language (that realises a cultural situation type).  For reasons why register, as something less general than language, is not coherently modelled as something more abstract than language, see some of the 82 clarifying critiques here.

[3] Here Rose is following Martin's (1992) misunderstanding of the SFL stratification hierarchy as 'all strata make meaning' (which is a characterisation of semogenesis, not stratification).  For Martin, strata are 'interacting modules of meaning', whereas, in SFL, the theoretical function of the dimension of stratification is to parcel out semiotic complexity into distinct levels of symbolic abstraction, in language: meaning (semantics), wording (lexicogrammar) and sounding/writing (phonology/graphology).

In SFL theory, meaning at the level of context is not linguistic meaning.  The stratum 'context' constitutes meaning in the sense of the culture as content, with language as its expression plane.  The meaning of register, on the other hand, is linguistic meaning; it constitutes the sub-potential of the semantic stratum that realises a sub-potential of the culture (a situation type).

[4] Here Rose is following Martin (1992) in misconstruing the relation between register and semantics as one of symbolic abstraction ('realisation'); see [2] above.

[5] The term 'event sequence' does not figure in the discourse semantic model of Martin (1992), and in Martin & Rose (2007: 267), it is located in field (context), misconstrued as register.  Here, however, Rose locates 'event sequence' in discourse semantics.  In SFL theory, 'sequence' is the highest order of phenomena in ideational semantics; see Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 104-27).

[6] In Martin (1992: 317), 'Event x Quality' is presented as the discourse semantics of the experiential grammar of the verbal group.  Here Rose misrepresents the structural relation as the discourse semantic counterpart of the clause.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

David Rose On Coordination And Proposition

David Rose replied to Tom Bartlett on sysfling on 11 May 2018 at 16:15:
Coordination is a grammatical term, for relations between grammatical units. Proposition is a discourse semantic term, for messages exchanging information.

Blogger Comments:
[1] To be clear, in SFL theory, the traditional category of 'coordination' is interpreted as the logico-semantic relation of paratactic extension.  Logico-semantic relations obtain at the level of semantics (meaning) and are realised at the level of lexicogrammar (wording).

[2] To be clear, in SFL theory, 'proposition' is 'the semantic function of a clause in the exchange of information' (Halliday & Matthiessen 2014: 139).  The intrusion of the word 'discourse' reflects the fact that Martin (1992) rebranded Halliday's interpersonal semantic system as a 'discourse semantic' system.  ('Message' is a semantic unit of the textual metafunction.)

Saturday, 19 May 2018

David Rose Misconstruing What Constitutes A "Stratified Account"

David Rose replied to Tom Bartlett on sysfling on 11 May 2018 at 16:15:
We could say their meanings are similar (iterated activity), but at what stratum? A stratified account allows for the proportions you have observed, without having to undo rank as the entry point for grammatical systems. 

Blogger Comments:

[1] In SFL theory, linguistic meaning is modelled at the level of semantics.  Here Rose follows Martin (1992: 21, 40, 55, 56, 96, 137) in confusing semogenesis ("all strata make meaning") with stratification (meaning–wording–sounding).  See, for example, the clarifying critiques here, here, here, here or here.

[2] In SFL theory, strata represent different levels along the dimension of symbolic abstraction.  Here Rose's notion of what constitutes a "stratified account" follows Martin (1992: 129, 390, 391, 392, 488, 490-1) in misconstruing strata as "interacting modules" of meaning, to which theoretical categories can be allocated, without regard for the level of symbolic abstraction.  See, for example, the clarifying critiques hereherehere or here.  Halliday & Webster (2009: 231):
In SFL language is described, or “modelled”, in terms of several dimensions, or parameters, which taken together define the “architecture” of language. These are 
  • (i) the hierarchy of strata (context, semantics, lexicogrammar, phonology, phonetics; related by realisation); 
  • (ii) the hierarchy of rank (e.g. clause, phrase/group, word, morpheme; related by composition); 
  • (iii) the cline of instantiation (system to instance); 
  • (iv) the cline of delicacy (least delicate to most delicate, or grossest to finest); 
  • (v) the opposition of axis (paradigmatic and syntagmatic); 
  • (vi) the organisation by metafunction (ideational (experiential, logical), interpersonal, textual).

Friday, 18 May 2018

Tom Bartlett Confusing Ranks And Taking A Formal Perspective

Introducing another problem, … what can we do with "or" coordination?
He went to the shops on Thursdays or Fridays
I want a red or blue dress
These events can by definition not be conjuncts, so would we have to say that whenever we have OR we have conjunction of whole elliptical clauses?

Blogger Comments:

[1] In SFL theory, 'X or Y' is the logico-semantic relation of extension: alternation (Halliday & Matthiessen 2014: 471).

[2] The logico-semantic relations in these instances do not obtain at clause rank, and for this reason, do not imply clause ellipsis.  In the first clause, Thursdays or Fridays is a word complex realising the Thing of a nominal group:

to the shops
on Thursdays or Fridays
Process: material
Location: spatial: motion
Location: temporal: rest

prepostional phrase
Thursdays or Fridays
nominal group
Thursdays or Fridays

In the second clause, red or blue is a word complex realising the Epithet of a nominal group:

a red or blue dress
Process: mental

nominal group
red or blue

[3] This again demonstrates that Bartlett is taking a formal rather than functional perspective on the grammar — as previously noted here — since he is concerned with assigning functions to forms, rather than assigning forms to functions.  The (bottom-up) formal approach asks 'what is the form, and what function does it realise?', whereas the (top-down) functional approach asks 'what is the function and what form realises it?'.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

John Bateman Denying The Existence Of Accessible Data

since 'data' does not (accessibly) exist, but is only filtered through observations operationalized according to frames of interpretations (including measurements), will/can/should one always know
(a) that the data fails to fit the theory and
(b) that the particular construction of the data is not what needs changing rather than the 'theory'?

Blogger Comments:

does not

[1] To be clear, here Bateman locates 'data' outside language; that is: as the experience that is construed as meaning by language.  On the SFL model, the data to be modelled as linguistic theory are the construals of experience as language.

[2] To be clear, testing the fit between data and theory is testing the fit between 
  • construals of experience as language and 
  • construals of language as linguistic theory.

[3] To be clear, a "particular construction of the data" is a construal of language in terms of a linguistic theory.  If the theory is inaccurately applied to the data, then it is the "particular construction of the data" that needs changing.  If an accurate application of the theory to the data reveals a shortcoming in the theory, then it is the theory that needs changing.

For an analysis of a previous example of Bateman's epistemology, see John Bateman Denying The Existence Of Text.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

David Rose Endorsing Tom Bartlett's Misunderstandings

So your description derived from observed proportionalities. It resonates with the topological description of logico-semantic relations across ranks and strata in IFG.

As a typological description it conflicts with long-standing descriptions of complexing co-selected with systems at each rank. That is, rank is the entry condition for all grammatical systems, and units at each rank may be complexed.

That description involves a very large set of empirically tested proportionalities. They are all inherently falsifiable, but would take a lot of labour to do so. So Ockham’s Razor suggests your proportionalities may be of another kind
very fruitful example, thanks Tom

Blogger Comments:

[1] This is misleading.  As demonstrated in the previous post, Bartlett's analysis did not derive from "observed" proportionalities, but from theoretical confusion, and from taking a formal, rather than functional, perspective on the grammar.

[2] Trivially, this is doubly misleading, since, on the one hand, there are no topological descriptions of logico-semantic relations (expansion and projection) in any of the four editions of IFG, and on the other hand, logico-semantic relations are only applied there to the one stratum, lexicogrammar.

[3] Here Rose misunderstands and misapplies the meaning of Occam's Razor:
Occam's razor (also Ockham's razor or Ocham's razor; Latin: lex parsimoniae "law of parsimony") is the problem-solving principle that, when presented with competing hypothetical answers to a problem, one should select the answer that makes the fewest assumptions.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Tom Bartlett Advocating Theoretical Inconsistencies

When I produced data showing Circumstances could be coordinated with hypotactic clauses and nominal groups with projections the response was to falsify the data and to add missing features a la TG so that the theoretical tenet that only like elements can be subordinated was upheld at all costs.
I told the list the problem and that there was a need to solve it on various occasions and when it took my fancy.
To give examples of both : )

Blogger Comments:

[1] To be clear, a circumstance is a class of element of function structure at clause rank, whereas a hypotactic clause is a class of form.  In SFL theory, co-ordination is the relation of paratactic extension that obtains between units of form at the same rank.

On the one hand, Bartlett confuses function with form; that is, he confuses two distinct levels of symbolic abstraction.

On the other hand, if the co-ordination is held to obtain between a clause and the formal realisation of circumstances, as a prepositional phrase or adverbial or nominal group, then Bartlett confuses clause rank with group/phrase rank; that is, he confuses two distinct levels of composition.

[2] To be clear, a nominal group and a projected clause are distinct levels on the rank scale.  The confusion is again one of level of composition.

[3] In SFL, such phenomena are accounted for by the cohesive system of ellipsis (Bartlett's "missing features").  Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 635):
Ellipsis marks the textual status of continuous information within a certain grammatical structure. At the same time, the non-ellipsed elements of that structure are given the status of being contrastive in the environment of continuous information. Ellipsis thus assigns differential prominence to the elements of a structure: if they are non-prominent (continuous), they are ellipsed; if they are prominent (contrastive), they are present. The absence of elements through ellipsis is an iconic realisation of lack of prominence.
[4] To be clear, proposed theoretical changes that arise from theoretical misunderstandings and result in theoretical inconsistencies do not improve the explanatory power of a theory.  The larger problem here is that Bartlett is taking a syntactic perspective, which is the opposite of that from which SFL was theorised, as Halliday (1994: xiv) explains:

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Jim Martin Strategically Confusing 'Polemic' With 'Critique'

“Perhaps, someday, a long history will have to be written of polemics, polemics as a parasitic figure on discussion and an obstacle to the search for truth. Very schematically, it seems to me that we can recognize the presence in polemics of three models: the religious model, the judiciary model, and the political model. As in heresiology, polemics sets itself the task of determining the intangible point of dogma, the fundamental and necessary principle that the adversary has neglected, ignored, or transgressed; and it denounces this negligence as a moral failing; at the root of the error, it finds passions, desire, interest, a whole series of weaknesses and inadmissable [sic] attachments that establish it as culpable. As in judiciary practice, polemics allows for no possibility of an equal discussion: it examines a case; it isn't dealing with an interlocutor, it is processing a suspect; it collects the proofs of his guilt, designates the infraction he has committed, and pronounces the verdict and sentences him. In any case, what we have here is not on the order of a shared investigation; the polemicist tells the truth in the form of his judgement and by virtue of the authority he has conferred on himself. But it is the political model that is the most powerful today. Polemics defines alliances, recruits partisans, unites interests or opinions, represents a party; it establishes the other as an enemy, an upholder of opposed interests, against which one must fight until the moment this enemy is defeated or either surrenders or disappears.
Of course, the reactivation, in polemics, of these political, judiciary, or religious practices is nothing more than theatre. One gesticulates: anathemas, excommunications, condemnations, battles, victories, and defeats are no more than ways of speaking, after all. And yet, in the order of discourse, they are also ways of acting, which are not without consequence. There are the sterilizing effects: Has anyone ever seen a new idea come out of a polemic? And how could it be otherwise, given that here the interlocutors are incited, not to advance, not to take more and more risks in what they say, but to fall back continually on the rights they claim, on their legitimacy, which they must defend, and on the affirmation of their innocence? There is something even more serious here: in this comedy, one mimics wars, battles, annihilations, or unconditional surrenders, putting forward as much of one's killer instinct as possible. But it is really dangerous to make anyone believe that he can gain access to truth by such paths, and thus to validate, even if in merely symbolic form, the real political practices that could be warranted by it. Let is imagine, for a moment, that a magic wand is waved and one of the two adversaries in a polemic is given the ability to exercise all the power he likes over the other. One doesn't even have to imagine it: one has only to look at what happened during the debates in the USSR over linguistics and genetics not long ago. Were these merely aberrant deviations from what was supposed to be the correct discussion? Not at all: they were the real consequences of a polemic attitude whose effects ordinarily remain suspended.” [Foucault in Rabinow [Ed.] 1984: 382-383]
Rabinow, P 1984 The Foucault Reader. Penguin.
We could perhaps rephrase Foucault’s question about the productivity of critique
‘What productive developments in SFL theory, description and/or practice have arisen from the critiques noted in the list discussion?’
And further, how might we weigh the value of these against the costs?

Blogger Comments:

[1] As previously noted here, this quote from Foucault is a polemic against polemics, made without a trace of self-irony.  (Martin previously posted the quote to the Sysfling list on 8 January 2016.)

[2] Here Martin misleads by strategically confusing polemic with critique.

[3] To be clear, the productivity of critiques of SFL theory depends on two general factors:
  • the validity of the critiques themselves, and
  • the willingness of academics to read, recognise and act on valid critiques.

[4] To be clear, the discussion of critiques of SFL occurred on the international list, Sysfling.  Here Martin has chosen instead to raise the issue on his local list, Sys-func.

[5] To be clear, valid critiques are essential for the development of any theory and the descriptions and practices it affords.  The more crucial question is: what is the cost of the absence of valid critiques to a theory and the descriptions and practices it affords.  What suffers?  Who benefits?

To kill an error is as good a service as, 
and sometimes even better than, 
the establishing of a new truth or fact.
— Charles Darwin

To free a person from error is to give, 
and not to take away.
— Arthur Schopenhauer

It is error only, 
and not truth, 
that shrinks from inquiry.
— Thomas Paine

Sunday, 6 May 2018

John Bateman On The Lack Of Engagement Of SFL With Cognition

there is also Teun van Dijk's ongoing and in many respects well motivated critique of the SFL notion of context, which reflects a lot of frustration with the SFL approach and its lack of engagement with certain issues, such as cognition:
Discourse and Context A Sociocognitive Approach 2009.

Blogger Comments:

See the 600+ page magnum opus:
Halliday MAK and Matthiessen CMIM 1999 Construing Experience Through Meaning: A Language-Based Approach To Cognition

From the Preface (ix-x):
It seems to us that our dialogue is relevant to current debates in cognitive science. In one sense, we are offering it as an alternative to mainstream currents in this area, since we are saying that cognition "is" (that is, can most profitably be modelled as) not thinking but meaning: the "mental" map is in fact a semiotic map, and "cognition" is just a way of talking about language. In modelling knowledge as meaning, we are treating it as a linguistic construct: hence, as something that is construed in the lexicogrammar. Instead of explaining language by reference to cognitive processes, we explain cognition by reference to linguistic processes. But at the same time this is an "alternative" only if it is assumed that the "cognitive" approach is in some sense natural, or unmarked. It seems to us that current approaches to neural networks, "connectionist" models and the like, are in fact more compatible with a semantic approach, where "understanding" something is transforming it into meaning, and to "know" is to have performed that transformation. There is a significant strand in the study of language — not only in systemic functional theory but also for example in Lamb's relational networks — whereby "knowledge" is modelled semiotically: that is, as system-&-process of meaning, in abstract terms which derive from the modelling of grammar.

Moreover, contrast the above with the theoretical perspective of Van Dijk in Discourse and Context A Sociocognitive Approach (2014: 281):
Note, though, that since the empiricist Functional Systemic framework explicitly does not have a cognitive dimension (Van Dijk, 2008a), the analysis is presented in terms of meaning  ‘shortcuts’ as allowed by the grammar of English, not really in terms of tacit or implicit knowledge as it is usually dealt with in philosophy or psychology.

Given that Van Dijk is theorising in a different tradition with different assumptions from SFL — most significantly: the separation of meaning and knowledge — it is not surprising that he would expect 'context' to encompass different phenomena, but it is poor (and misleading) scholarship not to recognise that fact in any critique.  Accordingly, Bateman's unsupported claim that any such critiques are 'in many respects well motivated' is not itself "well motivated".