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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.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Tom Bartlett On Function And Structure

The comment you pick up on (and run with, if I may say so...) simply made the point that the two because stretches in the speech  [the one a phrase, the other a clause] perform a similar function with regard to the utterance as a whole in providing alternative causes for the event described and this is why they can coordinate despite their different structures (and the different kinds of meanings these structures construe as structures). As far as models are concerned, there is nothing in what I said that posits a stratal rather than realisational relationship between function and structure;

Blogger Comments:

There are several interwoven confusions here.

There is no realisational relation between function and structure.
There is no stratal relation between function and structure.
The stratal relation is one of realisation.

There is a realisational relation between strata; e.g. the lower stratum of content realises the higher stratum of content.

There is a realisational relation between system and structure; this is the relation between the paradigmatic and syntagmatic axes.

There is a realisational relation between function structure at a higher rank and the syntagms (forms) of the lower rank, as when a Process (clause rank) is realised by a verbal group complex (group rank).

What Bartlett said construes two levels of symbolic abstraction on the content plane, two strata related by realisation, even though the technical terms he uses — "stretches of speech" and "the utterance as a whole" — construes them as if in a part-whole relation.

It is this stratal relation that allows us to speak of the same meaning (semantics) being realised by different wordings (lexicogrammar), as when the meaning 'cause' is variously realised as a dependent clause or as a prepositional phrase.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

David Rose On Grammatical Metaphor As Stratal Tension

Another thing that’s interesting in both the ‘re-mapping’ and ‘stratal tension’ models, is the role of lexis. For example, in IFG 10.5.2 there are many examples of ideational metaphors ‘unpacked’ to congruent clause complexes. Like Obama's example…
America has carried on | Circ:cause not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office
-> America has carried on || not simply because those in high office are very able || or see clearly
Recognising lexical relations such as skill-able and vision-see is necessary to interpret the metaphors, but lexical relations tend to be backgrounded in discussions of grammatical metaphor. To me they indicate that discourse semantic systems like ideation are in tension with grammatical systems like transitivity. It is the lexical item ‘vision’ that construes the process of seeing, and ‘skill’ that construes the quality able, while the grammar construes them as possessions of those in high office.

Blogger Comments:

[1] Lexical relations are a resource of the textual metafunction (the text-forming resources), so it's hardly surprising they are "backgrounded" in discussions of ideational metaphor (incongruent construals of experience).

[2] The relation between lexical relations (cohesion: non-structural textual grammar) and transitivity (structural experiential grammar) is not one of 'stratal tension', since both are construals of the same stratum: lexicogrammar.

Regarding the rebranding of Halliday's cohesion as 'discourse semantics', I have just started a new blog called Discourse Semantic Theory (here) which demonstrates how and why 'discourse semantics' is inconsistent with the theoretical architecture of SFL.  This will be done by paying close attention to its major exposition, page by page, in Martin's English Text.