Thursday, 22 October 2020

Jim Martin Misunderstanding SFL Methodology

What would music look like if instead of looking ‘notionally’ for kinds of meaning we looked for types of structure (particulate, prosodic and periodic) and worked out the systems behind each type of structure and then asked what their complementary functions were and only then compared music to language or image?

Blogger Comments:

To be clear, here Martin unwittingly advocates a theoretical approach that is the opposite of the methodology of SFL Theory: giving priority to the view 'from below' (structure and expression) instead of the 'view from above' (system and content). That is, what Martin dismisses as 'notionally' is actually SFL methodology. As Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 49) explain:
Giving priority to the view ‘from above’ means that the organising principle adopted is that of system: the grammar is seen as a network of interrelated meaningful choices. In other words, the dominant axis is the paradigmatic one: the fundamental components of the grammar are sets of mutually defining contrastive features (for an early statement, see Halliday, 1966a). Explaining something consists not in stating how it is structured but in showing how it is related to other things: its pattern of systemic relationships, or agnateness (agnation, a term introduced into linguistics by Gleason (1965: 199)…

More specific to the methodology itself, Halliday (1985: xiv) outlines the SFL approach, as part of his explanation that SFL does not take a syntactic approach to modelling language:

However, not even the SFL approach will succeed in modelling music as a semiotic system because music is not a semiotic system: the sounds of music do not realise meanings. Of course, music theory and notation are semiotic systems, as are the lyrics that accompany music, but the sounds themselves are not expressions of content. Instead, music activates what the neuroscientist Edelman calls 'value' systems in the brain, which, in turn, with other systems, underlie feelings and emotions. In terms of Halliday's (2002: 388) evolutionary typology of systems, music can be seen as social (value, but not symbolic value), like the pheromonal systems of eusocial insects. Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 509):

A biological system is a physical system with the added component of "life"; it is a living physical system. In comparable terms, a social system is a biological system with the added component of "value" …. A semiotic system, then, is a social system with the added component of "meaning". Meaning can be thought of (and was thought of by Saussure) as just a kind of social value; but it is value in a significantly different sense — value that is construed symbolically. … Semiotic systems are social systems where value has been further transformed into meaning.

Thursday, 3 September 2020

David Rose Crediting Martin With Halliday's Ideas

It’s also 6 decades since MAKH proposed ’solidary’ relations between metafunctions and field/tenor/mode as contextual dimensions (following Firth and Malinowski), and 3 decades since JRM proposed field/tenor/mode systems as connotative semiotics realised metafunctionally by language and other modalities (following Hjelmslev). The last decade has seen rapid progress in describing these ‘register’ systems and modalities, by rising stars like Jing Hao, Yaegan Doran, Erika Matruglio, Michelle Zappavigna ...


Blogger Comments:

[1] This is misleading, because it is untrue on several counts. Firstly, Halliday did not project the metafunctions onto context 6 decades ago, because metafunctions did not feature in Scale & Category Grammar (Halliday 1961).

Secondly, Halliday did not project the metafunctions onto context 6 decades ago, because context, in the SFL sense, did not feature in Scale & Category Grammar (Halliday 1961). Scale & Category Grammar was organised as follows:
Thirdly, Halliday did not follow Firth in projecting the metafunctions onto context 6 decades ago, because, although Halliday's Scale & Category did "follow" Firth in many respects, Firth died long before Halliday had theorised the metafunctions or context as the culture as semiotic system.

Fourthly, Halliday did not follow Malinowski in projecting the metafunctions onto context 6 decades ago, because Malinowski died long before Halliday had theorised the metafunctions. What is true is that Halliday later took Malinowski's notions of context of culture and context of situation and built them into his model of stratification, using Hjelmslev's notion of a connotative semiotic.

[2] This is very misleading indeed, because it falsely credits Martin with Halliday's work. Firstly, it was Halliday, not Martin (1992), who first proposed that the culture as semiotic system could be modelled, using Hjelmslev's ideas, as the content plane of a connotative semiotic, with language, a denotative semiotic, as its expression plane.

To be clear, for Hjelmslev, a connotative semiotic is a semiotic system that has a denotative semiotic system as its expression plane. Martin (1992), while claiming to be following Hjelmslev (p493), reduces the connotative semiotic to only its content plane, context, and models it as varieties of a denotative semiotic, register and genre, which on Hjelmslev's model, are located on the expression plane of the connotative semiotic.

[3] To be clear, since Martin misunderstands context systems (field, tenor, mode) as register (sub-potentials of language that realise context), any descriptions by these former students of Martin cannot be regarded as progress in the development of a coherent theory, however rapid.


Postscript: Martin has not publicly corrected any of the false attributions credited to him by Rose.

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

David Rose Misrepresenting Martin's 'English Text' (1992)

It’s also now 3 decades since JRM showed how grammar/semantics relations vary between systems that serve to organise discourse metafunctionally, and how congruent/incongruent contrasts display ‘stratal tension' between grammatical and discourse semantic functions. In this light, MAKH’s 1975 Hjelmslevian metaphor of 'splitting the content plane’ needs revising, since his evidence actually shows that grammatical metafunctions emerge with exchanges and figure sequences, i.e. discourse semantic systems.

Blogger Comments:

[1] This is misleading, because it is untrue on several counts. Firstly, Martin (1992) takes the relation between grammar and his discourse semantics to be invariably one of realisation: 'the realisation relationship between discourse semantics and lexicogrammar' (p57), and does not propose different relations, varying according to metafunction (but see the note on 'interaction patterns' below). Secondly, Martin does not understand the notion of realisation (or instantiation), as shown by the following quote (p5), where he misunderstands it as a relation between system and process (i.e. in SFL terms, between system and the process of instantiation):
As noted above, system is related to process through the concept of realisationrealisation formalises the instantiation of system in process.
Thirdly, despite using the term 'realisation' for the relation between strata, Martin does not understand strata as different levels of symbolic abstraction. Instead, Martin mistakes all strata as one level of symbolic abstraction, linguistic meaning, and misunderstands strata as interacting modules, and proposes different interaction patterns between grammar and discourse semantics: cohesive harmony, modal responsibility, method of development and point (p393). None of these are modelled as interaction patterns by the (misunderstood) intellectual sources of these ideas: Hasan (cohesive harmony), Halliday (modal responsibility) and Fries (method of development and point). Moreover, in later work, Martin & Rose (2007), cohesive harmony and modal responsibility are absent, and method of development and point are reconstrued as the textual discourse semantic system of periodicity (critiqued here), thereby dismissing the original proposals.

[2] This is misleading, because Martin's discourse semantic systems are his rebrandings of Halliday's interpersonal semantic system, speech function, and Halliday & Hasan's textual lexicogrammatical systems, cohesion, as previously explained. In Martin's model, the textual system of conjunction is rebranded as a logical system (conjunction/connexion), and the textual system of lexical cohesion is rebranded as an experiential system. That is, in terms of SFL Theory, Martin's discourse semantic systems are limited to two metafunctions, interpersonal and textual, and only one system is semantic.

[3] To be clear, Martin's notion of 'stratal tension', which does not appear in Martin (1992), is simply a rebranding of Halliday's notion of an incongruent (metaphorical) relation between semantics and grammar. But more importantly, on Martin's model, there is stratal tension regardless of whether the grammatical realisation is metaphorical. For example, Martin's logical system, conjunction/connexion, is not organised according the three general types of expansion: elaboration, extension and enhancement, and the logico-semantic relation of projection is entirely absent. The reason for this is that Martin's source material, Cohesion In English (Halliday & Hasan 1976) was not organised on the three types of expansion, and being a model of cohesion, did not include projection.

[4] To be clear, this is 'metaphor' in the sense of theoretical model. Hjelmslev (1943) conceived of a content plane which distinguished content substance and content form. Halliday (1975), in describing the shift from protolanguage to language, relates meaning to content substance and wording to content form. Halliday (2004 [1975]: 55):
In Hjelmslevian terms, the functional basis of language has shifted from the “content substance” (in a system having no level of form) to the “content form”.
[5] This is misleading, because, to the extent that it is coherent, it is not true.

Firstly, even if it were true that Martin (1992) did provide evidence "that grammatical metafunctions emerge with exchanges and figure sequences, i.e. discourse semantic systems", it does not follow from this that the stratification of content into meaning and wording would need revising. The theoretical value of stratified content derives from the fact that it provides a systematic means of explaining grammatical metaphor.

Secondly, the notion that "grammatical metafunctions emerge" misunderstands SFL Theory. For Halliday, the metafunctions are highly generalised meanings that are used to interpret lexicogrammatical form. As Halliday (1985 & 1994: xvii) explains:
the form of the grammar relates naturally to the meanings that are being encoded. A functional grammar is designed to bring this out; it is a study of wording, but one that interprets the wording by reference to what it means.
Thirdly, 'figure sequences' do not constitute evidence on this matter because they do not appear in Martin (1992). This is because 'figure' and 'sequence' feature in the ideational semantics of Halliday & Matthiessen (1999), which wasn't published until seven years after Martin's publication.

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

David Rose Misrepresenting Halliday On The Relation Between Semantics And Grammar

You may have missed my comment that the 'natural/conventional' debate is out of date... by 6 decades, since MAKH showed how the phono/grammar relation is not ‘arbitrary’ at the ranks of intonation and rhythm, and often not at syllable rank. The IFG intro briefly acknowledges that old debate but proceeds to ignore it, preferring the terms ‘congruent/incongruent’ for grammar/semantics relations.



Blogger Comments:

[1] As previously explained, this misunderstands Halliday on the conventional (arbitrary) relation between lexicogrammar and phonology. The relation obtains between grammatical forms and their phonological realisations. Clearly, although participants and processes are naturally distinguished grammatically as nominal and verbal groups, nominal and verbal groups are not naturally distinguished phonologically by their realisations in intonation, rhythm and articulation. According to Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 11), the natural relation of prosodic phonology is to semantics, not grammar.

Importantly, it is the natural relation between semantics and grammatical form that makes it possible to interpret grammatical form in terms of the meanings they realise. If there were a natural relation between grammatical form and phonology, it would be possible to interpret phonology in terms of the grammatical form it realises.

[2] This is misleading, because the IFG introduction (Halliday 1985 & 1994: xvii-xix) does not acknowledge any "debate"; it merely sets out what Halliday means by a natural relation between semantics and grammar.

[3] This is very misleading indeed. Halliday (1985 & 1994: xvii-xix) does not "proceed to ignore" the natural/conventional distinction and does not "prefer" the terms 'congruent/incongruent' for grammar/semantic relations. As can be seen by reading what Halliday actually wrote here, Halliday begins by explaining what he means by a 'natural' relation between semantics and grammar, and then explains how grammatical metaphor exploits this natural relation.

Importantly, the relation between semantics and grammar is realisation, the 'symbol' sub-type of intensive (elaborating) identification, with semantics as Value and grammar as Token. This is the relation between all adjacent strata, whether the relation is natural or conventional, or congruent or incongruent.

Monday, 31 August 2020

David Rose Misrepresenting Halliday On Meaning

I wonder where you might locate ‘concepts’ in our stratal hierarchy. I believe MAKH followed Firth’s distributed view of meaning, where "The central proposal of the theory is to split up meaning or function into a series of component functions. Each function will be defined as the use of some language form or element in relation to some context. Meaning, that is to say, is to be regarded as a complex of contextual relations, and phonetics, grammar, lexicography, and semantics each handles its own components of the complex in its appropriate context.” 1957 p5-6

Blogger Comments:

[1] To be clear, 'concepts', as ideational meanings, are located on Halliday's semantic stratum.

[2] This is misleading. In Halliday's model of language as meaning potential, meaning is construed as the highest level of symbolic abstraction: the stratum of semantics. This is distinguished from wording, a lower level of symbolic abstraction: the stratum of lexicogrammar, and from sounding, a still lower level of symbolic abstraction: the stratum of phonology.

Rose uses the wording 'distributed view of meaning' in defence of Martin (e.g. 1992), where all strata are misunderstood as strata of linguistic meaning — even context and phonology. The misunderstanding is encapsulated in Martin's 'all strata make meaning', which, though a statement about semogenesis (making meaning), is misinterpreted as a statement about stratification (levels of symbolic abstraction): all strata are strata of meaning.

[3] To be clear, although this 1957 quote from Firth is largely consistent with Halliday's later stratification of language into semantics, lexicogrammar and phonology, Firth's use of 'context' is not the same as Halliday's later construal of context as the culture as a semiotic system. This can be seen in Halliday (1961) where Halliday's earliest use of 'context' is closer to Firth's use of the term:

Sunday, 30 August 2020

David Rose On Martin's Individuation

Ed McDonald: 
3. I’m not exactly sure what you mean by individuation, but would you recognise a greater degree of “individuation” from phonology through lexiocgrammar and semantics to the “material and social worlds of human communities”
No, in a word. Individuation varies at each stratum, from culture to persona… figs [4 and 5] from Martin, J. R., Zappavigna, M., Dwyer, P. & Cléirigh, C. (2013). Users in uses of language: embodied identity in Youth Justice Conferencing. Text & Talk 33(4/5), 467-96

Blogger Comments:

[1] To be clear, the process of individuation is the differential ontogenesis of potential — from culture to phonology — across individuals, and the cline of individuation is the relation between the different potentials of different individuals and the collective potential of all meaners.

[2]  To be clear, Martin's Figure 4 confuses points on the cline of instantiation of context (culture and sub-culture) with categories of language users (master identity and persona). Moreover, it proposes that context (culture) is individuated as a language user (persona).

Strictly speaking, the individuation of culture is the differential ontogenesis of the context potential across individuals, and if 'persona' is interpreted as individuated potential, then it is the individuation of both context and language as potential.

[3] To be clear, there are several theoretical inconsistencies in Martin's Figure 5.

Firstly, it presents instantiation and individuation as if they were internal dimensions of meaning potential like stratification. However, the clines of instantiation and individuation model different perspectives on meaning potential as a whole, rather than scales within meaning potential.

Secondly, it misrepresents text as an instance of context (culture) as well as language. In SFL Theory, it is situation that is an instance of context. This relates to Martin's misunderstanding of context as varieties of language, genre and register (which accounts for the superfluous stratum in the figure).

Thirdly, by its vertical dimension, it (unintentionally?) misrepresents the cline of individuation as applying to text as well as potential. This makes the nonsensical claim that every text is common to all language users, varying according to user.

[4] To be clear, the Martin et al paper was written by Zappavigna, under the control of Martin, who is responsible for Figures 4 and 5. The blogger's name was included as author because he, as part-time Research Assistant, devised the model of gestural and postural semiosis that forms the intellectual backbone of the paper. This model has since been misunderstood and rebranded as Martin's model of paralanguage, as documented here.

Saturday, 29 August 2020

David Rose On Martin's Coupling/Co-instantiation

Ed McDonald:
2. The idea of co-instantiaton is also an interesting one:
My gloss for coupling, defined by Martin et al. (2013, p. 469) as ‘the co-selection of linguistic resources across ranks, metafunctions, strata, and modalities which are not specified by system/structure cycles’.
Systems at each stratum make distinct contributions…eg variations in tone and mood couple to instantiate variations in speech function


Blogger Comments:

[1] To be clear, Martin's definition of 'coupling' is invalid, because system/structure cycles do not specify any co-selection of paradigmatic features ("linguistic resources"). To explain:-

The process of instantiation is the selection of paradigmatic features and the activation of realisation statements which specify how systemic options are realised along the syntagmatic axis, whether structural or cohesive. System/structure cycles are the iteration of this realisation relation between axes during logogenesis, the unfolding of text. On this basis, system/structure cycles do not specify which features are (co-)selected; feature (co-)selection is the paradigmatic dimension of system/structure cycles.

[2] To be clear, this confuses instantiation with realisation. Instantiations of "variations in speech function" are the speech function features that are selected during logogenesis. The relation between speech function and mood, and between mood and tone, is realisation, since these three systems are located on three different strata: semantics, lexicogrammar and phonology.

However, strictly speaking, the system of TONE does not realise the system of MOOD, but the system of KEY, which is associated with the system of MOOD (Halliday & Matthiessen 2014: 168). It is the combination of KEY and MOOD that realises SPEECH FUNCTION.

Friday, 28 August 2020

David Rose On Stratal Relations

Ed McDonald: 
[1.] The “variability of relations” in stratification sounds interesting: could you elaborate a bit on what other kinds of relations you would recognise here?
OK…'natural/conventional’ debates pre-date development of phono rank scale. They assumed ‘arbitrary’ sound/word relations, to then debate grammar/semantic relations. But phono/grammar relations actually vary by phono rank and system. So let’s allow for such variability between other strata.


Blogger Comments:

[1] The terms 'debates' and 'assumed' are misleading here. The conventional (arbitrary) relation between a word (e.g. the) and the sounds that realise it (e.g. [ꝺə]) is evident from observation, and so does not need to be assumed. The natural relation between semantics and grammar, in SFL Theory, refers to such non-arbitrary relations as those between participant and nominal group and between process and verbal group, in the absence of grammatical metaphor.

[2] To be clear, the stratal relation between grammatical forms (e.g. nominal groups and verbal groups) and their phonological realisations is invariably conventional (arbitrary), and does not vary by phonological rank. That is, the semantic distinction between participant and process, which is realised by a grammatical distinction between nominal group and verbal group, is not realised by a phonological distinction in intonation, rhythm or articulation.

What Rose could have in mind here is the relation between speech function and tone, and perhaps the relation between information focus and tonic prominence, neither of which is a relation between lexicogrammatical form and phonology.

[3] To be clear, the relation between other linguistic strata, semantics and lexicogrammar, in the absence of grammatical metaphor, is invariably natural (non-arbitrary) in the sense specified by Halliday. Moreover, the relation between adjacent strata is invariably realisation (intensive identification). Any model in which strata are not related by realisation is inconsistent with the  ordering principle of stratification; see Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 20).

Thursday, 27 August 2020

David Rose On Stratification, Instantiation And Individuation

That is, to start answering your questions, could we….
1. Take our long work on stratification as a starting point, and admit variability of relations between all strata, not just realisation hierarchies… moving beyond old dichotomies like form/content, language/context, natural/conventional 
2. Reconceptualise system/text relations as co-instantiation or coupling of distinct contributions from each mode and stratum, as ‘all strata instantiate
3. Model language typology in terms of individuation, as ‘all strata individuate’, from phoneme systems to material and social worlds of human communities (always already semiotic)
?
Blogger Comments:

[1] To be clear, "our long work on stratification" is Martin's model, which replaces
  • semantics with discourse semantics, and
  • culture as context with genre and register as two strata of context.
As demonstrated in detail here, Martin's model is based on several theoretical misunderstandings and is internally inconsistent. For example, Martin's discourse semantics is a mixture of Halliday's semantics: speech function (rebranded negotiation) and Halliday & Hasan's lexicogrammatical cohesion (reference and ellipsis rebranded as identification, conjunction now rebranded as connexion, and lexical cohesion rebranded as ideation). That is, Martin's discourse semantics confuses two distinct levels of symbolic abstraction: semantics and lexicogrammar.

Martin's model of context locates varieties of language, register and genre, outside language: as context, while at the same time claiming that their instances are instances of language. In Hjelmslevian terms, Martin's model takes varieties of the expression plane of a connotative semiotic and relocates them as the content plane of a connotative semiotic. In terms of SFL Theory, Martin's model takes the midway point on the cline of instantiation of language and reconstrues the two perspectives on that point, register and text type (genre), as the system pole of the cline of instantiation of context. That is, Martin's model is inconsistent in terms of two dimensions of SFL Theory: stratification and instantiation. Compare the theoretically consistent model of Halliday:



[2] This is misleading. The theoretical dimension of stratification is the layering of different levels of symbolic abstraction. The relation between levels of symbolic abstraction is realisation. While the relation between levels may be natural or conventional, the invariable relation between levels is realisation.

[3] As previously explained, Martin's 'co-instantiation or coupling' is theoretically superfluous, since, because instantiation is the selection of features (and activation of realisation statements), the relation between instantiated features is already given by the systemic and stratificational architecture.

[4] To be clear, with regard to language, the theoretical dimension of individuation is the relation between a language, as a whole, and the varieties of that language that develop in its individual speakers, whereas language typology is the classification of different languages according to theoretical criteria.

[5] To be clear, Martin's mantras 'all strata instantiate' and 'all strata individuate' say nothing about either instantiation or individuation; cf all X instantiate, all X individuate. The process of instantiation is the selection of potential during logogenesis; the process of individuation is the differential ontogenesis of potential across individuals.

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

David Rose On "Couplings In Instantiation"

David Rose replied to Ed McDonald on SYSFLING on 21 Aug 2020 at 10:24:

Thanks for this teaser. There's an impossibly large number of threads picked up in these few little questions… variability in relations between strata in semiotic systems… their contributions and couplings in instantiation… phylogenesis of language in general and languages in particular… and histories of linguists trying to theorise (what they can see of) these problems




Blogger Comments:

[1] This is misleading, because it is untrue. McDonald's questions concerned:
  • the natural relation between meaning (e.g. process) and linguistic form (e.g. verbal group),
  • the construal of experience as meaning, and
  • the co-ordination of language with other social semiotic systems made possible by language.
See the examination of McDonald's original post here.

[2] To be clear, 'coupling' or 'co-instantiation' is one of Martin's many misunderstandings of SFL Theory. As previously noted, because the process of instantiation is the selection of features and the activation of realisation statements (Halliday & Matthiessen 1999: 45), it necessarily entails the co-selection of features that are related along the dimensions of the theory, including delicacy, rank and strata. Martin's superfluous notion of "co-instantiation" is merely an acknowledgement that features are co-selected.

Tuesday, 25 August 2020

John Bateman On The Natural Relation Between Semantics And Grammar

Edward McDonald:
So “natural” presumably can’t mean “given by nature”, because in that case the semantics of all languages would be the same; but if this “naturalness” is “conventional”, to what degree?
strikes me the most straightforward way to see this as a case of iconic diagrammaticity (which would be a bit more general than Hjelmslev's more direct linking): so I would expect lexicogrammar and semantics to stand in an iconic relationship in this sense. The details of each are conventional, but the more fundamental relationship of diagrammicity holds indeed by their nature rather than by convention.
 Edward McDonald:
And if all human communication is multimodal, and all semiotic systems are “natural” in their different ways, how do these different “natures” get to be coordinated or mutually-enforcing in communicative contexts?
discourse semantics discourse semantics (some embodiment) and some more discourse semantics.... (see our work on this...).

Blogger Comments:

[1] For an examination of the McDonald post that Bateman is responding to here, see the immediately preceding post.

[2] To be clear, Halliday's notion of a natural relation between semantics and lexicogrammar is the non-arbitrary (non-conventional) relation between meanings and grammatical forms that realise them, such as between process and verbal group and participant and nominal group; see Halliday (1985: xvii-xix).

[3] To be clear, for Halliday, it is the cultural context — that language and other parallel social semiotic systems realise — that makes this possible. Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 602):
In other words, language has evolved as part of our own evolution. It is not arbitrary; on the contrary, it is the semiotic refraction of our own existence in the physical, biological, social and semiotic modes. It is not autonomous; it is itself part of a more complex semiotic construct — which, as we have tried to show, can be modelled in stratal terms such that language as a whole is related by realisation to a higher level of context (context of situation and of culture). This contextualisation of language, we suggested, was the critical factor which made it possible to relate language to other systems-&-processes, both other semiotic systems and systems of other kinds.
Discourse semantics, on the other hand, is Martin's rebranding of (his misunderstandings of) the prior work of Halliday and Hasan, with
  • speech function (Halliday's interpersonal semantics) rebranded as negotiation (Martin's interpersonal discourse semantics),
  • reference (Halliday & Hasan's textual lexicogrammar) rebranded as identification (Martin's textual discourse semantics),
  • conjunction & continuity (Halliday & Hasan's textual lexicogrammar) now rebranded as connexion (Martin's logical discourse semantics), and
  • lexical cohesion (Halliday & Hasan's textual lexicogrammar) rebranded as ideation (Martin's experiential discourse semantics).
For the evidence on which these claims rest, see the examination of Martin's English Text (1992) here, and the examination of Martin & Rose's Working With Discourse (2007) here. For evidence that Bateman is oblivious to the theoretical inconsistencies in Martin's model of discourse semantics, see the examination of his review of English Text here.

Monday, 24 August 2020

Edward McDonald On The Natural Relation Between Semantics And Lexicogrammar

I remember when I read that passage [Halliday (1985: xvii-xix) on the natural relation between meaning and wording] way back in the day I thought it made perfect sense, but more recently I’ve come to wonder what exactly “natural” implies. In a multilingual context, it must presumably mean “ ‘natural’ as defined within each language”, while in a multimodal context it would refer to the intersection of the range of different semiotic systems involved, or some common system lying behind all of them (this latter possibility I personally would be rather resistant to because I’m against semiotic universalism as I am all other kinds).
So “natural” presumably can’t mean “given by nature”, because in that case the semantics of all languages would be the same; but if this “naturalness” is “conventional”, to what degree? Or to put it another way, how do the many commonalities across the material and social worlds of human communities get “translated” or “semioticised” into individual human languages. And if all human communication is multimodal, and all semiotic systems are “natural” in their different ways, how do these different “natures” get to be coordinated or mutually-enforcing in communicative contexts?

Blogger Comments:

[1] To be clear, by 'natural' Halliday means a non-arbitrary relation between lexicogrammatical form and the meaning it realises. Halliday (1985: xvii, xviii, xix):
The relation between the meaning and the wording is not, however, an arbitrary one: the form of the grammar relates naturally to the meanings that are being encoded. A functional grammar is designed to bring this out; it is a study of wording, but one that interprets the wording by reference to what it means. …
What this means is that both the general kinds of grammatical pattern that have evolved in language, and the specific manifestations of each kind, bear a natural relation to the meanings they have evolved to express. … the distinction into word classes of verb and noun reflects the analysis of experience into goings-on, expressed as verbs, and participants in the goings-on, expressed as nouns; and so on. …
Since the relation of grammar to semantics is in this sense natural, not arbitrary … 
[2] To be clear, according to Halliday, the non-arbitrary relation between meaning and wording evolved naturally in language; 'natural' is thus not defined differently for different languages.

[3] To be clear, the natural relation between meaning and wording only concerns language, because language is the only semiotic system with a content plane stratified into meaning and wording. That is, language is the only semiotic system that affords the verbal projection of locutions (wordings).

[4] To be clear, according to Halliday, language — evolved and developed from protolanguage — is the social semiotic system that makes other such social semiotic systems possible; see Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 602-6).

[5] To be clear, the natural relation between semantics and lexicogrammatical form does not entail that the semantics of all languages would be the same, since it is the relation that is shared by languages, not (necessarily) the semantics.

[6] To be clear, in this context, 'natural' (non-arbitrary) is the opposite of 'conventional' (arbitrary).

[7] To be clear, on the one hand, this topic, the construal of experience as meaning, is a different issue from the foregoing discussion on the natural relation between meaning and wording. On the other hand, it assumes that experience is already categorised (as "commonalities across the material and social worlds of human communities") before being construed as meaning by language. SFL Theory assumes the opposite: that experience only becomes meaning when construed as such by semiotic systems. The former is known as the transcendent view of meaning, the latter is known as the immanent view of meaning. See Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 416, 426, 439, 441, 603, 605).

[8] To be clear, in this context, it is not semiotic systems that are "natural", but the relation between meaning and wording in the only semiotic system with wording: language.

[9] As can be seen from the foregoing, this question is distinct from what Halliday means by a natural relation between meaning and wording. For Halliday (Halliday & Matthiessen 1999: 602), it is context that makes the co-ordination of language with parallel social semiotic systems possible.

Friday, 12 June 2020

Tom Bartlett On 'Semiotic' And 'Social'

If you have a look at Christian's chapter 'Language use in a social-semiotic perspective' in _The Routledge Handbook of Pragmatics_, especially pp. 459-60, there's a discussion of different orders of system that Christian has been using for a long time now (it appears in other publications too). I don't know if this is relevant for what Ruqaiya was saying or not, but it is relevant to discussions around whether 'social' and 'semiotic' are separable - or perhaps better, worth separating in modelling.
interesting to see in Christian's paper that there are 'values' - meaningful distinctions - in the social system, but it's not classed as semiotic; and also, in Ruqaiya's extract, she uses the term 'significant' to refer to the social - so things signify without being semiotic.
These distinctions would seem to be in opposition to how Jay Lemke (2015) uses the term semiosis:
Meaning is a process, meaning-­‐making, or semiosis. I do not use the term here to denote a relation (e.g. between signifier and signified, or among object, representamen, and interpretant as in Peirce) but rather the process of construing such relations, a process which takes place in a material system, is itself a material process (or functional system of interdependent material processes), and which functions to adapt an organism to its environment and give it enhanced capacities to alter that environment.
By Lemke's highly materialist (or biosemiotic) account or meaning, the act of associating a smell with the presence of a food source would count as semiotic. So, in this reading, a social system is a higher-level of organisation than semiosis — which is the view I was assuming when Ruqaiya's phrasing jarred. In other words, we seem to have different uses of the term semiosis even in the SFL literature - which is not a huge problem if we are aware of it.
Important to stress, though, is that none of this is to take issue with Ruqaiya's central point, but exactly the opposite, to emphasise it. Ruqaiya is making the point the use of language is related to socialisation and the social context at the time of utterance and that the meanings made through language in a situation can only be understood in connection with non-linguistic factors. The difference is that I would argue, adopting Lemke's approach, that this makes these non-linguistic factors 'semiotic' by definition, whereas Ruqaiya and Christian (via Michael and beyond) are using the term semiosis to refer to a language-like indexical system that can only arise after social organisation. 
It's a bit more than just a matter or terminology, but with these distinctions in mind it's possible to consider the contribution of both uses of the term. For my own part, I think Lemke's position is more appropriate as part of a materialist and embodied account of adaptation/meaning/semiosis/language/society.
Yeah - I've always struggled with the idea of separating the social and the semiotic. At the same time, I think that there is probably a distinction worth making between the kind of meaning you get in social organisation and in language, especially if you want to talk about the emergence of language.
I agree totally, John, about the need for the theoretical distinction and, like you, I find +/- semiotic a little problematical.
Delving a bit deeper, though, I think I have a problem with the hierarchical formulation in that it suggests that language can only arise once the social is in place. I think it is more helpful to think about semiosis and sociality evolving in tandem, with the origins of both in material adaptations to the environment and with any stage in development including both in some form.

Blogger Comments:

[1] To be clear, here Bartlett misrepresents Halliday & Matthiessen's model*, which makes an important distinction between value and meaning. Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 509):
What then of semiotic systems? Once again with apologies for the inevitable oversimplifying, let us try and identify what it is that is added with each step in the systemic progression. A biological system is a physical system with the added component of "life"; it is a living physical system. In comparable terms, a social system is a biological system with the added component of "value" (which explains the need for a synoptic approach, since value is something that is manifested in forms of structure). A semiotic system, then, is a social system with the added component of "meaning". Meaning can be thought of (and was thought of by Saussure) as just a kind of social value; but it is value in a significantly different sense — value that is construed symbolically. Meaning can only be construed symbolically, because it is intrinsically paradigmatic, as Saussure understood and built in to his own definition of valeur. Semiotic systems are social systems where value has been further transformed into meaning.
[2] To be clear, here Bartlett misunderstands the Hasan (2005: 73) quote:
The variation [between ways in which speakers use language]….can be described as a difference in the subjects’ ways of meaning, which itself arises from the internalisation of a different sense of what is relevant…. The social is as significant as the semiotic…
Hasan's point is that social difference is as important a factor in semantic variation as the semiotic, not that "things signify without being semiotic".

[3] To be clear, there is no opposition here, because Lemke is concerned with something else entirely: his identification of meaning with semogenesis, and the fact that such semiotic processes are realised in material processes of the body.

[4] To be clear, Lemke's account is not "highly materialist"; it merely relates semiosis to its material substrate.

[5] To be clear, this is a non-sequitur. The "act of associating a smell with the presence of a food source" — a mentally assigned relational process — says nothing whatsoever about the relation between semiosis and social systems, let alone their relative hierarchical locations.

[6] As can be seen from the preceding clarifications, this claim is not supported by the evidence adduced by Bartlett. In this post, the problem is merely Bartlett's multiple misunderstandings of the subject matter.

[7] This is misleading, because it is untrue. None of these authors restrict the term 'semiosis' to "a language-like indexical system". As the Halliday & Matthiessen quote in [1] above makes plain, the term 'semiotic' applies to all systems with the component 'meaning'. Halliday & Matthiessen (1999:  602-11) outlines different types of semiotic systems and their relation to language.

[8] As demonstrated in the clarifications above, it is Bartlett's understanding of 'semiotic' that is problematical.

[9] To be clear, this is a false dichotomy. The prior emergence of social systems does not preclude both systems "evolving in tandem". Halliday's example [p.c.] of a social system without the added component of meaning is that of eusocial insects — ants, bees and termites — where (non-symbolic) value is exchanged mostly through pheromones. An example of a semiotic system emerging from such a social system is the (symbolic) tail waggle dance of honeybees.


* Of course, this model only applies to social semiotic systems, like protolanguage, language and the epilinguistic systems made possible by language. If it is allowed that there are semiotic systems that are not social, then such systems do not emerge from social systems. Consider, for example, perceptual systems of the brain which transform impacts of photons on the retina into colours and edged surfaces, and impacts of acoustic waves on eardrums into sounds.

Halliday's distinction between value and meaning (symbolic value) has great explanatory potential. For example, biologists routinely interpret sexually selected features like the peacock's tail as signalling biological fitness to the female — that is, in semiotic terms — despite the fact that such a tail reduces the bird's ability to flee predators. If this is interpreted, instead, in social terms, as the exchange of value (cf the function of pheromones) rather than as symbolic of fitness, this contradiction vanishes. And in our own species, music is routinely assumed to semiotic, despite the fact that musical sounds do not specify meanings. Again, if music is interpreted, instead, in social terms, as value exchange, rather than symbolic exchange, this anomaly vanishes.

Saturday, 18 January 2020

David Rose Misconstruing Chomskyan Linguistics As Materialist


As you say, Chomsky was only interested in material forms, on the model of biological and physical systems. From that perspective we can perhaps see why he considered the ‘immateriality’ of meaning to be outside the purview of linguistic science.




Blogger Comments:

[1] To be clear, the term 'material' was strategically added by Rose in order to make his next point. What David Banks actually wrote was:
On the other hand, it is true that all language is expressed in a form, so it is valid to study form: it is the notion that there is nothing other than form that I believe to be mistaken.

[2] To be clear, Chomsky's theorising of language was Cartesian in its orientation; see, e.g., his Cartesian Linguistics (1966). Cartesian dualism makes a fundamental distinction between two mutually exclusive substances: res cogitans ('thinking thing') and res extensa ('extended thing'), the former being that of an immaterial mind.

Chomsky's theory of language is concerned with the immaterial mind (res cogitans), not with biological or physical systems (res extensa), which is why he couches the theory in terms of knowledge of language rather than language itself, and why he takes intuitions about language (instances of knowledge) to be data for theorising, rather than texts (instances of language).  This is also why he has resisted Pinker's attempts the couch the theory in explicitly biological terms (res extensa), even to the extent of denying the importance of Darwin's principle of Natural Selection.

See here for more thoughts on Cartesian philosophy, and here for more thoughts on Chomskyan linguistics.

Saturday, 17 August 2019

David Rose On Imperative Mood And Obligation

Subjunctive mood is not recognised in SFL… 
Semantically, imperative mood realises obligation, obligating the Subject to act. In modern English this is normally the addressee, so that imperative mood congruently realises a command to the addressee. 
These clauses are relics of archaic systems with a non-addressee Subject, that obligate the Lord/God to act. Stepping up to the stratum of register, it was/is the role of priests to speak to God on behalf of the people, and to the people on behalf of God. Here the priest exhorts God to bless, forgive or be with the addressee, who is realised grammatically as Complement or Adjunct, whereas God is Subject. Paradoxically, the priest is exhorting God while addressing the people. Maybe that’s why such blessings sound archaic… they don’t make sense ;-)

Blogger Comments:

[1] To be clear, 'subjunctive mood' is recognised in SFL theory, but in its description of English, it is a system of the verbal group, not the clause, and termed 'subjunctive mode' to distinguish it from the clause rank systems of MOOD.  Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 143n):
Note that the system of MOOD is a system of the clause, not of the verbal group or of the verb. Many languages also have an interpersonal system of the verb(al group) that has been referred to as ‘mood’: it involves interpersonal contrasts such as indicative/subjunctive, indicative/subjunctive/optative. To distinguish these verbal contrasts from the clausal system of MOOD, we can refer to them as contrasts in mode. The subjunctive mode tends to be restricted to the environment of bound clauses – in particular, reported clauses and conditional clauses having the sense of irrealis. In Modern English, the subjunctive mode of the verb is marginal, although there is some dialectal variation.
[2] To be clear, here Rose confuses SPEECH FUNCTION (proposal: command) with MODALITY (modulation: obligation).  In SFL, a command is specified as a demand for goods-&-services, whereas obligation is concerned with the semantic space between positive and negative POLARITY in proposals. Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 177-8):
In a proposal, the meaning of the positive and negative poles is prescribing and proscribing: positive ‘do it’, negative ‘don’t do it’. Here also there are two kinds of intermediate possibility, in this case depending on the speech function, whether command or offer. (i) In a command, the intermediate points represent degrees of obligation: ‘allowed to/supposed to/required to’;
[3] For clarification, the clauses in question are:
The Lord be with you
God bless you
God forgive you your sins
[4] In SFL theory, tenor is a dimension of context, not register.  Register, on the other hand, is a sub-potential of language: a point of variation on the cline of instantiation.

In terms of the architecture of SFL theory, Martin's notion of register as a stratum of context is inconsistent with the notion of register, the notion of stratum, and the notion of context.  As functional varieties of language, registers are language, not context; as functional varieties, registers are sub-potentials, not a stratal system.  For evidence of Martin's misunderstandings of register, see here; for evidence of Martin's misunderstandings of context, see here.

[5] Trivially, the addressee you serves only as Complement in these clauses, specifically of the Predicators bless and forgive and of the minor Predicator with.

[6] For a deployment of SFL theory that demonstrates how and why such well-wishings do make sense, see the analysis here.

Friday, 16 August 2019

John Bateman On Language Not "Explaining" Other Socio-Semiotic Systems

 Language can be used to explain anything, that is what it is used for, just like telling a story about anything. In terms of the much more (multimodally) interesting question of capturing the same distinctions, then no, language does not 'explain' all the others... or even many of the others, because different things are going on.

Blogger Comments:

To be clear, on the SFL model, the 'different goings-on' in other human-only socio-semiotic systems are made possible by language, and it is through language that we analyse ('explain') them. Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 3, 444): 
All knowledge is constituted in semiotic systems, with language as the most central; and all such representations of knowledge are constructed from language in the first place.
… all of our experience is construed as meaning. Language is the primary semiotic system for transforming experience into meaning; and it is the only semiotic system whose meaning base can serve to transform meanings construed in other systems (including perceptual ones) and thus integrate our experience from all its various sources.

Thursday, 15 August 2019

John Bateman On The Natural Relationship Between Semantics And Lexicogrammar

'natural' is not a way of avoiding work, it is a way of defining (often quite hard) tasks. The 'natural' relationship referred to is that there are structural and functional similarities of a revealing and useful kind between the apparently distinct domains. Semiotically we are mostly situated here in Peircean metaphor, i.e., the third and most complex kind of iconic relationship, which is always something constructed … rather than simply present. And these can go in many different directions, yes.

Blogger Comments:

[1] To be clear, the word 'natural' is not a way of "defining tasks" — "quite hard" or otherwise.  In its use with regard to the relation between semantics and lexicogrammar, the closest of its non-technical meanings is 'entirely to be expected'; see further below.

[2] To be clear, in SFL theory, the relation between semantics and lexicogrammar is 'natural' in the sense of being non-arbitrary.   Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 3-4):
A systemic grammar is one of the class of functional grammars, which means (among other things) that it is semantically motivated, or "natural". In contradistinction to formal grammars, which are autonomous, and therefore semantically arbitrary, in a systemic grammar every category (and "category" is used here in the general sense of an organising theoretical concept, not in the narrower sense of 'class' as in formal grammars) is based on meaning: it has a semantic as well as a formal, lexicogrammatical reactance. … Grammar and semantics are the two strata or levels of content in the three-level systemic theory of language, and they are related in a natural, non-arbitrary way.
[3] To be clear, Peirce's notion of 'icon' is irrelevant to the relation of semantics to lexicogrammar in SFL theory.  Not only is Peirce's theory of semiotics based on assumptions incompatible with SFL theory, the iconic relation obtains between content and expression, not between two levels of content.  Moreover, Peirce's metaphor is, strictly speaking, a type of hypoicon:
An icon (also called likeness and semblance) is a sign that denotes its object by virtue of a quality which is shared by them but which the icon has irrespectively of the object. The icon (for instance, a portrait or a diagram) resembles or imitates its object. … Peirce called an icon apart from a label, legend, or other index attached to it, a "hypoicon", and divided the hypoicon into three classes: (a) the image, which depends on a simple quality; (b) the diagram, whose internal relations, mainly dyadic or so taken, represent by analogy the relations in something; and (c) the metaphor, which represents the representative character of a sign by representing a parallelism in something else.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

John Bateman On Blends

for many, the appeal to 'chaos theory' simply gives some kind of (misplaced) scientific respectability to vagueness. The idea that it is by no means simple to achieve operationalisable specifications of theoretical terms is absolutely central in almost all scientific work, linguistics too, and does not depend on an appeal to chaos theory. It is difficult to recognise theoretical categories in practice, but making the attempt teaches us more both about the phenomena and the theoretical categories. Even for very conservative non-chaos based systems. 
blends are used with pretty much the same kind of rhetorical force as chaos theory, and to similarly dubious ends often. Being precise about what blends are helps here too (cf. Goguen).


Blogger Comments:

It also helps to know how blends are understood in the theory under discussion. Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 522):
In its ideational metafunction, language construes the human experience — the human capacity for experiencing — into a massive powerhouse of meaning. It does so by creating a multidimensional semantic space, highly elastic, in which each vector forms a line of tension (the vectors are what are represented in our system networks as "systems"). Movement within this space sets up complementarities of various kinds: alternative, sometimes contradictory, constructions of experience, indeterminacies, ambiguities and blends, so that a grammar, as a general theory of experience, is a bundle of uneasy compromises. No one dimension of experience is represented in an ideal form, because this would conflict destructively with all the others; instead, each dimension is fudged so that it can coexist with those that intersect with it.

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 549-50) distinguish blends as one type of indeterminacy, and provide an illustrative interpersonal example:
There are perhaps five basic types of indeterminacy in the ideation base: ambiguities, blends, overlaps, neutralisations, and complementarities — although it should be recognised from the start that these categories are also somewhat indeterminate in themselves. …
(1) ambiguities ('either a or x'): one form of wording construes two distinct meanings, each of which is exclusive of the other.
(2) blends ('both b and y'): one form of wording construes two different meanings, both of which are blended into a single whole.
(3) overlaps ('partly c, partly z'): two categories overlap so that certain members display some features of each.
(4) neutralisations: in certain contexts the difference between two categories disappears.
(5) complementarities: certain semantic features or domains are construed in two contradictory ways. …

(2) Blend
they might win tomorrow
— ability 'they may be able to'
— probability 'it is possible they will'
Here, on the other hand, the meaning of the oblique modal might combines the two senses of 'able' and 'possible', rather than requiring the listener to choose between them. If the verbal group is 'past', however, this again becomes an ambiguity:
they might have won
— ability 'they were capable of winning (but they didn't)'
— probability 'it is possible that they won (we don't know)'