Friday, 1 July 2011

Robin Fawcett On Stratal Relations [1]

In a discussion on Sysfling [29/6/11], Robin Fawcett opined:
Indeed, if Michael Halliday and Christian Matthiessen had formed a clear view of the way in which the choices described in their Construing Experience through Meaning determine the choices in the major system networks of the lexicogrammar, they would surely have said so in that book. I have looked hard for a section that makes this connection, but I have yet to find it. This suggests that the model proposed there is simply one possible, half-complete hypothesis that needs to be subject to the normal process in science of development, testing, evaluation, revision (or rejection), retesting, re-evaluation, and so on.

Blogger Comments:

(1) Here are some of the quotes that Robin Fawcett was unable to find.

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 375):
More specifically, inter-stratal realisation is specified by means of inter-stratal preselection: contextual features are realised by preselection within the semantic system, semantic features are realised by preselection within the lexicogrammatical system, and lexicogrammatical features are realised by preselection within the phonological/graphological system.

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 378):
The realisational relationship between semantics and lexicogrammar is one of preselection: semantic features … are realised in lexicogrammar by means of prespecification of lexicogrammatical information, most centrally preselection of lexicogrammatical features.

(2) Regarding the notion that strata "determine" one another, note that higher stratal choices do not cause lower stratal choices.

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 25):
In any stratal system (i.e. any system where there are two strata such that one is the realisation of the other) there is no temporal or causal ordering between the strata. … the relationship is an intensive one, not a causal circumstantial one.

(3) On realisation as an analogue of cause:effect in classical physics:

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 510):
… we do not yet fully understand the nature of the relationship that is the semiotic analogue of the “cause : effect” of classical physics: this is the problem of realisation.

Having had his claim falsified, Fawcett subsequently re-interpreted his original question (extending it) in an attempt to obscure the falsification.  This is a subtype of the logical fallacy known as the 'red herring':
The red herring is as much a debate tactic as it is a logical fallacy. It is a fallacy of distraction, and is committed when a listener attempts to divert an arguer from his argument by introducing another topic.

Robin Fawcett On Stratal Relations [2]

In a discussion on Sysfling [1/7/11], Robin Fawcett reacted to the three quotes [in Part 1] from Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 375, 378, 25) as follows:
In the first two passages we are given a picture of 'preselection' as 'predetermination', and so as something approaching 'causation'. Then in [the third] we are told that the relationship is not like that. But we are not told WHY it is not. We are offered instead a metaphor (taken from the terms of the Sydney Grammar itself), but not an explanation as to WHY the relationship is an 'intensive' one. 
The reader of these three passages will surely ask: How can it be true that choices made at one stratum are realized in choices at a lower stratum, without this being some type of 'pre-determination'? Passage [3] presents the relationship as a great mystery!

Blogger Comments:

Among other things, Fawcett does not understand that:
  1. the theoretical dimension of stratification is organised on the principle of intensive identification — it is not a metaphor, it is what stratification means in this way of modelling language: higher level Value is realised by lower level Token;
  2. the strata are thus different levels of symbolic abstraction of the same phenomenon — there can be no chain of command across different levels of symbolic abstraction;
  3. semantic features being realised by the 'preselection' of lexicogrammatical features simply means that features at the higher level of abstraction entail features at the lower level of symbolic abstraction — same phenomenon, different levels of abstraction.  For example, the logico-semantic relation of 'cause' can be realised incongruently by the preselection of lexicogrammatical features relating to participants, processes or circumstances at clause rank.

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 94) anticipated Fawcett's misinterpretation (in the very same text):
Such selections have been referred to as “pre-selections”, but in order to avoid any connotations of temporal sequence, we prefer the term “selection” for such relations in the ideation base.