Wednesday, 22 August 2012

David Rose On Stratification [17/8/12]

On 17 Aug  2012, David Rose wrote on the Sys-Func and Sysfling lists:
For similar reasons, perhaps we could give up the triplet 'meaning, wording, sounding' as misleading, since as Halliday has said meaning can "refer to patterns at all strata"
Then we could sensibly distinguish discourse semantics, clause semantics, and tone group semantics, recognise the semantic contributions of each stratum, and celebrate the descriptive contributions of each group of researchers.

Blogger Comments:

[1] The use of the terms 'meaning, wording, sounding' as descriptions of linguistic strata is not misleading.  They are terms that Halliday himself uses to clarify what he means by the strata that are more formally labelled as semantics, lexicogrammar and phonology.  What is misleading is the claim that they are misleading.

The distinction between meaning and wording is, of course, also made within the lexicogrammar with respect to projection.  Mental processes project meanings (ideas); verbal processes project wordings (locutions).  These processes project the semiotic order of experience: the content plane of language.  [See for example Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 443).]

[2] Halliday's stratification model uses the more specific sense of 'meaning', as his use of the terms 'meaning, wording, sounding' suggests, and as he stated explicitly in a quote previously cited by Rose himself:
Note that “meaning” is here being used in its narrower, more specific sense, to refer just to patterns in semantics.
[3] To speak of 'discourse semantics, clause semantics, and tone group semantics' not only makes the term 'semantics' redundant, but ignores what strata represent: different levels of symbolic abstraction.  Note also that the stratum of phonology has been reduced here to one of its rank units, the tone group, to (knowingly) conceal the more obvious absurdities of, say, syllable or phoneme semantics.

[4] The 'descriptive contributions of each group of researchers' can be "celebrated" by anyone who wishes to "celebrate descriptive contributions".  Understanding the theory accurately in its own terms is the issue, not ± celebration.

Clearly, the mention of this as an issue is an example of the logical fallacy known as the argument from adverse consequences, which rejects an argument because its consequences are undesirable, or because accepting it could mean accepting something we would prefer not to acknowledge.

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