Thursday, 10 October 2013

David Rose On Epistemology

On 10/10/13, David Rose wrote on sysfling:
We have what is claimed to be a 'mimetic' theory… that describes language "by mimicking its crucial properties” (Halliday 1996), a claim that the theory is more than just a 'model'.
It shouldn't therefore be surprising that the list exchange is as much interpersonal as ideational, if the theory can describe how institutional power relations are realised in texts, alongside the categories and relations of the theory.
Conversely, a claim that the architecture of the theory is independent of institutional power relations would contradict the metafunctional dimension of the theory. From the interpersonal perspective of the theory, such a claim would have to be interpreted as a strategy to manipulate institutional power relations.
In order to understand and perhaps reconcile our apparently incommensurate versions of the theory, Im sure we have to honour its breadth, and admit our own varying institutional positions. These include the focus of our specialisations on particular strata, as discussed earlier, alongside our personal affiliations (and antipathies) to supervisors, colleagues and institutions.
If we could acknowledge but tease apart the personal from theoretical, perhaps it would be possible to admit that genre, register and discourse semantic theory may indeed mimick the properties of the system itself, although they may be unnecessary for the institutional work of many linguists.

Blogger Comments:

[1] Halliday's claim does not assert that 'the theory is more than just a model'.   Ideationally, language is an evolved theory of experience, and a linguistic theory is a designed theory of language; not just a model — a model.  Given that language and linguistic theories are both semiotic systems, they both share the properties of semiotic systems, and it is in that sense that a theory which construes language as a semiotic system is mimetic ("mimics its properties").

[2] To claim that the (ideational) architecture of a theory — think of general relativity or quantum mechanics, for example — is dependent on (interpersonal) "institutional power relations" is manifestly absurd.  Being ideational, the architecture depends on agreement with experience and logical consistency.  It is the architecture of religious dogma that potentially relies on "institutional power relations"; for example, because the Catholic Church included the Aristotelian cosmogony in its dogma, the Pope had Galileo imprisoned and Giordano Bruno burnt at the stake for supporting cosmogonies that threatened their "institutional power".  Cf Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 618):

… the ontogenetic perspective shows that in fact our experience is being ongoingly reconstrued and recategorised as we grow from infancy to maturity.  This is the outcome of processes taking place in human history — evolutionary events that are at once both material and semiotic, and that cannot be reduced to either purely physical processes driven by technology or purely discursive processes driven by ideology.
[3] It is precisely those of us who are outside the "institutional power relations" who are free to make public our reasoning without fear of recrimination, and who have nothing to gain from "manipulating" such relations, even if we were motivated to do so, or if such a thing were possible.

[4] Rose's use of admit and acknowledge harks back to a previous post in which he judged those who didn't agree with him as obstinate (and himself as capable);  see an Appraisal analysis here.

[5] "Genre, register and discourse semantic theory" may well mimic the properties of language in some way or other.  The problem with them is that theorising them as strata is inconsistent with the rest of the theory in which they are placed — and it is the rest of the theory that gives these theories their "institutional power".  It is clearly this last point that Rose is so afraid of — the loss of "institutional power" — given his continual raising of the issue.

John Bateman Misunderstanding Stratification And Realisation

On 10/10/13, John Bateman wrote on the sysfling list:
I'm afraid we know rather less than we might hope (or think?) on some of these issues though.
However [quoting the blog post below],
by definition, the relation between different levels of abstraction is realisation. That is what the theoretical architecture means. The reason why it is difficult to apply realisation to register and genre as strata is that they are not levels of abstraction higher than the strata of language.
This is circular unfortunately; even though I might agree with it :-) 'The theoretical architecture' is then one of strata related by realisation. Realisation is not appropriate to register and genre because register and genre are not strata. Register and genre are not strata because that is not what 'the' theoretical architecture says.
I agree that terms *within* theories should be used in ways that are consistent within those theories; but across different theories such consistency may not be present. And I think we are dealing with different theories here (in a technical sense of different organisational principles, different predictions, different descriptions).

Blogger Comments:

[1]  See appraisal analysis here.

[2] The argument is demonstrably not circular — it is merely misunderstood.  The theoretical architecture is an hypothesis for managing the complexity of language.  It has to be self-consistent, otherwise any theory building on its design will collapse.  The stratified model is a means of parcelling out the complexity by distributing it over different levels of symbolic abstraction, and different levels of abstraction are related by realisation.  The reason they are related by realisation is because, in terms of the grammar, the verb 'realise' serves as an intensive identifying process that relates two levels of abstraction, Token and Value; the lower level Token realises the higher level Value.  (This is theory turned back on itself.)

So, for theoretical constructs to be proposed as strata in this model, they must be consistent with its defining principles; the proposed stratum must be more abstract than the stratum below it — it must be realised by the stratum below — and it must be less abstract than the stratum above — it must realise the stratum above.  If this principle is violated when proposing strata, the model becomes internally inconsistent.  I have given reasons several times why placing register and genre is this model makes the model internally inconsistent.

[3] We are indeed dealing with different theories with different organisational principles etc.  That is the point. Halliday and Martin don't mean the same thing by 'register' or by 'context', and genre is largely not theorised on SFL principles.  When Martin's register and genre are inserted into Halliday's stratification model, it creates an internally inconsistent theory.

John Bateman Misunderstanding Realisation And Instantiation

After Annabelle Lukin wrote on sysfling on 8/10/13:
The key issue is whether you think it matters if you treat situation and culture as in a realization relation (Martin) or in a relation of instantiation (Halliday). I continue to be persuaded by Halliday’s view on this matter. Given that these are fundamentally different relations,
John Bateman replied on 9/10/13:
realisation and instantiation are indeed necessarily fundamentally different. I don’t see that we can have one without the other in any sensible fashion, and just what inter-stratal realisation is, as indicated above, certainly needs far more work to say that it does or does not apply. Some relation of its kind will probably be necessary, otherwise there is no connection between strata—so we may as well call it realisation. This will involve complex patterns of instantiation and who knows what else. I wouldn’t want to give any of those dimensions of description up before we’ve tried many more detailed models out. I doubt if philosophising on the possible inter-relationships of the dimensions of the theory is going to take us all the way (although it helps of course).
Blogger Comments:

[1] The issue that Lukin raises is not a matter of "giving up" either realisation or instantiation as dimensions of the theory.  It is a matter of which theoretical dimension applies in the relation between context of culture (Martin's 'genre') and context of situation (Martin's 'register').

[2] By definition, the strata represent different levels of symbolic abstraction, and, by definition, the relation between different levels of abstraction is realisation.  That is what the theoretical architecture means.  The reason why it is difficult to apply realisation to register and genre as strata is that they are not levels of abstraction higher than the strata of language.  The term 'register' denotes a functional variety of language, and as explained elsewhere on this site, functional varieties are not higher levels of symbolic abstraction.  If the term 'register' is not used in the sense of a functional variety of language, why use that term?  The problem with theorising genre as a stratum is more complex, because it is largely not theorised in ways that are consistent with SFL theory as a whole — for example, there is no metafunctional differentiation — and components of the genre model are scattered across the theoretical architecture of SFL; some suggestions on this can be read here.

[3] Relations between strata do not involve "complex patterns of instantiation" because, by definition, instantiation is not a relation across strata; instantiation is the relation between the system and instance, on each stratum.

[4] There is no need to philosophise on "the possible inter-relationships of the dimensions of the theory"; all that's needed in this regard is an understanding of the dimensions of the theory, as theorised.