Tuesday, 11 November 2014

David Rose On 'Systemic Intonation Work'

On November 10 2014, Gerard O'Grady wrote to the sysfling list:
I'm looking for references for systemic intonation work on languages other than English. Please note I am not looking for references on intonation on languages other than English in other frameworks.

I believe a key work is... Cléirigh, C. 1998. The Genesis Of Phonic Texture. Ph.D. Thesis. Sydney University

Blogger Comment:

 The thesis contains no investigation of the intonation of any language in any framework.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Beatriz Quiroz On Notational Conventions And The Rank Scale

Beatriz Quiroz wrote on 5 November 2014 to sys-func:
I think another issue adding to the confusion in relation to theoretical vs descriptive categories in SFL is the rather loose use of notational conventions for descriptive categories. While (type of) processes (material, relational, etc.) refer to experiencial classes of clause (and they are thus expected to be written in lowercase), labels such as Actor, Process, Phenomenon (or more generic Participant, Circumstance) are elements in functional configurations of structure (and they should be written with initial uppercase). Too often in English descriptions and SFL literature such conventions are overriden, causing serious misundertandings. […]

Of course, the discussion on theoretical categories such a as class, rank, function and structure leads us in turn to the question of whether the theoretical notion of rank-scale and its general bias towards constituency relations (at least in most SFL English descriptions) is indeed productive when looking at languages other than English. There is also very little discussion in SFL on this issue, although Fawcett 2000a, 2000b, 2000c does challenge the idea of a rank scale in English accounts (from the point of view of the Cardiff model), and Martin 1996 deconstructs the constituency bias in relation to the theoretical notion of structure (inspired by Halliday, 1979).

Blogger Comments:

[1] The notational convention in SFL is to use lower case for the terms 'participant' and 'circumstance', since these are classes to which elements of function structure (Actor, Location etc.) belong.

[2] The rank scale isn't "biased" towards constituency; it is a theoretical means of construing language in terms of constituency — but one that goes beyond mere constituency, since it builds the function-form relation into the hierarchy, with function structures of a higher rank realised by syntagms at the lower rank.  That is, the rank scale embodies not just composition, a type of extension, but also elaboration (and symbolic identity) through the realisation (intensive identifying) relation between ranks.

As Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 146) make clear:
… in systemic-functional work, elaborating interpretations tend to be taken further than in many other approaches: this means emphasising realisation, delicacy and identities across metafunctions to supplement the traditional emphasis on constituency and composition.
The theoretical utility of the rank scale includes not only modelling the compositional relation from clause to morpheme, but also, for example, distinguishing embedding from taxis, and, most importantly, the unpacking of grammatical metaphor.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Mick O'Donnell On Transitivity Criteria

Mick O'Donnell wrote on 31 October 2014 to sysfling:
It all comes down to which criteria you put as primary in defining process types: the notional or the grammatical. You [David Banks] are saying meaning is first (processes of communication) and grammar (projection) second. 
Others put grammar first, dealing with verbs which project on one side, then splitting these into verbal and mental subsets. 
I argue elsewhere that the lack of clarity as to the priority between the notional and grammatical criteria is the reason behind much of the different classification decisions made within our community.

Blogger Comments:

[1] Transitivity criteria do not boil down to the opposition between 'notional' and 'grammatical'; the relevant theoretical dimension is stratification.  As already clarified here — where O'Donnell advocates following the 'grammatical principles that Halliday established' — SFL was theorised by taking a trinocular perspective, which means also looking at the grammar 'from above' (what meaning is being realised) and 'from below' (how the wording is realised) — as well as 'from roundabout' (the level of grammar). As Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 31) make clear:
We cannot expect to understand the grammar just by looking at it from its own level; we also look into it ‘from above’ and ‘from below’, taking a trinocular perspective. But since the view from these different angles is often conflicting, the description will inevitably be a form of compromise
[2] A functional grammar gives priority to the 'view from above' — that's what makes it functional rather than formal, since function (Value) is realised by form (Token).  As Halliday & Matthiessen (ibid.) clarify:
Being a ‘functional grammar’ means that priority is given to the view ‘from above’; that is, grammar is seen as a resource for making meaning — it is a ‘semanticky’ kind of grammar. But the focus of attention is still on the grammar itself.

The motivation for this priority is explained by Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 6) as follows:
But to show that a grammar is a theory of experience we use a functional, semantically motivated grammatics, since this allows us to seek explanations of the form of the grammar in terms of the functions to which language is adapted. 

Thursday, 6 November 2014

David Rose Confusing Rank With Delicacy And Realisation With Instantiation

David Rose wrote at 01:14 on 31/10/14 to the sys-func and sysfling email lists:
1. Isn't part of the notional problem a confusion of word rank lexical items with clause rank grammatical functions? E.g. a quoting verbal/mental process may be instantiated by a verb denoting behaviour, but does that make the clause a behavioural process? 
Is this a classification of lexical verbs or of clause rank process types? What does this mean for the "lexis = delicate grammar" hypothesis? 
2. What is the epistemological value of the behavioural process category? Some posts such as Yaegan's point to the value for students of distinguishing 'blurred' categories in text analysis, although Mick points to the cost in pedagogic labour. Other posts suggest its value for negotiating authority in the field, by defining the criteria for the category (or its absence). Is part of its value a relatively safe theoretical cul de sac for a good SFL argument?

Blogger Comments:

[1] In SFL terms, Rose's nominal group 'word rank lexical items' confuses two distinct theoretical dimensions: the rank scale and delicacy.  This is because it conflates the grammatical (word rank) with the lexical (lexical item).  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 relation between a clause rank Process and a word rank verb is realisation (via group rank), not instantiation.  Higher rank functions are realised by lower rank forms.  Instantiation is the relation between the system as potential and a specimen of the system in an actual text.

[3] Deploying Functional Grammar (Martin, Matthiessen & Painter 2010) advises treating such quoting clauses as behavioural, despite the grammatical reactances; see discussion here.

[4] Epistemology is branch of philosophy that studies the nature of knowledge, its presuppositions and foundations, and its extent and validity.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Tom Bartlett On Material Processes

Michael O'Donnell wrote at 00:07 on 31/10/14 to sysfling:
Tom: my hand hit the cat" which I use in class as the prototypical material process but which surely needs at the very least an animate (and probably sensate) Actor??? 
Mick: And in "the shit hit the fan", are you implying sensateness of the Actor?

And Tom Bartlett replied at 00:11 on 31/10/14 to sysfling:
No, Mick, that's why I contrasted "I hit the cat" with "my hand hit the cat"! 
The first does not mean "came into contact with" but something more animate/sensate; the second one does mean come into contact with, as with the shit hitting the fan.  
It's "I hit the cat" that I use as prototypically material but which would fail the animation test.

Blogger Comments:

 [1] Bartlett's claim is that the material process in I hit the cat does not mean came into contact with.  This claim can be tested by a dictionary definition of 'hit':
hit. verb. bring one's hand or a tool or weapon into contact with (someone or something) quickly and forcefully.
"Marius hit him in the mouth"
[2] Bartlett's claim is that the process in I hit the cat means "something more animate/sensate" (rather than 'came into contact').  While both participants in the clause are animate beings, the process is as material as they get, and material clauses are not restricted to participants endowed with consciousness (Halliday & Matthiessen 1999: 135).

It may be that Bartlett is here attempting to apply the traditional intransitive distinction of action/event to transitive clauses.  This is the distinction between an intentional act by an animate (typically human) being (John ran) and the unintentional action or inanimate event (John fell; rain fell) (Halliday & Matthiessen 1999: 148).

[3] Despite saying in a previous post (quoted by O'Donnell) that he uses the clause my hand hit the cat to exemplify "the prototypical material process", here Bartlett says it is actually the clause I hit the cat that he uses for this purpose.  He also says this clause "would fail the animation test" despite claiming that it "does not mean 'came into contact with' but something more animate/sensate".

Even if Bartlett had written the alternate clause in the final paragraph, the argument would still amount to nonsense, relying as it does on the untenable — to put it mildly — claim that the process 'hit' in I hit the cat does not mean came into contact with.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

David Banks On The "Non-Existence" Of Behavioural Processes

David Banks wrote at 18:27 on October 30 2014 to sysfling:
The simple (but brutal, and with all due respect to all the other contributors) is that there are no distinguishing criteria because behavourial process does not exist. What is usually discussed under this heading is a rag-bag of unrelated phenomena that do not form a coherent category. The phenomena in question are better dealt with at a more delicate level than that of process types. My article on this question is forthcoming in a book edited by Donna Miller and Paul Bayley.

Blogger Comments:

 [1] Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 135-6) provide some grammatical reactances which distinguish behavioural from other process types and which thus identify what they have in common:
  • Like material clauses (but unlike mental clauses) the unmarked present tense in behavioural clauses is present-in-present (he is watching) rather than the simple present (he watches).
  • Behavioural clauses include conscious processing construed as active behaviour (watching listening, pondering, meditating) rather than just passive sensing (seeing, hearing, believing).
  • Like the Senser in a mental clause, the ‘Behaver’ in a behavioural one is endowed with consciousness; whereas in other respects behavioural clauses are more like material ones.
  • Like material clauses (but unlike mental ones), behavioural clauses can be probed with doWhat are you doing? — I’m meditating but not I’m believing.
  • Behavioural clauses normally do not project, or project only in highly restricted ways (contrast mental: cognitive David believed —> the moon was a balloon with behavioural: David was meditating —> the moon was a balloon;
  • Behavioural clauses can not accept a ‘fact’ serving as Phenomenon (mental: David saw that the others had already left but not behavioural: David watched that the others had already left).
Criteria for distinguishing process types are listed in Table 5(45) in Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 301).

[2] The existence, or not, of metalinguistic distinctions depends on whether or not they are projected into semiotic existence as ideas and locutions by linguists.  This depends, in the short-term, on whether or not they prove useful, and in the long term, on whether they are consistent with the other distinctions on which they depend.

[3] As Halliday & Matthiessen make clear:
  • '‘behavioural’ process clauses are not so much a distinct type of process, but rather a cluster of small subtypes blending the material and the mental into a continuum' (2004: 255), and
  • 'these can be interpreted as a subtype of material processes or as a borderline category between material and mental' (1999: 136).

Monday, 3 November 2014

Tom Bartlett On Behavioural & Mental Processes

Tom Bartlett wrote on the sysfling list on 30 October 2014 at 17:34:
While we're on the subject, Halliday (139 in IFG2) says that "watch" is anomalous amongst behavioural processes in taking a phenomenon-like Complement rather than a prepositional phrase (and by IFG4:302 the claim is upped to say that this is "restricted to "watch"):
I am watching you. (Cf. I (can) see you, which is mental:perceptual)
I am looking at you/listening to you.
But can anyone suggest any reason why the following control-over-perception examples would not also be behavioural processes with Complements, if we follow the same reasoning?
I was smelling the roses when a bee stung my nose. (Cf. Careful, I (can) smell gas!)
Taste this soup and tell me what you think. (Cf. Do/can you taste the saffron in it?)
Never mind the quality, feel the width. (Cf. She felt/could feel the cold snow beneath her feet.)
 Or even the control-over-cognition one I cited earlier:
She was contemplating her future.

Blogger Comments:

[1] The reason the verb watch is anomalous is because it can serve in clauses such as I am watching Inside No. 9 which feature a Phenomenon, like mental clauses, but which, in all other respects, are behavioural.  This is not the case with the clauses Bartlett provides — they are all simply mental clauses of perception in which the Range is a Phenomenon (not a Behaviour).  [See transitivity analyses here.]  They can be checked against the grammatical reactances of behavioural vs mental clauses here.

[2] In this clause, the verb contemplate serves as a cognitive mental Process whose Range is a Phenomenon (not a Behaviour).  This verb also serves in mentally projecting nexuses such She was contemplating whether she should report his misdemeanour.  As Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 450-1) note:
… mental clauses representing an ‘undecided’ state of mind are used to project indirect questions. These include clauses of wondering and doubting, finding out and checking, and contemplating, which tend to be characterised by special lexical verbs such as wonder, ascertain …

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Jim Martin On Phrasal Verbs As Behavioural

Jim Martin wrote on 30 October 2014 to sysfling:
My rule of thumb, when worrying if a phrasal verb is behavioural or mental/verbal, is that it is behavioural.

Blogger Comment:

As a caveat to this rule of thumb, it's worth noting some of the phrasal verbs that commonly serve as mental (or verbal) processes:
  • figure out
  • find out
  • get over
  • give away
  • hold onto
  • look forward to
  • look into
  • look up
  • look up to
  • make up
  • mix up
  • put up with
  • sort out

Sample clauses featuring these verbs can be viewed here.
An alphabetical list of more than 1,000 phrasal verbs can be found here.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Tom Bartlett On Verbal Processes

Tom Bartlett wrote on 30 October 2014 to sys-func & sysfling:
Prototypical verbals take present in present: Right now he's telling her that he can't find the key.
They shift towards present simple when they are on the way to relational processes: The rules state that that's illegal. The clock says five o'clock. The big hand at the 12 and the little hand at the 5 says five o'clock.

Blogger Comment:

 The unmarked present tense for prototypical verbal processes is of course the simple present, as in
He says there is a lot of nonsense posted on sysfling.
 This does not mean that the present-in-present is not also used, only that it is marked in comparison with the simple present:
He is saying there is a lot of nonsense posted on sysfling.