Thursday, 25 June 2015

David Rose On Instantiation, Stratification & Field

Ralph disentangled himself cautiously and stole away through the branches. In a few seconds the fat boy's grunts were behind him and he was hurrying toward the screen that still lay between him and the lagoon. (Lord of the Flies)
What type of process is “were” in “the fat boy’s grunts were …”? Is it relational: circumstantial, with “behind him” as Attribute? It looks like a verb that denotes transformation in Location and could therefore be a material process with “behind him” as a circumstance construing movement in space. …

As you can clearly see, transitivity is insufficient to interpret what is going on in the field here 
First, grammatically: “were” is not a type of process. Process type is a clause rank system, not a verb classification. The whole clause instantiates a relational process, as you have analysed. By definition it is a relation between Carrier and Attribute. 
Second, you want to re-interpret it as a material process, because it realises a step in a sequence of movements. But this is not a grammatical meaning, it is discourse semantic, as follows. 
Ralph disentangled himself cautiously
stole away through the branches
In a few seconds the fat boy's grunts were behind him
he was hurrying toward the screen
This sequence of figures at the level of discourse realises an activity sequence at the level of field. In principle, the sequence could be realised at the level of grammar in many ways, with the same or similar lexical items, e.g...
Following cautious disentanglement and escape through the branches, Ralph ran quickly away from the grunting fat boy, and the screen grew rapidly nearer.
Classifying clauses is only one step towards understanding text

Blogger Comments:

[1] Instantiation is the relation between potential and instance, not function and form.  It is, for example, the relation between relational process as potential, and an instance of a relational process; it is the relation between a clause as potential and an instance of a clause.  The relation between a clause and a relational process, in the sense of a figure, is realisation — the relation between different levels of symbolic abstraction.

[2] In terms of ideational semantics, the text involves two sequences, the first a sequence of happening figures, the second a sequence of a being figure and a happening figure.

[3] This misunderstands stratification.  The content plane is stratified into meaning (semantics) and wording (lexicogrammar).  The grammar realises meaning; the meaning that grammar realises is semantics.

[4] It is misleading to refer to the model of sequences and figures (Halliday & Matthiessen 1999) as discourse semantics.

[5] In SFL theory, field is the ideational dimension of context, and context is the culture construed as a semiotic system that is realised by language; that is, context and language are distinct levels of symbolic abstraction.  The field that is realised by the ideational meaning of a text is 'what is going on' in a situation, as an instance of the culture.  The misunderstanding of field as 'activity sequence' can be traced back to Martin (1992).

This misunderstanding is compounded by Martin's (1992) misconstrual of context as register, which in SFL theory, is a point of variation on the cline of instantiation (of language, not context).  See other posts for why this creates inconsistencies that make the model internally incoherent, and thus untenable.  See also Discourse Semantic Theory.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

David Rose On Field, Register And Discourse

Another difficulty for analysis is ambiguity without any co-text, especially with metaphor. Without it, its hard to know what they’re pursuing - attacking us or whoever is attacking us. And without knowing the field, its hard to say whether the circumstance is expanding the clause or qualifying the group.
So there’s another problem for linguistics in general… to focus on features of grammar we push register and discourse to the background. But in reality, we can’t read grammar examples without reading register and discourse.

Blogger Comments:

[1] In SFL theory, field is the ideational dimension of context — the culture construed as a semiotic system that is realised by language.  Field is theorised as more abstract than language.

Register, on the other hand, in SFL and elsewhere, is a functional variety of language itself.  It is, therefore, not more abstract than language.  In SFL theory, register refers to a point of variation on the cline of instantiation.  It is 'text type' viewed from the system pole of the cline.  Registers vary according to the probabilities of linguistic choices being instantiated.

[2] Circumstances don't expand clauses or qualify groups.  Circumstances and Qualifiers can be realised by prepositional phrases, and prepositional phrases can be expanded in prepositional phrase complexes.

For expansion (and projection) relations between circumstances and the Nucleus, see Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 172-6) on degree of involvement: circumstantial rôles.

[3] In using SFL theory, grammatical analysis is done by shunting between lexicogrammar and semantics, giving priority to the view from semantics.  Grammatical analysis includes using cohesion, the non-structural text-forming resources of the textual metafunction: reference, ellipsis & substitution, conjunction and lexical cohesion.  See Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 524-85) around the clause: cohesion and discourse.

See clause analysis here.