Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Beatriz Quiroz Misinterpreting Markedness As Improbability

Wondering now about 'markedness' again in terms of the textual metafunction. If markedness has only to do with probabilities in lexicogrammatical choices, then it makes sense. I find this criterion problematic in Spanish, though, because then a number of other patterns would be indeed marked, but they don't make much sense from the point of view of text analysis - e.g. non-modally responsible Participants at initial position, which to me are NOT marked Themes, even though they are relatively infrequent. The reason is that they do seem to sustain the angle on the field and thus contribute to the method of development (in ways beta clauses and circu[m]stances don't) across registers. This may even be related to an explanation of 'doubling' in clitic-doubling varieties, such as Chilean and Buenos Aires Spanish. 
On the other hand, if we consider interactions with higher level choices (discourse-semantic, generic), how do we treat patterns that are indeed productive in text analysis (such as beta clauses at initial position)? You then suggest this would be solved by taking into account different layers, without talking about marked or unmarked Themes?

Blogger Comments:

[1] This misunderstands the notion of markedness in SFL theory.  The unmarked option is 'the form we tend to use if there is no prior context leading up to it, and no positive reason for choosing anything else' (Halliday & Matthiessen 2004: 58), in contradistinction to marked, which means that the option is less frequent and 'carries a special interpretation' (Halliday & Matthiessen 2004: 207).  For example, the unmarked option for present tense in material processes is the present-in-present, and the marked option, the simple present, carries the 'special interpretation' of habitual.

Difference in probability of selection, on the other hand, is what distinguishes different registers.

[2] To be clear, "non-modally responsible Participants" means Complements and some Adjuncts (e.g. Beneficiaries and Agents realised by prepositional phrases).  In SFL theory, these are regarded as marked Themes in declarative clauses, because there is a textual motivation for these, rather than the Subject, to be thematic.

[3] The notion of "the angle on the field" is from Martin (1992: 452, 489). See the theoretical misunderstandings from which this notion proceeds identified at:

[4] The assumption here is that marked Themes do not contribute to a text's method of development.  This is inconsistent with the model being used, Martin (1992: 461):
The concept of modal responsibility is less obvious in propositions, and the meaning of Subject is hard to isolate because of the fact that in English declaratives and interrogatives Subject conflates with unmarked topical Theme. However, it is clear in contexts where marked Themes are used to scaffold a text's method of development that Subject selection is in principle independent of Theme selection.
Martin (1992: 474): 
Although it is harder to unpick the meaning of Subject in written monologue [than in spoken mode] from the meaning of Theme and Given, texts such as [6:36] above which realise their method of development through marked Themes demonstrate the significance of modal responsibility in this mode.
The source of the confusion may be a reading of Martin (1992: 452):
The main contrast is in the range of meanings woven through Theme and New. Only a few of the text's participants and processes are selected as unmarked topical Theme, with far greater variation in New. The Themes focus on the major participants involved in the anecdote, while the News tell the story. Putting this in more general terms, Themes angle in on a given field, reflecting a text's genre; News elaborate the field, developing it in experiential terms. This contrast in functions operates across text types …

[5] The mistaken notion of genre as a higher stratum derives from Martin (1992).  For some of the reasons why the notion of genre as a stratum of context is mistaken, see:
  1. Problems With The Non-Argument For Genre As Context
  2. Seven Problems With The First Justification For A Genre Stratum
  3. Two Problems With The Second Justification For A Genre Stratum
  4. Eight Problems With The Third Justification For A Genre Stratum
  5. Two Problems With The Fourth Justification For A Genre Stratum
  6. Two Problems With The Fifth Justification For A Genre Stratum

[6] The point is simply that the marked vs unmarked Theme distinction does not apply to dependent clauses in regressive sequences.  If the dependent clause is the point of departure for the clause nexus, then it is thematic.  It is not marked because there is no unmarked Theme of the clause nexus with which it can be contrasted.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Margaret Berry On Beta Clause As Part Of The Alpha Clause

Geoff Thompson (2014) in the 3rd edition of his Introducing Functional Grammar, page 170, has a system network for Theme, in which one of the options for marked Theme is 'dependent clause'. He gives examples on page 160. 
It probably depends on whether you think a Beta clause is actually part of the Alpha clause. I do.
  • After he'd finished his supper, he went straight to bed.
  • After supper, he went straight to bed.
After he'd finished his supper and After supper have the same function, even though they differ in form. (SFL is supposed to be a functional grammar!) 
As you say, one has to decide what one wants to account for at what layer of organisation.

Blogger Comments:

[1] This is the view of traditional grammar.  The explanatory advantages provided by the SFL distinction between tactic relations and embedding include the ability to distinguish:
  • in expansion, between non-defining (hypotaxis) and defining (embedding) relative clauses, and
  • in projection, between projected reports (hypotaxis) and pre-projected facts (embedding).

[2] These two forms, the beta clause and the prepositional phrase, do have the same function: Theme.  The principal difference between them is the domain in which each functions as Theme.  The beta clause functions as Theme in a clause nexus, whereas the prepositional phrase functions as (marked) Theme in a clause.

[3] SFG is a functional grammar, but what this means, in terms of the theory, is generally not well understood.  Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 31):
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. 
Giving priority to the view ‘from above’ means that the organising principle adopted is one of system: the grammar is seen as a network of interrelated meaningful choices. In other words, the dominant axis is the paradigmatic one: the fundamental components of the grammar are sets of mutually defining contrastive features. Explaining something consists not of stating how it is structured but in showing how it is related to other things: its pattern of systemic relationships, or agnateness (agnation).

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Beatriz Quiroz On Beta Clauses As Marked Themes

Thanks for all of your replies. I think I will still analyse beta clauses at initial position as marked Themes, since in all the texts I've been analysing (in Spanish, across registers) this pattern does seem to signal discontinuities/shifts very clearly, which is very helpful in text analysis. Perhaps, as you seem to suggest, the thing is to decide how carefully you want to account for different layers of textual organisation and on which grounds (clause to clause within complexes...or higher-level waves, as in the analysis put forward by e.g. Martin 1992 and Martin & Rose 2007).

I was just curious about that change in IFG! So in a way, perhaps, IFG's now sticking to (single) clause-wide patterns in a more strict way (without dismissing, neces[s]arily, the possibility of higher-level patterns, as the quote Hailing posted suggests)?

Blogger Comments:

[1] A beta clause in a regressive sequence is not a marked Theme of a clause nexus; it is merely the Theme of a clause nexus.  In order for it to be a marked Theme, there would have to be an unmarked Theme of a clause nexus with which it contrasts; there isn't.  This theoretical misinterpretation can be sourced Martin (1992: 445ff).

[2] There is no change in IFG on the matter of beta clause as Theme in a clause nexus.  The discussion has, instead, been given greater prominence in IFG4.

[3] The post from Hailing Yu included a quote (p551) from the discussion of beta clause as Theme in a clause nexus in IFG4 (pp549-53).

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Mick O'Donnell On The Thematic Status Of Beta Clauses

Does anyone know why in IFG4 beta clauses at initial position are not considered marked Themes any longer (cf. IFG2 and IFG3)? I don't seem to find any reference to the previous analysis there. I've checked both the chapter on Theme and the chapter on clause complexes.
Perhaps as beta clauses are not elements of the clause, they are no longer considered thematic in the alpha clause structure.

Blogger Comments:

[1] In IFG, beta clauses in regressive sequences have never been 'considered thematic in the alpha clause structure'.  The beta clause is thematic in the clause nexus.

[2] The beta clause in a regressive sequence is neither marked nor unmarked Theme.  The features unmarked or marked Theme — not both — are systemic options that are realised in clause structure. The misconstrual of beta clauses in regressive sequences as marked Themes can be traced to Martin (1992: 445).

[3] In IFG4, the discussion of Theme in clause complexes occurs in section 7.6 The Clause Complex as Textual Domain (pp549-53).  That is, in IFG4 the discussion has been made more prominent by being given its own separate section — in IFG3 it was included in the section 7.3 TAXIS: parataxis and hypotaxis (pp383-95), and in IFG2 it was included in the section 3.6 Clauses as Themes (pp54-8).