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).