Friday, 17 February 2017

David Rose On Genres As Features In Systems

David Rose wrote to sys-func and sysfling on 11 February 2017 at 07:42:
Can I reverse Andrés’ proposition, so that 'Bakhtin’s concepts of Dialogism, Polyphony and Heteroglossia’ are explained through SFL? To do so requires the hard yards of describing genre and register theoretically as semiotic systems. Then we can insist that genres are not ‘conventions’ but features in systems, with distinct structural realisations, but plenty of latitude for interstratal realisation in field, tenor and mode systems.
Perhaps one reason for missing register is the paucity of our work on these systems, compared with genre and language systems (and other modalities). Could this be a useful place to look for the next generation of SFL scholars?

Blogger Comments:

[1] For glosses of Bakhtin's notions of dialogism, voice (polyphony = many voices) and heteroglossia, see here.

[2] As the terms 'genre' and 'register' suggest, these are types of semiotic systems — prototypically: types of linguistic systems.  That is why they are theorised in SFL as a point of variation on the cline of instantiation of language, rather than as strata of context more abstract than language.

[3] insist:  'demand something forcefully, not accepting refusal'.

[4] The opposition 'features vs conventions' is a false dichotomy.  In SFL theory, genres (text types) vary by the frequencies of feature selection — in systems at the level of semantics and lexicogrammar.  It is the feature frequencies that distinguish one text type from another that corresponds to any notion of a text type as a 'convention'.

The "system" of genre that Rose is promoting is merely a taxonomy of genres, with a structural realisation associated with each genre.  The system does not generate a genre — in the way that a clause system generates a clause — and the associated text structures are misconstrued as context instead of semantics.

[5] The absurd claim here is that a stage of a genre, such as a narrative, is realised, say, in the tenor relation between the teller of the story, a parent, and its audience, a child.

[6] Let's hope the next generation of SFL scholars are able to understand the theoretical architecture, or at the very least, are able to tell the difference between context and language as text type.