Wednesday, 6 June 2018

John Bateman Misunderstanding Realisation

I'd only ever use 'abstraction' as an interstratal relationship (I hope); I can't get my head around the other characterizations as concerning differences in level/degree of abstraction. … 
And the problem as always with considering 'realization' as 'encoding' is primarily the intellectual baggage that encoding/decoding brings with it. I prefer the technical term and go for metaredundancy. Relations between different levels of abstraction are interesting and I don't think any kind of 'coding' metaphor gets off on the right foot, because it can sound as if the descriptions have independent existence. Co-description does it better perhaps; co-articulation too. If we take the old prism metaphor, one colour does not 'encode' another (even if there *were* 'colours'). The extent to which any of these levels of abstraction may usefully be considered to have separate 'existence' is then subsequently surely, surprise surprise, also an empirical issue. :-)

Blogger Comments:

[1] To be clear, the relation of symbolic abstraction (realisation), the fundamental semiotic relation, obtains not just between strata, but throughout the architecture of SFL theory.  For example, realisation obtains
  • between axes: syntagmatic structures realise paradigmatic systems, and
  • between form and function: formal syntagms (nominal group ^ verbal group) realise function structures (Medium ^ Process).
Less well known, however, are the intra-stratal realisation relations entailed by grammatical metaphor.  Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 288-9):
The metaphorical relation is thus similar to inter-stratal realisation in that it construes a token-value type of relation. Here, however, the relation is intra-stratal: the identity holds between different meanings, not between meanings and wordings. The metaphor consists in relating different semantic domains of experience: the domain of figures is construed in terms of the domain of participants, and so on (just as in a familiar lexical metaphor the domain of intensity is construed in terms of the domain of vertical space). It is the fact that metaphor multiplies meanings within the semantic system that opens up the possibility of metaphorical chains, with one congruent starting-point and another highly metaphorical end-point (A"' stands for A" stands for A' stands for A; e.g. 'engine failure' stands for 'the failing of an engine' stands for 'an engine failed'). The semantic system is being expanded along the dimension of the metaphorical token-value relation; but the expansion is still within the semantic system itself.
[2] This misunderstands realisation.  As a symbolic identifying relation (Halliday & Matthiessen 2014: 288), realisation construes an identity between two levels of symbolic abstraction, a lower token and a higher value, such that either can be construed as identifying the other.  When a token is used to identify a value, the identity is encoding: it encodes a value by reference to a token; when a value is used to identify a token, the identity is decoding: it decodes a token by reference to a value.

Applied to the inter-stratal realisation relation between lexicogrammar (token) and semantics (value), if lexicogrammar is used to identify semantics, the identity encodes semantics by reference to lexicogrammar; and if semantics is used to identify lexicogrammar, the identity decodes lexicogrammar by reference to semantics.

encoding semantics by reference to lexicogrammar:
Identifier Token
Process: identifying
Identified Value

decoding lexicogrammar by reference to semantics:
Identified Token
Process: identifying
Identifier Value

[3] Here Bateman misconstrues 'realisation', the technical term for an ordering principle, as a metaphor.  Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 7):
The sound system and the writing system are the two modes of expression by which the lexicogrammar of a language is represented, or realised (to use the technical term).

[4] This misconstrues metaredundancy as a relation between two strata and as an alternative to realisation.  As Halliday (1992: 23-5) explains, realisation is itself a redundancy relation, and metaredundancy is the redundancy in a series of redundancies:
But realisation is not a causal relation; it is a redundancy relation, so that x redounds with the redundancy of y with z. To put it in more familiar terms, it is not that (i) meaning is realised by wording and wording is realised by sound, but that (ii) meaning is realised by the realisation of wording in sound.  We can of course reverse the direction, and say that sounding realises the realisation of meaning in wording.
[5] Here Bateman again raises the notion of 'existence', despite previously claiming that it "detracts" from 'the main business of work'.  More importantly, levels of symbolic abstraction are different angles on the same phenomenon, so the notion of different levels having 'independent existence' is nonsensical.

[6] Invoking the 'old prism metaphor' demonstrates that Bateman understands neither levels of abstraction nor encoding.  The colours in the spectrum of visible light are all construed at the same level of abstraction, so the notion of one colour encoding another is nonsensical.

[7] Here Bateman again raises the notion of 'existence', despite previously claiming that it "detracts" from 'the main business of work'.  On the SFL model, colours are construals of experience as meaning, further reconstrued in the field of colour perception, for example, as varying according to the frequency of photon impacts on differently sensitive cone cells in the retina.

[8] To be clear, the interpretation of empirical evidence in terms of existence (ontology) depends on the epistemological assumptions of the field.

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