Monday, 21 May 2018

David Rose On Register And Discourse Semantics

David Rose replied to Tom Bartlett on sysfling on 11 May 2018 at 16:15:
Iterated activity is a register level meaning, that may be realised in discourse semantics as an event sequence, or as one event x quality, that may be realised in grammar as a clause complex and clause simplex respectively.

Blogger Comments:

The series of propositions declared by Rose can be represented as follows:

iterated activity
↘ discourse semantics
↘ event sequence
↘ event x quality
↘ lexicogrammar
↘ clause complex
↘ clause

[1] 'Iterated activity' is a rebranding of 'activity sequence', a term which Martin (1992: 537) adapted from Barthes' (1966/1977) notion of 'sequence' in narrative, and misunderstood as an ideational unit of context, field, itself misunderstood as a dimension of register.  For some of the theoretical inconsistencies in Martin's notion of activity sequence, see any of the 48 clarifying critiques here.

[2] Within and without SFL theory, a 'register' is a functional variety of language.  In SFL theory, register is modelled as a point of variation on the cline of instantiation.  Here Rose follows Martin (1992) in misconstruing register as a level of context rather than as a sub-potential of language (that realises a cultural situation type).  For reasons why register, as something less general than language, is not coherently modelled as something more abstract than language, see some of the 82 clarifying critiques here.

[3] Here Rose is following Martin's (1992) misunderstanding of the SFL stratification hierarchy as 'all strata make meaning' (which is a characterisation of semogenesis, not stratification).  For Martin, strata are 'interacting modules of meaning', whereas, in SFL, the theoretical function of the dimension of stratification is to parcel out semiotic complexity into distinct levels of symbolic abstraction, in language: meaning (semantics), wording (lexicogrammar) and sounding/writing (phonology/graphology).

In SFL theory, meaning at the level of context is not linguistic meaning.  The stratum 'context' constitutes meaning in the sense of the culture as content, with language as its expression plane.  The meaning of register, on the other hand, is linguistic meaning; it constitutes the sub-potential of the semantic stratum that realises a sub-potential of the culture (a situation type).

[4] Here Rose is following Martin (1992) in misconstruing the relation between register and semantics as one of symbolic abstraction ('realisation'); see [2] above.

[5] The term 'event sequence' does not figure in the discourse semantic model of Martin (1992), and in Martin & Rose (2007: 267), it is located in field (context), misconstrued as register.  Here, however, Rose locates 'event sequence' in discourse semantics.  In SFL theory, 'sequence' is the highest order of phenomena in ideational semantics; see Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 104-27).

[6] In Martin (1992: 317), 'Event x Quality' is presented as the discourse semantics of the experiential grammar of the verbal group.  Here Rose misrepresents the structural relation as the discourse semantic counterpart of the clause.