Sunday, 23 June 2019

Robin Fawcett On Halliday's Grammatical Systems As Semantic

My concern in my short memoir was to remind us all of his role in welcoming and re-enforcing the fundamental message of Halliday''s important 1966 paper — and in particular through his insightful introductions to the sections of the book. These were the first intimations of a concept that Halliday was exploring — and often seems completely committed to — in his writings on the late 1960s and early 1970s (and indeed in Halliday 1985, though less so in Halliday 1994). This was the concept that the system networks of TRANSITIVITY, MOOD, THEME and LOGIOC-SEMANTIC RELATIONS provide choices between meaning — i.e. semantic features), not forms …


Blogger Comments:

See the immediately preceding post.

For the second time in two days, Fawcett uses the tragic untimely death of a colleague as a pretext for promoting the SFL theoretical architecture that Halliday abandoned after 1978, largely because Fawcett mistakenly believes that Halliday's superseded model leaves room in the SFL architecture for his theory of syntax at the level below semantics.

For why Fawcett's model does not withstand close scrutiny, see the explanations here.

With regard to Fawcett and tragic untimely deaths, see here for Fawcett's public dishonest treatment of me at the time of my mother's cruel, premature death from mesothelioma.

Saturday, 22 June 2019

Robin Fawcett Misrepresenting Halliday's Theorising

… the development of the Cardiff Model of language and its use (although our main focus, like Halliday's, has remained on language — and in our case on the cognitive-interactive modelling of language and its use). 
… Halliday's first tentative explorations of his theoretical shift (in Halliday 1966), from treating system networks as choices at the level of form to treating them as choices at the level of meaning
… a series of Halliday's descriptions of areas of English grammar, ranging from his early system networks (from Halliday 1964), which were of course conceived of as being at the level of form, to later descriptions, some of which illustrate the concept that they can be interpreted as being choices between semantic features. …

Blogger Comments:

[1] This is misleading, since it implies that Halliday's theory is not concerned with a "cognitive-interactive modelling of language and its use".  The difference lies in how these dimensions are understood.  Halliday understands the interactive dimension of language as the interpersonal metafunction, understands use in terms of variation along the cline of instantiation, and understands cognition in terms of meaning.  In their work subtitled A Language-based Approach to Cognition, Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: ix-x) write:
It seems to us that our dialogue is relevant to current debates in cognitive science. In one sense, we are offering it as an alternative to mainstream currents in this area, since we are saying that cognition "is" (that is, can most profitably be modelled as) not thinking but meaning: the "mental" map is in fact a semiotic map, and "cognition" is just a way of talking about language. In modelling knowledge as meaning, we are treating it as a linguistic construct: hence, as something that is construed in the lexicogrammar. Instead of explaining language by reference to cognitive processes, we explain cognition by reference to linguistic processes. But at the same time this is an "alternative" only if it is assumed that the "cognitive" approach is in some sense natural, or unmarked.
[2] This is misleading.  The stratal distinction of form vs meaning is the distinction in Fawcett's model, but never in Halliday's.  Even when Halliday did propose a level of form (Halliday 1961), the distinction was substance vs form vs situation.  In this early model, the analogue of "meaning" was termed 'context' and construed as an interface between form and situation:
However, by 1976, if not before, Halliday had stratified language in its current formulation. Halliday & Hasan (1976: 5):

[3] To be clear, in Halliday (1978), the systems of transitivity, mood and theme were construed as semantic systems that specified different metafunctional structures that were mapped onto the clause.  However, this model was soon reconstrued, largely due to the need to systematically account for grammatical metaphor as an incongruence between semantic selections and lexicogrammatical selections. As Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 429) later explained in their description of semantic systems:
… grammatical metaphor is a central reason in our account for treating axis and stratification as independent dimensions, so that we have both semantic systems and structures and lexicogrammatical systems and structures.

For more of Fawcett's misrepresentations of Halliday's theorising, see the clarifying critiques here.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Jim Martin Misrepresenting Cohesion


James Martin wrote to sysfling on 19 Jun 2019, 14:52:
During the 70s Halliday is something of an intellectual, institutional and political refugee, not concentrating on grammar, but turning his attention to cohesion



Blogger Comments:

To be clear, in SFL theory, cohesion is a (non-structural) resource of the textual metafunction on the lexicogrammatical stratum.

The reason why it serves Martin to misrepresent cohesion as a resource distinct from the grammar, as he has at least since Martin (1992: 1), is that his model of discourse semantics takes the model of cohesion from Halliday & Hasan (1976), and removes it from the grammar by rebranding it as his own model of discourse semantics:
  1. Martin's IDENTIFICATION is his rebranding of Halliday & Hasan's REFERENCE (confused with ELLIPSIS–&–SUBSTITUTION);
  2. Martin's CONJUNCTION/CONNEXION is his rebranding of Halliday & Hasan's CONJUNCTION;
  3. Martin's IDEATION is his rebranding of Halliday & Hasan's LEXICAL COHESION.
Moreover, Martin's misunderstandings of his source material serve to differentiate his model from Halliday & Hasan's, creating the false impression of genuine theoretical originality.  Evidence here.

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

David Rose Using Theme To Promote Discourse Semantics

Can I make explicit that the job is either grammatical description or discourse semantic description ? 
One is concerned with classifying clause patterns and the other with discourse patterns. 
Discourse semantic description explains functions of variations in grammar patterns such as types of Theme.
Typological comparisons might start with discourse semantic functions and ask how they are realised in grammar.

Blogger Comments:

[1] To be clear, this refers to Margaret Berry's previous post (here) in which she redefines a clause function, Theme, in terms of two logogenetic patterns of instantiation: the selection of both Theme and Subject in the unfolding of text.

Here Rose misconstrues the lexicogrammatical distinction between this clause function and logogenetic patterns of its instantiation as a stratal distinction between lexicogrammar and discourse semantics.  In doing so, Rose rebrands Margaret Berry's approach to grammar as Martin's discourse semantics.

[2] This is a bare assertion, unsupported by argument. To be clear, the "function" of logogenetic patterns of instantiation, such as varying the selection of Theme, is to develop the text.

Moreover, as demonstrated in detail here, Martin's discourse semantic notions of 'macroTheme' and 'hyperTheme' are the notions of 'introductory paragraph' and 'topic sentence', respectively, taken from writing pedagogy and rebranded as Martin's linguistic theory.  Because they are concepts designed to help people write, rather than concepts designed to describe what people actually say, sign or write, they cannot shed theoretical light on actual Theme selection.

[3] Or perhaps, since it is the lexicogrammar that construes the semantics, and not the other way around, a Systemic Functional approach might be to ask what paradigmatic contrasts in meaning are being construed by paradigmatic contrasts in the wording.

Christian Matthiessen On Martin's Context As Connotative Semiotic

…In a way, the textual metafunction is the most fragile of the metafunctions — the one most likely to be influenced by the observer, so it is absolutely essential to base observations and analyses on naturally occurring examples in context — in their textual environment [co-text] and in their context in the sense of connotative semiotic (Martin, 1992). …



Blogger Comments:

To be clear, Martin's (1992) 'connotative semiotic' is his stratification of context as genre and register.  As demonstrated in great detail here (context), here (genre) and here (register), Martin's model is not only inconsistent with the architecture of SFL theory, but also inconsistent with the meanings of the terms 'context', 'genre' and 'register'.

For example, Martin models varieties of language, register and genre (text type), not as sub-potentials or instance types of language, but as semiotic systems other than language: the context that is realised by language.  Nevertheless, inconsistent with this, Martin claims that instances of context are text, that is: language rather than context.  But this is just the tip of the iceberg.  For more details, see the clarifying critiques here.

For Ruqaiya Hasan's critique of Martin's model of context, see The Conception Of Context In Text in
Fries, Peter H. and Gregory, Michael (1995) DISCOURSE IN SOCIETY: SYSTEMIC FUNCTIONAL PERSPECTIVES: Meaning and Choice in Language: Studies for Michael Halliday Norwood: Ablex (pp183-283).
The place of register and text type (genre) in the architecture of SFL theory is identified by Halliday's instantiation/stratification matrix:


An elaboration of this matrix can be found in Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 384):

Tom Bartlett On Given And Theme

From the posts so far, what we are talking about is textuality rather than Theme per se, and this seems to be a better starting point. 
At least three different functional structures have been introduced: initial/early position in the clause; formal marking of topicality or aboutness; and given-ness. 
With regard to the last, Mick rightly points out that Given and Theme do not always correspond by SFL definitions, but it is worth bearing in mind that the Prague definition of tema was something close to the most given element (i.e. the element having the least communicative dynamism), and this was the basis of the original formulation of thematic progression, rather than Halliday's Theme, which produces very different (and potentially complementary rather than conflicting) results. …

Blogger Comments:

[1] To be clear, none of these three is a (multivariate) "functional structure".  Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 451): 
A multivariate structure is a configuration of different functional relationships, like  Theme + Rheme, Mood + Residue + Moodtag, or Actor + Process + Recipient + Goal.  Note that, although it is the functions that are labelled, the structure actually consists of the relationships among them.
With regard to Bartlett's trio:
  • 'initial/early position in the clause' is how Theme is realised on the syntagmatic axis;
  • 'formal marking of topicality or aboutness' refers to the realisation of topical Theme at a lower rank; and
  • 'givenness' refers to the feature 'given' in the system of INFORMATION.

[2] More importantly, it is worth bearing in mind that, in SFL theory, Given and Theme are functionally distinct and are selected independently. The theoretical advantage of making the distinction is demonstrated by the systematic alternations of identifying clauses:

(a) decoding Trump
(which is Trump?)

operative voice:
Trump
is
the stable genius
Medium Identified Token
Process
Range Identifier Value
Theme
Rheme
Given
New

receptive voice:
the stable genius
is
Trump
Range Identifier Value
Process
Medium Identified Token
Theme
Rheme
New
Given


(b) encoding the stable genius
(which is the stable genius?)

operative voice:
Trump
is
the stable genius
Agent Identifier Token
Process
Medium Identified Value
Theme
Rheme
New
Given

receptive voice:
the stable genius
is
Trump
Medium Identified Value
Process
Agent Identifier Token
Theme
Rheme
Given
New

Monday, 17 June 2019

Margaret Berry On Theme

I agree with Mick and Nick that what is the best approach to Theme and Rheme depends on what you want to do with it. Like them I’m particularly interested in patterns across texts. 
It could be said that in English the main function of Theme is to show whether the perspective of the text changes or whether it remains the same, in particular whether the main topic entity changes or stays the same and whether the setting changes or stays the same. 
In Mick’s example, the ‘He’s show that the writer is staying with the same main topic entity. But at intervals the temporal setting changes, as shown by the initial Adjuncts. As Mick has shown, for me both the continuity of main topic entity and the changes of setting are relevant to the ongoing perspective of the text. So I want the Subjects to count as Themes as well as the Adjuncts. (Which Halliday wouldn’t allow when a Subject is preceded by an Adjunct.)

Blogger Comments:

[1] To be clear, if a theoretical term like 'Theme' is not used in the original formulation, the use of the term is no longer valid, since the theoretical valeur of the term has changed. Moreover, this can have unintended consequences for systemic relationships, the basis of explanation in SFL.  Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 49):
Giving priority to the view ‘from above’ means that the organising principle adopted is that 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 in stating how it is structured but in showing how it is related to other things: its pattern of systemic relationships, or agnateness (agnation…).
[2] To be clear, thematic patterns across texts can be examined using the original formulation of Theme.  That is, this does not constitute an argument in support of varying the theoretical valeur of 'Theme'.

[3] To be clear, this characterisation of Theme confuses Theme, a functional element of the clause, with the logogenetic pattern known as the method of development.  As Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 89, 126) explain:
The Theme is the element that serves as the point of departure of the message; it is that which locates and orients the clause within its context. The speaker chooses the Theme as his or her point of departure to guide the addressee in developing an interpretation of the message; by making part of the message prominent as Theme, the speaker enables the addressee to process the message. The remainder of the message, the part in which the Theme is developed, is called in Prague school terminology the Rheme. …
The choice of clause Themes plays a fundamental part in the way discourse is organised; it is this, in fact, that constitutes what has been called the ‘method of development’ of the text…
[4] To be clear, this argues for a reformulation of a clause function (Theme), not on the basis of its function in the clause, but on the basis of logogenetic patterns, and in doing so, confuses two distinct logogenetic patterns: choice of Theme and choice of Subject.

Sunday, 16 June 2019

Mick O'Donnell On Theme

Michael O'Donnell wrote to sysfling on 16 Jun 2019 at 18:24:
In Halliday's approach (for English), Theme stops with the first topical (experiential) element, which in this case is the circumstance of time, "in 1925". "Halliday" is thus Rheme. 
I myself am a proponent of the Berry approach (which I believe is similar to the Fawcett approach), whereby one has Subject-theme, and elements in front of that are also "Additional Theme", e.g. 
Additional-Theme
Subject
Theme
Rheme
In May 1476,
he
He took part in an armed convoy sent by Genoa to carry a valuable cargo to northern Europe.

He
docked in Bristol, Galway, in Ireland and was possibly in Iceland in 1477.
In 1479
Columbus
reached his brother Bartolomeo in Lisbon, keeping on trading for the Centurione family.

He
married Filipa Moniz Perestrello, daughter of the Porto Santo governor, the Portuguese nobleman of Genoese origin Bartolomeu Perestrello.
In 1479 or 1480,
his son Diego
was born.
This approach better captures the continuity or discontinuity of the Subject selections, and allows for the presence of marked elements in front of the Subject.


Blogger Comments:

Applying this model yields:

Additional-Theme
Rheme
Subject Theme
blessed
are
the meek
 on your left
is
the main bedroom
a little further on
is
the Rijksmuseum

Additional-Theme
Additional-Theme

Rheme
Subject Theme
where
precisely
in that case
are
they?


[1] This is the opposite of what is true. Unsurprisingly, the "continuity or discontinuity" of the Subject selections is shown by the selection of Subjects.  The question of the "continuity or discontinuity" of Subject selections as Theme is nullified by this approach, since all Subjects are claimed to be Themes.

[2] To be clear, this approach adds nothing with regard to "the presence of marked elements in front of the Subject", since 'Additional Theme' is just a rebranding of 'marked Theme', without acknowledging its markedness.  Moreover, it is the distinction between Theme and Subject that provides the criterion for the distinction between marked and unmarked Theme in declarative clauses.


To be clear, this approach merely confuses the interpersonal selection of Subject, the carrier of modal responsibility in a clause as exchange, with the textual selection of Theme, the point of departure for a clause as message.  Subject is reprised in a Mood Tag; Theme is realised by everything up to and including the first experiential element.