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