Saturday, 17 August 2019

David Rose On Imperative Mood And Obligation

Subjunctive mood is not recognised in SFL… 
Semantically, imperative mood realises obligation, obligating the Subject to act. In modern English this is normally the addressee, so that imperative mood congruently realises a command to the addressee. 
These clauses are relics of archaic systems with a non-addressee Subject, that obligate the Lord/God to act. Stepping up to the stratum of register, it was/is the role of priests to speak to God on behalf of the people, and to the people on behalf of God. Here the priest exhorts God to bless, forgive or be with the addressee, who is realised grammatically as Complement or Adjunct, whereas God is Subject. Paradoxically, the priest is exhorting God while addressing the people. Maybe that’s why such blessings sound archaic… they don’t make sense ;-)

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[1] To be clear, 'subjunctive mood' is recognised in SFL theory, but in its description of English, it is a system of the verbal group, not the clause, and termed 'subjunctive mode' to distinguish it from the clause rank systems of MOOD.  Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 143n):
Note that the system of MOOD is a system of the clause, not of the verbal group or of the verb. Many languages also have an interpersonal system of the verb(al group) that has been referred to as ‘mood’: it involves interpersonal contrasts such as indicative/subjunctive, indicative/subjunctive/optative. To distinguish these verbal contrasts from the clausal system of MOOD, we can refer to them as contrasts in mode. The subjunctive mode tends to be restricted to the environment of bound clauses – in particular, reported clauses and conditional clauses having the sense of irrealis. In Modern English, the subjunctive mode of the verb is marginal, although there is some dialectal variation.
[2] To be clear, here Rose confuses SPEECH FUNCTION (proposal: command) with MODALITY (modulation: obligation).  In SFL, a command is specified as a demand for goods-&-services, whereas obligation is concerned with the semantic space between positive and negative POLARITY in proposals. Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 177-8):
In a proposal, the meaning of the positive and negative poles is prescribing and proscribing: positive ‘do it’, negative ‘don’t do it’. Here also there are two kinds of intermediate possibility, in this case depending on the speech function, whether command or offer. (i) In a command, the intermediate points represent degrees of obligation: ‘allowed to/supposed to/required to’;
[3] For clarification, the clauses in question are:
The Lord be with you
God bless you
God forgive you your sins
[4] In SFL theory, tenor is a dimension of context, not register.  Register, on the other hand, is a sub-potential of language: a point of variation on the cline of instantiation.

In terms of the architecture of SFL theory, Martin's notion of register as a stratum of context is inconsistent with the notion of register, the notion of stratum, and the notion of context.  As functional varieties of language, registers are language, not context; as functional varieties, registers are sub-potentials, not a stratal system.  For evidence of Martin's misunderstandings of register, see here; for evidence of Martin's misunderstandings of context, see here.

[5] Trivially, the addressee you serves only as Complement in these clauses, specifically of the Predicators bless and forgive and of the minor Predicator with.

[6] For a deployment of SFL theory that demonstrates how and why such well-wishings do make sense, see the analysis here.