The Thought Occurs

The Thought Occurs

Saturday, 29 April 2017

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A Critical Appraisal Of Jim Martin's ISFC 2017 Plenary Abstract

James R Martin
University of Sydney
Martin Centre for Appliable Linguistics, Shanghai Jiao Tong University

SFL is well known for its trinocular vision: three language strata (phonology, lexicogrammar, and discourse semantics), three metafunctions (ideational, interpersonal and textual) and three hierarchies (realisation, instantiation and individuation). And each trinity is a complementarity, not a partition – always already there; you can’t do meaning from any one perspective without the other two.

In this paper I will take the trinocularity of metafunction as point of departure, and consider its role in both enabling and disabling the evolution of SFL. I’ll begin with context, and issues arising with respect to modelling register and genre. I then turn to disciplinarity, and problems arising from a purely ideational view of knowledge structure. As a third step I’ll look at identity and the need for an [sic] transfunctional view of communion.

In conclusion I’ll comment on the way in which the centrality of metafunction to our conception of language has shaped the evolving architecture of the theory as a whole, as scholars expand the frontiers of social semiotics from the standpoint of SFL’s dialectic of theory and practice (i.e. appliable linguistics).

Blogger Comments:

[1] The reason Martin is attempting to demonise the metafunctions here, through such negative appraisals as 'tyranny' and 'disabling', is that his model of genre is not differentiated metafunctionally.  That is, this talk is, inter alia, an attempt rebrand one of the defects in his model as a strength.

[2] This is misleading.  The three language strata in SFL are phonology, lexicogrammar and semantics.  The stratum of discourse semantics is Martin's invention only, and it is theorised on multiple misunderstandings of the categories and scales of SFL theory, as demonstrated in great detail here.

[3] This misunderstands realisation.  Realisation is not a hierarchy.  Realisation is the relation between two levels of symbolic abstraction, and it obtains along several different dimensions of SFL theory; e.g. 
  • between axes: syntagmatic structure realises paradigmatic system;
  • between ranks: group/phrase rank syntagms (forms) realise clause rank function structures;
  • between strata: lexicogrammar realises semantics; and
  • within semantics: metaphorical meanings realise congruent meanings — see Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 288) or here.
Note that Martin (1992) understands neither realisation nor instantiation, as demonstrated here (realisation) and here (instantiation).

[4] The reason Martin uses the word 'partition' here, instead of the more appropriate word 'module', is that his own model is theorised on his misunderstanding of SFL as a modular theory.  Martin (1992: 390):
Each of the presentations of linguistic text forming resources considered above adopted a modular perspective. As far as English Text is concerned this has two main dimensions: stratification and, within strata, metafunction.
Martin (1992: 391):
Within discourse semantics, the ways in which systems co-operate in the process of making text is much less well understood. … A more explicit account of this co-operation is clearly an urgent research goal; English Text has been concerned not so much with addressing this goal as with making it addressable by proposing four relatively independent discourse modules to beg the question [sic] … . The point is that integrating meanings deriving from different metafunctions is not a task that can be left to lexicogrammar alone.
Martin (1992: 488):
In this chapter a brief sketch of some of the ways in which discourse semantics interacts with lexicogrammar and phonology has been presented. The problem addressed is a fundamental concern of modular models of semiosis — namely, once modules are distinguished, how do they interface? What is the nature of the conversation among components?
As Halliday & Webster (2009: 231) point out, SFL is a dimensional theory, not a modular theory:
In SFL language is described, or “modelled”, in terms of several dimensions, or parameters, which taken together define the “architecture” of language. These are 
  • (i) the hierarchy of strata (context, semantics, lexicogrammar, phonology, phonetics; related by realisation); 
  • (ii) the hierarchy of rank (e.g. clause, phrase/group, word, morpheme; related by composition); 
  • (iii) the cline of instantiation (system to instance); 
  • (iv) the cline of delicacy (least delicate to most delicate, or grossest to finest); 
  • (v) the opposition of axis (paradigmatic and syntagmatic); 
  • (vi) the organisation by metafunction (ideational (experiential, logical), interpersonal, textual).
[5] This confuses language with linguistics.  We don't "do" meaning from metafunctional perspectives, but we can analyse it from one or all metafunctional perspectives, using a theory that models meaning in terms of metafunctions.

[6] This is misleading.  The context stratum in SFL construes the culture as a semiotic system.  The stratification of context into genre and register — i.e. context–specific varieties of language — is Martin's invention only, and it is theorised on multiple misunderstandings of the categories and scales of SFL theory, as demonstrated in great detail here (context), here (genre) and here (register).

[7] This is misleading. In SFL, knowledge is modelled as meaning, and meaning is modelled in terms of all three metafunctions. Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: x):
… “understanding” something is transforming it into meaning, and to “know” is to have performed that transformation. There is a significant strand in the study of language […] whereby “knowledge” is modelled semiotically: that is, as system–&–process of meaning, in abstract terms which derive from the modelling of grammar.
The notion of a "purely ideational view of knowledge structure" is thus an example of the logical fallacy known as the attacking a strawman:
A straw man is a common form of argument and is an informal fallacy based on giving the impression of refuting an opponent's argument, while refuting an argument that was not advanced by that opponent. One who engages in this fallacy is said to be "attacking a straw man".
[8] The interest in 'communion' here, as with Martin's previous work on affiliation, reflects Martin's true ideological position.  Bertrand Russell, in his History Of Western Philosophy (pp 21-2), identifies this, and explains why it is consistent with Martin's hostility to science, his interest in texts on heroes, such as Nelson Mandela, his opposition to liberal humanism (Martin 1992: 587-8), and his treatment of students:
Throughout this long development, from 600 BC to the present day, philosophers have been divided into those who wished to tighten social bonds and those who wished to relax them.  With this difference, others have been associated.  The disciplinarians have advocated some system of dogma, either old or new, and have therefore been compelled to be, in greater or lesser degree, hostile to science, since their dogmas could not be proved empirically.  They have almost invariably taught that happiness is not the good, but that ‘nobility’ or ‘heroism’ is to be preferred.  They have had a sympathy with irrational parts of human nature, since they have felt reason to be inimical to social cohesion.  The libertarians, on the other hand, with the exception of the extreme anarchists, have tended to be scientific, utilitarian, rationalistic, hostile to violent passion, and enemies of all the more profound forms of religion.  This conflict existed in Greece before the rise of we recognise as philosophy, and is already quite explicit in the earliest Greek thought.  In changing forms, it has persisted down to the present day, and no doubt will persist for many ages to come.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Lexis, Delicacy And Instantiation

In Systemic Functional Grammatics, delicacy is the scale from the most general (grammatical) features to the most specific (lexical).

The notion of lexis as most delicate grammar is exemplified by Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 198-9) as follows: 
… we can differentiate both processes and participants into finer and finer subcategories, until we reach a degree of differentiation that is associated with the choice of words (lexical items). Note that it is not (usually) the lexical items themselves that figure as terms of the systems in the network. Rather, the systems are systems of features, and the lexical items come in as the synthetic realisation of particular feature combinations. Thus lexis (vocabulary) is part of a unified lexicogrammar; there is no need to postulate a separate “lexicon” as a pre-existing entity on which the grammar is made to operate.

The process of instantiation is the selection of features and the activation of their realisation statements in a system network, from the most general (grammatical) systems to the most delicate (lexical) systems.

The cline of instantiation is the scale from the system, as potential, to the instance — to the features and activated realisation statements of an actual text.

The instantiation of lexis, therefore, is the instantiation of the most delicate systems of the lexicogrammar.  Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 327): 
Instantiation is the relation between the system and the instance. When we shift attention along this scale, we are moving between the potential that is embodied in any stratum and the deployment of that potential in instances of the same stratum … this move can be made at any degree of delicacy.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Do Ellipsed Subjects Function As Theme?

No — this would be a contradiction.  Ellipsis marks elements as textually non-prominent, whereas Theme marks elements as textually prominent. Therefore, ellipsed elements do not function as Theme.  Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 563):
Ellipsis marks the textual status of continuous information within a certain grammatical structure. At the same time, the non-ellipsed elements of that structure are given the status of being contrastive in the environment of continuous information. Ellipsis thus assigns differential prominence to the elements of a structure: if they are non-prominent (continuous), they are ellipsed; if they are prominent (contrastive), they are present. The absence of elements through ellipsis is an iconic realisation of lack of prominence.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

The Difference Between The Social Environment Of A Text And Its Context Of Situation

When we construe the social environment of a text, we are construing phenomena of first-order experience.

When we construe the 'context of situation' of a text — an instance of the culture as semiotic system — we are construing phenomena of second-order experience, that is: metaphenomena.

The cultural context is realised by the language that is projected by interlocutors.  The semiotic context realised by language is second-order experience, whereas the interlocutors doing the projecting constitute first-order experience.

See also here.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

The Ergativity Of Identifying Clauses

In identifying clauses, the Identified is the Medium of the Process, but the Identifier varies according to the direction of coding, functioning as
  • the Range of a decoding clause, where it maps onto Value, but
  • the Agent of an encoding clause, where it maps onto Token.

In other words,
  1. decoding: Token/Identified/Medium and Value/Identifier/Range,
  2. encoding: Token/Identifier/Agent and Value/Identified/Medium.
(The Identifier is the element that is most likely to be realised by tonic prominence — it is presented as New information.)

Monday, 27 March 2017

Yet More Tenses That "Halliday's System Doesn't Cope With"

RED DWARF Series I Episode 2, "Future Echoes"

RIMMER: Lister, it has happened. You can't change it, any more than you can change what you had for breakfast yesterday. 
LISTER: Hey, it hasn't happened, has it? It has "will have going to have happened" happened, but it hasn't actually "happened" happened yet, actually. 
RIMMER: Poppycock! It will be happened; it shall be going to be happening; it will be was an event that could will have been taken place in the future. Simple as that.

(See related post here.)

Friday, 24 February 2017

Mathematical Equation As Representation, Exchange & Message

1 + 1
Identified Token
Process: relational
Identifier Value

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Lexical Item vs Grammatical Item

Halliday (2004: 3):
But teachers of English have customarily distinguished between content words, like snow and mountain, and function words, like it and on and of and the; and it is the notion of a content word that corresponds to our lexical item.

Halliday (1985: 61):
Grammatical items are those that function in closed systems in the language: in English, determiners, pronouns, most prepositions, conjunctions, some classes of adverb, and finite verbs.  (Determiners include the articles.)

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

"What are the most frequent emotions encoded by interjections?"

[ANGER] damn! damnation! the devil! doggone! fuck! ha! hang it! hell! hunh! rats! shit! what! zounds!

[ANNOYANCE] bother ! damn! damnation! deuce! drat! drot! mercy! merde! oof! ouf(f)! ouch! rot! son of a bitch! spells! tut! tut-tut! zut!

[APPROVAL] hear! hear! hubba-hubba! hurrah! keno! olé! so!

[CONTEMPT] bah! boo! booh! faugh! hum! humph! hunh! paff! paf! pah! pfui! pho! phoh! phoo! phooey! pish! poof! pouf! pouff! pooh! prut! prute! pshaw! puff! poff! quotha! rot! sho! shoo! shuh! shah! soh! tcha! tchah! tchu! tchuh! tuh! tush! tusch! tusche! tuch! yech! zut!

[DELIGHT] ah! ach! coo! coo-er! goody! goody goody! whacko! wacko! whizzo! wizzo! yippee! yip-ee!

[DISGUST] aargh! bah! faugh! fuck! gad! humph! pah! phew! phooey! pish! pshaw! pugh! rot! shit! shoot! ugh! yech! yuck!

[ENTHUSIASM] hubba-hubba! wahoo! zowie!

[FEAR] eeeek! oh! oh, no!

[IMPATIENCE] chut! gah! pish! pooh! pshaw! psht! pshut! tcha! tchah! tchu! tchuh! tut! tut-tut! why! zut!

[INDIGNATION] here ! here! why!

[IRRITATION] cor! corks! doggone! hell! hoot! lord! lor'! lor! lors! lordy! lord me! merde! sapperment! shit! upon my word!

[JOY] heyday! hurrah! ole! whee! whoop! whoopee! yippee!

[PAIN] ah! oh! ouch! ow! wow! yipe! yow!

[PITY] alas! dear! dear me! ewhow! lackaday! lackadaisy! las! och! oche! wellaway! welladay! welliday!

[PLEASURE] aha! boy! crazy! doggone! good! heigh! ho! wow! yum! yumyum!

[RELIEF] whew! whoof!

[SORROW] alas! ay! eh! hech! heck! heh! lackaday! lackadaisy! las! mavrone! och! oche! wellaway! welladay! welliday! wirra!

[SURPRISE] ah! alack! blimey! boy! caramba! coo! cor! dear! dear me! deuce! the devil! doggone! gad! gee! gee-whiz! golly! good! goodness! gracious! gosh! ha! heck! heigh! heigh-ho! hey! heyday! ho! hollo! hoo-ha! huh! humph! indeed! jiminy! lord! man! mercy! my! nu! od! oh! oho! oh, no! phew! say! shit! so! son of a bitch! upon my soul! well! what! whoof! whoosh! why! upon my word! wow! yow! zounds!

[SYMPATHY] now! tsk!

[TRIUMPH] aha! ha! hurrah! ole! so!

[WONDER] blimey! crazy! gee! goodness! gosh! ha! heyday! oh! what! wow!

Friday, 23 December 2016

How To Identify Topical Theme

In a free major clause, topical Theme is the first experiential element of a clause, whether participant, circumstance or process.

It's that simple.

Any textual or interpersonal elements that precede the topical Theme are also thematic.

There is only one topical Theme to a clause.
No clause has both a marked a unmarked topical Theme.
A topical Theme is either marked or unmarked.

If a clause has a marked topical Theme, such as a circumstance, then it has no unmarked Theme.

they who unquestioningly believe that Subject is always unmarked Theme
Theme: marked

they who can think critically and are alert to the absurd consequences of poor theorising
Theme: marked