The Thought Occurs

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Material Vs Semiotic Abstractions

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 190ff) provide a taxonomy of simple things based on the participant roles they play in semantic figures — critically those of Senser, Sayer and Actor.

The most general distinction is between conscious and non-conscious.
Within non-conscious, the distinction is between material and semiotic.
Within material, the distinctions are animal, object, substance and abstraction.
Within semiotic, the distinctions are institution, object and abstraction.

Material abstractions — eg depth, colours — typically play the roles of Phenomenon, Carrier and Value. They have no extension in space and are unbounded, and are typically some parameter of a material quality or process.

Semiotic abstractions — eg information, truth — are typically realised by the Range of mental and verbal processes. They are unbounded semiotic substance with no material existence.

There are also intermediate categories in this taxonomy. For example:

Human collectives — eg family — are intermediate between conscious beings and institutions.

Discrete semiotic abstractions — eg thoughts and fears (mental entities) and questions and orders (speech functions) — are intermediate between semiotic objects and and non-discrete semiotic abstractions.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Realisation Relates Levels Of Abstraction

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 4, 385):
Language, therefore, is a resource organised into three strata differentiated according to order of abstraction. These strata are related by means of realisation. …The strata are ordered in symbolic abstraction

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 25):
Every scientific theory is itself a stratal-semiotic system, in which the relation among the different levels of abstraction is one of realisation.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Why Martin's Notion That ‘Reading’ Is On The Cline Of Instantiation Is Mistaken

Even leaving aside ascription as the organising principle of the cline of instantiation, the relation between a reading and a text is not the same as the relation between a text and system.

A ‘reading’ is metaphorical for Senser sensing Phenomenon.

So, unpacked, a ‘reading’ includes a reader, the reading process and the text that is being read.

So, variant ‘readings’ of one text include variant readers and/or variant reading processes.

The cline of instantiation, on the other hand, is merely a relation between (variant) texts and the system of which each is an instance. It does not include readers or the reading process.

Variation in readers and the reading process are distinct dimensions from the cline of instantiation, and, since they involve actual texts, these dimensions of variation intersect the cline of instantiation at the instance pole.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Why Martin's Notion Of A Monostratal Semiotic System Is Nonsensical

By definition, a semiotic system has at least two levels of symbolic abstraction.
By definition, a symbol is something that means something other than itself.

Martin's claim is that because content is paradigmatic and expression is syntagmatic, there is only one stratum. Note, incidentally, that by this logic, it could be alternatively argued that there is only one axis, and therefore no system–structure cycle.

This is like saying all my squares are blue and all my triangles are red, therefore there is only one shape (or only one colour).

If content conflates with paradigm and expression conflates with syntagm, then:

content/paradigm is realised by expression/syntagm.

This conflates
content is realised by expression
paradigm is realised by syntagm.

There are still 2 strata and 2 axes in this conflation.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Two Reasons Why Halliday's And Martin's Models Of Stratification Cannot Be Integrated

1) They do not mean the same thing by ‘register’.

For Halliday, ‘register’ means a functional variety of language (with roots back to the Prague School and Firth).

Martin, on the other hand, equates ‘register’ with Halliday’s ‘context’, which removes the notion of register as a functional variety of language from the model. This is because a higher stratum is not a functional variety of a lower stratum; eg lexicogrammar is not a functional variety of phonology.

2) They do not mean the same thing by ‘context’.

For Halliday, ‘context’ is what people do with language (H&M 1999: ix), the ‘semiotic environment’ of language (and other socio-semiotic systems such as image systems (p375), the “culture”, considered as a semiotic potential (p606). Halliday’s ‘context’ is a level of abstraction that is realised by language.

For Martin (1992: 496), ‘context’ (register and genre) are levels associated with ever larger ‘units’: just as the level of discourse-semantics tends to focus on an exchange or “paragraph”, the level of register tends to focus on a stage in a transaction, and the level of genre tends to focus on whole texts. To this extent, Martin’s ‘context’ refers to levels of abstraction of texts.