The Thought Occurs

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.

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