The Thought Occurs

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Sample Verbal Group Complex Analyses

(1) I want to buy him a present

want to buy: a ' b

(i.e. projection)

(2) I want to try to convince him to come

want | to try to convincea ' b + c

(i.e. projection and extension)

Monday, 17 October 2011

Sample Theme Analysis


One year [[after they got married]] they found his socks and car keys.


Marked Theme: circumstance of temporal Location realised by a nominal group with an embedded clause as Qualifier.

Note: The reason one year after is not a conjunction group, with one year as a Premodifier of after is as follows:
(1) conjunctions form a word class within the primary word class of adverbials [Halliday & Matthiessen 2004: 358];

(2) Premodifiers in adverbial groups are grammatical items — there is no lexical premodification in the adverbial group [op cit: 356];

(3) items serving as Premodifiers in adverbial groups are adverbs of polarity, comparison or intensification [ibid];

(4) all the examples given of Premodifiers in conjunction groups are grammatical items (even, just, not, only), not lexical items [op cit: 358].

Consider, for example, the inutility of analysing the following as a conjunction group:

Thirteen excruciating mind-numbing minutes after (he began speaking) …

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Sensing Proportionalities

perceiving is to emoting as
thinking is to desiring


emoting is to desiring as
perceiving is to thinking

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Sample Clause Analysis


The sun looks as if it moves across the sky.


The sun : Carrier
looks: Process: relational
[[as if it moves across the sky]]: Attribute

which is metaphorical for:

The sun appears to move across the sky

The sun : Actor
appears to move: Process: material
across the sky: Location

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Theme And Mood


Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 85):
(i) Initial position in the English clause is meaningful in the construction of the clause as message; specifically, it has a thematic function.
(ii) Certain textual elements that orient the clause within the discourse, rhetorically and logically, are inherently thematic.
(iii) Certain other elements, textual and interpersonal, that set up a semantic relation with what precedes, or express the speaker’s angle or intended listener, are characteristically thematic; this includes finite operators, which signal one type of question.
(iv) These inherently and characteristically thematic elements lie outside the experiential structure of the clause; they have no status as participant, circumstance or process.
(v) Until one of these latter appears, the clause lacks an anchorage in the realm of experience; and this is what completes the thematic grounding of the message.

Unmarked Theme In Declarative Clauses

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 73):
In a declarative clause, the typical pattern is one in which Theme is conflated with Subject; … We shall refer to the mappaing of Theme on to Subject as the unmarked Theme of a declarative clause. The Subject is the element that is chosen as Theme unless there is good reason for choosing something else.

Marked Themes In Declarative Clauses

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 73, 74):
A Theme that is something other than the Subject, in a declarative clause, we shall refer to as a marked Theme. The most usual form of marked Theme is an adverbial group … or prepositional phrase … functioning as Adjunct in the clause. Least likely to be thematic is a Complement, which is a nominal group that is not functioning as Subject — something that could have been a Subject but is not … . Sometimes even the Complement from within a prepositional phrase functions as Theme … .

Theme In Exclamative Declarative Clauses

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 74):
There is one sub-category of declarative clause that has a special thematic structure, namely the exclamative. These typically have an exclamatory WH-element as Theme … .

Theme In Polar Interrogative Clauses

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 75, 76):
In a yes/no interrogative, which is a question about polarity, the element that functions as Theme is the element that embodies the expression of polarity, namely the Finite verbal operator. … but, since that is not an element in the experiential structure of the clause, the Theme extends over the following Subject as well.

Theme In WH- Interrogative Clauses

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 75):
In a WH- interrogative, which is a search for a missing piece of information, the element that functions as Theme is the element that requests this information, namely the WH- element … whether Subject, Adjunct or Complement.

Theme In ‘You-&-Me’ Imperative Clauses

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 76):
… here, let’s is clearly the unmarked choice of Theme.

Theme In ‘You’ Imperative Clauses

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 76):
… although the ‘you’ can be made explicit as a Theme … this is clearly a marked choice; the more typical form is … with the verb in thematic position. … here, therefore, it is the Predicator that is the unmarked Theme.

Theme In Negative Imperative Clauses

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 77):
… the principle is the same as with yes/no interrogatives: the unmarked Theme is don’t plus the following element, either Subject or Predicator. Again there is a marked form with you, … where the Theme is don’t you. There is also a marked contrastive form of the positive, … where the Theme is do plus the Predicator … .

Predicator As Theme

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 77):
The imperative is the only type of clause in which the Predicator (the verb) is regularly found as Theme. This is not impossible in other moods … but in such clauses it is the most highly marked choice of all.

Adjunct As Theme In Imperative Clauses

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 78):
Imperative clauses may have a marked Theme, as when a locative Adjunct is thematic in a clause giving directions … The adjunct part of a phrasal verb may serve as marked Theme in an imperative clause with an explicit Subject, as in Up you get! … .

Thursday, 4 August 2011

SFL Or Ethnography?

SFL is itself a theoretical resource for "doing ethnography".
Ethnography (from Greek ἔθνος ethnos = folk/people and γράφω grapho = to write) is "the science of contextualization" often used in the field of social sciences—particularly in anthropology, in some branches of sociology, and in historical science—that studies people, ethnic groups and other ethnic formations, their ethnogenesis, composition, resettlement, social welfare characteristics, as well as their material and spiritual culture. It is often employed for gathering empirical data on human societies and cultures. Data collection is often done through participant observation, interviews, questionnaires, etc. Ethnography aims to describe the nature of those who are studied (i.e. to describe a people, an ethnos) through writing. In the biological sciences, this type of study might be called a "field study" or a "case report," both of which are used as common synonyms for "ethnography".

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Wording-Meaning Proportionalities

verbal is to mental (process types) as
locution is to idea (levels of projection) as
wording is to meaning (strata) as
lexicogrammar is to semantics (strata)

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Why Semantics Is Modelled As It Is

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 604)
But in modelling the semantic system we face a choice: namely, how far “above” the grammar we should try to push it. Since the decision has to be made with reference to the grammar, this is equivalent to asking how abstract the theoretical constructs are going to be. We have chosen to locate ourselves at a low point on the scale of abstraction, keeping the semantics and the grammar always within hailing distance. There were various reasons for this. First, we wanted to show the grammar at work in construing experience; since we are proposing this as an alternative to cognitive theories, with an “ideation base” rather than a “knowledge base”, we need to posit categories such that their construal in the lexicogrammar is explicit. Secondly, we wanted to present the grammar as “natural”, not arbitrary; this is an essential aspect of the evolution of language from a primary semiotic such as that of human infants. Thirdly, we wanted to explain the vast expansion of the meaning potential that takes place through grammatical metaphor; this depends on the initial congruence between grammatical and semantic categories.
But in any case, it is not really possible to produce a more abstract model of semantics until the less abstract model has been developed first. One has to be able to renew connection with the grammar.

Lexicogrammar And Semantics

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 26):
Thus when we move from the lexicogrammar into the semantics, as we are doing here, we are not simply relabelling everything in a new terminological guise. We shall stress the fundamental relationship between (say) clause complex in the grammar and sequence in the semantics, precisely because the two originate as one: a theory of the logical relationships between processes.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Why "Meta"function?

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 528):
The concept of metafunction is “meta” in the sense that it refers not to functions of individual utterances — functions of the instance — but to functional components of the system of language.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

A Deceptive Clause

He located his socks.

He = Senser
located = Process: mental/Location
his socks = Phenomenon

That is, a mental Process is conflated with a circumstance of Location ('learnt where').

Thursday, 2 June 2011

A Difficult Clause

Realisation formalises the instantiation of system in process. (Martin 1992: 5)

realisation: Attributor
formalises: Process/Attribute (ie "makes formal")
the instantiation of system in process: Carrier

Sunday, 29 May 2011

A Useful Way To Visualise 'Instantiation'

1. Think of a system network, such as that of TRANSITIVITY (IFG3 p302). Think of it as coloured black.
2. Now, for example, think of a clause.
3. Now colour green all the features and realisation statements that are selected for that clause.

The term 'system' refers to the entire TRANSITIVITY network.
The term 'instance' refers to just the green bits.
The term 'instantiation as process' refers to the process of applying the colour green.
The term 'instantiation as scale' — 'the cline of instantiation' — refers to the relation between the entire system and the green bits.

The green bits are both a subpotential of the system, and the "activation" of that subpotential.

The instance is the "activated" portion of the system. The relation of the instance to the system is the relation of the "activated" portion to the system as a whole.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Distinguishing Logogenesis From Instantiation As Process

Logogenesis refers to the unfolding of a text.  It contrasts with ontogenesis and phylogenesis.

As a process, instantiation 'can be represented as involving traversal of the system network and activation of realisation statements'. 'The instance is thus a set of features selected, with associated realisational specifications — an instantial pattern over the potential'.

'A text can be interpreted as an ongoing process of selection of features — an ongoing instantiation of a more permanent system'.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

How A Text Relates To Its Context

Text, as an instance of language
an instance of context (of culture): a (context of) situation.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Deductive And Inductive Reasoning Reconstrued In SFL Terms

deductive reasoning = elaboration of premises

inductive reasoning = extension of premises plus attribution (ie generalisation)

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Why Mathematics Involves Both Language And Epilanguage


Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 606):
Many socio-semiotic systems are combinations of [those realised in language] and [those parasitic on language].

Socio–Semiotic Systems Realised In Language As Registers
Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 606):
Such higher–level systems (theories, institutions, genres), since they are realised in language, are realised as subsystems within the semantics and the grammar. These subsystems are what we have referred to as registers …

Socio–Semiotic Systems Parasitic On Language
Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 606):
… in the sense that they depend on the fact that those who use them are articulate (‘linguate’) beings. These include the visual arts, music and dance; modes of dressing, cooking, organising living space and other forms of meaning–making behaviour; and also charts, maps, diagrams, figures and the like.


Mathematics, as a contextual field, is realised both in language — eg the cube root of twenty-seven is three (however this is expressed) — and in semiotic systems parasitic on language ("epilanguage"), as when realised as diagrams (figures, graphs etc).

Language can be said as well as sensed:
it has wording (lexicogrammar) as well as meaning (semantics).

Epilanguage cannot be said, only sensed:
it has no wording (lexicogrammar), only meaning (semantics).
That is, a diagram cannot be read aloud like language;
though it can, of course, be described or interpreted in words.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Group Vs Phrase

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 311):
A phrase is different from a group in that, whereas a group is an expansion of a word, a phrase is a contraction of a clause. Starting at opposite ends, the two achieve roughly the same status on the rank scale, as units that lie somewhere between the rank of a clause and that of a word.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Hypothetical Material Plane Or Semiotic Plane?

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 119):
The logico-semantic relation of condition, which is prototypically construed as a form of enhancement, could also be construed as a kind of projection … Words such as supposing and assuming are verbs of projection which have come to function as conjunctions in conditional figures; while other words such as imagine and say retain more of their projecting force. … This is an uncertain region in which a figure hangs in the air, so to speak, suspended between the hypothetical material plane and the semiotic one.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Realisation (Token–Value) Vs Instantiation (Token–Type)

"You are Zaphod Beeblebrox?" he squeaked.
"Yeah," said Zaphod, "but don't shout it out or they'll all want one."
"The Zaphod Beeblebrox?"
"No, just a Zaphod Beeblebrox; didn't you hear I come in six packs?"

I am the Zaphod Beeblebrox = Token^Value

I am a Zaphod Beeblebrox = Token^Type (ie Carrier^Attribute)

Sample Difficult Clause Analysis


Four German children owe their lives to an early night


Four German children = Token
owe = Process: relational: identifying: possessive
their lives = Value
to an early night = Cause: Reason realised incongruently as Beneficiary

Four German children owe their life savings to an email scammer

[owe (somebody something) is a possessive verb of benefaction serving as an identifying process (Halliday & Matthiessen 2004: 246)]

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Complexes And The Rank Scale

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 588n):
… complexes are not higher–ranking units but rather expansions of units of a given rank.

Friday, 6 May 2011

How To Identify Adjunct Type By Metafunctional Time

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 279-80):
But many items can occur both as circumstance and in one of the other functions [Modal or Conjunctive Adjunct]. In particular, prepositional phrases having a nominal group consisting of, or starting with, the word that are potentially either Conjunctive or circumstantial; thus, at that moment might well be a circumstance of Time in a history textbook ('at that moment in history') but conjunctive in a vivid personal narrative ('and just at that very moment'). What the grammar offers here, so to speak, are three planes of reality so that for (say) time, it construes experiential time, interpersonal time and textual time.
Experiential time is time as a feature of a process: its location, its duration or its repetition rate in some real or imaginary history.
Interpersonal time is time enacted between speaker and listener: temporality relative to the speaker–now, or usuality as a band of arguable space between positive and negative poles.
Textual time is time relative to the current state of the discourse: ‘then’ in the text’s construction of external reality, or in the internal ordering of the text itself.
Very often only the overall context will suggest which of the three is being foregrounded in a particular prepositional construction.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

How To Identify Adjunct Type By Location In Mood Structure

circumstantial Adjunct (experiential) in Residue
modal Adjunct (interpersonal) in Mood or Comment
conjunctive Adjunct (textual) not in Mood structure

[from Halliday & Matthiessen 2004: 125]

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Why The Study Of Discourse Depends On the Study Grammar

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 658):
A text is meaningful because it is an actualisation of the potential that constitutes the linguistic system; it is for this reason that the study of discourse (‘text linguistics’) cannot properly be separated from the study of the grammar that lies behind it.

Internal Cause Construed Metaphorically: Verbs Of Proving

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 648):
Relations of internal cause — cause in the sense of ‘x so I think/say y’ — are construed metaphorically by verbs of proving such as prove, show, demonstrate, argue, suggest, indicate, imply in ‘intensive identifying relational’ clauses.

The Significance Of Phylogenetic Stratification Of The Content Plane

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 25):
The stratification of the content plane had immense significance in the evolution of the human species — it is not an exaggeration to say that it turned Homo … into Homo sapiens. It opened up the power of language and in so doing created the modern human brain.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Qualities Of Projection Vs Qualities Of Expansion

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 209-10):
Qualities of projection are agnate with processes in figures of sensing; … In contrast qualities of expansion display patterns of agnation within being & having … This fundamental difference explains other differences; for example, qualities of projection tend to occur in agnate pairs of the ‘like’ and ‘please’ type that we find with figures of sensing … whereas qualities of expansion do not.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Compact Vs Dispersed Grammatical Realisation

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 593):
The grammatical realisation of FIGURATION is ‘compact’, being confined to the TRANSITIVITY system of the clause. In contrast, the grammatical realisation of EXPANSION is ‘dispersed’, ranging over more than one grammatical unit. (… compactly realised systems such as configuration [sic] may become dispersed in their realisation through the process of grammatical metaphor.)

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Transgrammatical Semantic Domains

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 592):
… there are semantic domains that range over more than a single grammatical unit. Thus the semantic domain of modality is construed in more than one place in the grammar; for example, it is construed by clauses such as I suppose and it is possible, by verbal groups with finite modal operators such as may and by adverbial groups and modal adverbs such as perhaps. These modal patterns within different grammatical units are not interchangeable/synonyms; they have distinct values within the overall semantic system of modality. … This means that the semantic system of modality is more extensive than the modal features of any one given grammatical unit would suggest; it is realised not by a single grammatical unit but by a range of units: semantic unit a ➘ grammatical units m, n and o.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Grammatical Metaphor: Additive Not Replacive

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 263):
In metaphor … the phenomenon is reconstrued as another category; what is being exploited is the potential that arises — but only after the categories have first been construed as distinct; not otherwise — of treating every phenomenon in more ways than one. In this process the original interpretation is not supplanted; it is combined with the new one into a more complex whole.

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 283):
… we have shown that the metaphorical version is not simply a meaningless (ie synonymous) variant of some congruent form; it is ‘junctional’ — that is, it embodies semantic features deriving from its own lexicogrammatical properties.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

The Conflation Of Axis And Stratification In Protolanguage

In protolanguage,
system conflated with content 
is realised by 
structure conflated with expression.

(1) two levels of abstraction: system/content and structure/expression
(2) two axes: (paradigmatic) system and (syntagmatic) structure
(3) two strata: content and expression

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Abstract Location Vs Other Circumstances

Diagnostic: WH– Probe

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 266-7):
Abstract space is the source of various expressions that serve as realisations of other types of circumstance such as Manner … Rôle … It can be difficult to determine whether such an expression serves as an abstract Location or as a circumstance of another type. But probes involving Wh– items usually help us draw the line. For example, using the spatial where

Thursday, 31 March 2011


Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 320-1):
… both these contextual variables [field and tenor] are, in some sense, independent of language, even though they are constituted in language and the other semiotic systems of a culture. That is, they concern realities that exist alongside the reality created by language itself, semiotic reality. However, there is a third contextual variable that is specifically concerned with the part language is playing in any given context — the symbolic mode, how the linguistic resources are deployed. This covers both the medium (spoken, written, and various subtypes such as written in order to be spoken) and the rhetorical function — persuasive, didactic, informative, etc.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Collective Consciousness

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 609):
Edelman’s interpretation of higher–order consciousness … suggests that this form of consciousness (unlike primary consciousness) is constituted in language. Language is a socio–semiotic system, so it follows that higher–order consciousness is constituted socio–semiotically; and since socio–semiotic systems are collective, it follows that higher–order consciousness must also be collective. …
But it is the rôle of language in the construction of experience as meaning — as shared activity and collaboratively constructed resource — that gives substance to the concept of collective consciousness as an attribute of the human condition.

Cf Edelman (1992: 133):
higher–order consciousness adds socially constructed selfhood to this picture of biological individuality … but it is highly individual (indeed it is personal).

Cf Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 193):
Human collectives: intermediate between conscious beings and institutions. These can function as Senser in sensing of all kinds … but they accept either singular or plural pronouns, and if singular pronominalise with it.

ie the grammar construes the consciousness of human collectives as impersonal.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Extent Vs Scope

Diagnostics: Measure and Subject

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 264):
There is no very sharp line separating (circumstantial) expressions of Extent from (participant) expressions of Scope of the enhancing type; but there is a distinction between them: Extent is expressed in terms of some unit of measurement … whereas Scope in terms other than measure units … and being a participant, the Scope has the potential of being able to serve as Subject.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Token Vs Value

Diagnostic: Voice & Subject

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 233, 235):
With a verb other than be it is clear which is Token and which is Value, since … this can be determined by the voice: if the clause is ‘operative’, the Subject is Token, whereas if the clause is ‘receptive’, the Subject is Value. … With the verb be one cannot tell whether the clause is ‘operative’ or ‘receptive’; the best strategy for analysing these is to substitute some other verb, such as represent, and see which voice is chosen. … Note that in a thematic equative, the nominalisation is always the Value.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

What Do Social Semiotics And Pantheism Have In Common?

SFL enables us to recognise a parallel between pantheism and social semiotics. 

By pantheism, I mean the practice of regarding natural phenomena as if persons: ie as if gods, spirits etc; by social semiotics, I mean the practice of regarding material phenomena, especially human artefacts, as if signs: ie as if metaphenomena. 

In pantheism, natural material phenomena are treated as symbol sources. In personifying such phenomena, the type of symbol source is Senser: ie a conscious participant capable of projecting the content of consciousness. Sensers engage in interior (conscious) symbolic processing.

In social semiotics, artefactual material phenomena are also treated as symbol sources. Here, though, the type of symbol source is Sayer: ie a participant, not necessarily conscious, capable of projecting the content of consciousness (the sign says x). Sayers engage in exterior symbolic processing, which is intermediate between interior symbolic processing (sensing) and symbolising (being).

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Who’s Afraid Of Benjamin Lee Whorf?

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 569):
Whorf (1956) distinguished between overt and covert categories and pointed out that covert categories were often also “cryptotypes” — categories whose meanings were complex and difficult to access. Many aspects of clause grammar, and of the grammar of clause complexes, are essentially cryptotypic.