The Thought Occurs

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Chomsky Confusing Biology With Language

Chomsky (1980: 48):
I have not hesitated to propose a general principle of linguistic structure on the basis of observation of a single language. The inference is legitimate, on the assumption that humans are not specifically adapted to learn one rather than another human language. … Assuming that the genetically determined language faculty is a common human possession, we may conclude that a principle of language is universal if we are led to postulate it as a 'precondition' for the acquisition of a single language.

 Blogger Comments:

[1] Genes are biological entities.  The expressions of genes are biological entities.  Any phenotypic traits whose genes have been selected because they are adaptive are biological entities.  Therefore, when Chomsky speaks of a genetically determined "language faculty", he is speaking about a biological entity.

[2] On the other hand,  linguistic structure and principles of language are properties of language, not biology, and so are not the expression of genes.

If a language faculty was "genetically determined", there would be genetic variation (alleles) for it in the population.  The language faculty of an adopted child would be less like the language faculty of its adoptive parent and more like the language faculty of a biological parent it had never met, such as a sperm donor.

Genes provide the biological capacity for children to learn the language whose expressions are perceivable phenomena in their material environment.  What children learn through a biological capacity and the biological capacity itself are distinct phenomena.

[3] Because the preconditions for the acquisition of language are biological, in contradistinction to principles of language, Chomsky's conclusion that a principle of language is universal because it is a precondition for acquisition is entirely spurious.

The problem Chomsky faces is trying to make 17th Century Cartesian 'innateness' scientifically credible as 'genetic inheritance' in the 21st Century.  Given the huge disjunct between the Cartesian Rationalism (non-Empiricism) of the 17th Century and empirical science of the 21st, he is forced to cherry-pick ideas from biology and present them in a way that disguises the inconsistencies.  In a linguistic community largely ignorant of biology and the history and philosophy of science, and whose institutional status and economic well-being depends on affiliating with his work, Chomsky, who in 1972 said that Natural Selection has 'no substance', remains a credible intellectual force.

By denying scientific principles, one may maintain any paradox.
— Galileo Galilei

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Tuesday, 23 December 2014


One forgets words as one forgets names. 
One's vocabulary needs constant fertilising or it will die.

— Evelyn Waugh

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Van Leeuwen's 'Ideal vs Real' Distinction In Visual Semiotics

Leaving aside their interpersonal function of valuation, the meanings 'ideal' and 'real', like the meanings 'idea' and 'thing', are construals of experience, and, as such, are ideational, not textual, with regard to metafunction.

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 7):
The ideational metafunction is concerned with construing experience — it is language as a theory of reality, as a resource for reflecting on the world.
'Real' refers to the material order of experience: things (and other phenomena); whereas 'ideal' refers to the semiotic order: ideas of things (and other phenomena). 

As levels of abstraction, 'ideal' is higher than 'real', and positioning expressions of 'the ideal' above expressions of 'the real' in images is a visual means of representing that ideational relation.

The textual metafunction, on the other hand, is concerned with organising the ideational and interpersonal, as through giving different degrees of textual prominence — e.g. thematic or informational — to ideational and to interpersonal meanings.

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 7-8):
The textual metafunction is an enabling one; it is concerned with organising ideational and interpersonal meaning as discourse — as meaning that is contextualised and shared. But this does not mean processing some pre-existing body of information; rather it is the ongoing creation of a semiotic realm of reality.
If it is true that the top portion of an image has a textual function in the construction of an image as message, this is quite distinct from the types of ideational meaning that are likely to be given textual prominence by such means.

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 85): 
Initial position in the English clause is meaningful in the construction of the clause as message; specifically, it has a thematic function.

Friday, 28 November 2014

How To Use The Other Metafunctions To Identify The Participants In Identifying Processes

Interpersonal: The Token is the Subject if the clause is operative voice.

Textual: The Identifier is the unmarked focus of New information (realised by tonic prominence).

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Conscious Processes And Linguistic Choice

What does the construal of experience that has evolved in language, as modelled by SFL grammatics, tell us about people using language?

(1) Someone using language is modelled as a projection nexus in which symbolic processing projects the content plane of language into semiotic existence.

(2) The Medium of symbolic processing, the Symboliser, is construed as a symbol source (Sayer) in the case of saying (verbal processes), and as endowed with consciousness (Senser) in the case of sensing (cognitive and desiderative mental processes).

(3) The symbolic processing that projects the content plane of language into semiotic existence can be either self-engendered (middle) or other-engendered (effective).

(4) Symbolic processing projects wording (lexicogrammar) into semiotic existence, in the case of saying (verbal processes), and it projects meaning (semantics) into semiotic existence, in the case of sensing (cognitive and desiderative mental processes).

(5) The linguistic content that is projected into semiotic existence is organised as a system in which options are networked according to relations that are both logical (expansion: elaboration, extension and enhancement) and experiential (symbolic identity: realisation).

(6) The activation of specific options in the network of relations — during logogenesis (the creation of text) — is the process of instantiation.

(7) The question of which options will be instantiated in a given situation type is built into the system of potential as probabilities, varying as registers, established through previous experiences of logogenesis in the context of ontogenesis.

The notion of "free will" is another matter.
Honestly, I cannot understand what people mean when they talk about the freedom of the human will.  I have a feeling, for instance, that I will something or other; but what relation this has with freedom I cannot understand at all.  I feel that I will to light my pipe and I do it; but how can I connect this up with the idea of freedom? What is behind the act of willing to light the pipe? Another act of willing?Schopenhauer once said: Der Mensch kann was er will; er kann aber nicht wollen was er will (Man can do what he will but he cannot will what he wills).
― Albert Einstein

Free will is a delusion caused by our inability to analyse our own motives.
— Charles Darwin

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

The Difference Between Context And Register

Context is realised by language, and so: more abstract than language.
The context-language relation is one of symbolic identity: Value-Token.

Registers are subpotentials of language (that realise subpotentials of context).
The register-language relation is one of class-membership: Carrier-Attribute.

Context Vs Register

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 375):
Context is the ‘semiotic environment’ of language (and other socio-semiotic systems such as image systems); its systems specify what demands may be placed on language and what rôle it may play in responding to those demands.
Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 563)
… a register is a particular probabilistic setting of the system; and the move from one register to another is a re-setting of these probabilities.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

From Behaviour To Saying Behaviourally

(1) He nodded.

Process: behavioural

(2) He nodded agreement.

Process: verbal

(3) He nodded that he agreed with her.


with her
Process: verbal

Process: mental

Thursday, 6 November 2014

System Networks

System networks are not flowcharts.
Nothing flows through the network.
A speaker does not choose how far to go in delicacy.

System networks map how features relate to each other.  The architecture of the network can be understood in terms of the logical relations set out in the theory: specifically, the three types of expansion.

i. delicacy: elaboration
ii. disjunction: extension: alternative
iii. conjunction: extension: addition
iv. entry condition: enhancement: condition

The arrows in a system network represent the relation of condition, not temporality.
A "traversal" of the network is a specific map — an instantiation — of logically related features.

Hostility To Critique: A Character Study

Bertrand Russell, in his History Of Western Philosophy (pp 21-2), identifies those who are hostile to science and explains the motivations for their hostility:
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.

a person who believes in or practises firm discipline.
"he was a strict disciplinarian whose word was law"

Friday, 31 October 2014

Behavioural Processes: Grammatical Reactances

(Mostly) from Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 135-6).
  • Like material clauses (but unlike mental clauses) the unmarked present tense in behavioural clauses is present-in-present (he is watching) rather than the simple present (he watches).
  • Behavioural clauses include conscious processing construed as active behaviour (watching listening, pondering, meditating) rather than just passive sensing (seeing, hearing, believing).
  • Like the Senser in a mental clause, the ‘Behaver’ in a behavioural one is endowed with consciousness; whereas in other respects behavioural clauses are more like material ones.
  • Like material clauses (but unlike mental ones), behavioural clauses can be probed with do: What are you doing? — I’m meditating but not I’m believing.
  • Behavioural clauses normally do not project, or project only in highly restricted ways (contrast mental: cognitive David believed —> the moon was a balloon with behavioural: David was meditating —> the moon was a balloon;
  • Behavioural clauses can not accept a ‘fact’ serving as Phenomenon (mental: David saw that the others had already left but not behavioural: David watched that the others had already left).

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Behavioural Processes

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 136):
These can be interpreted as a subtype of material processes or as a borderline category between material and mental.
Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 514):
Here [in English] the grammar postulates a third type of process intermediate between these two [material and mental]: “behavioural” processes, in which inner events are externalised as bodily behaviour, like staring, thinking (in the sense of pondering) or crying.
Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 171):
On the borderline between ‘material’ and ‘mental’ are the behavioural processes: those that represent the outer manifestations of inner workingsthe acting out of processes of consciousness and physiological states. 
Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 248-50):
These are processes of (typically human) physiological and psychological behaviour, like breathing, coughing, smiling, dreaming and staring. They are the least distinct of all the six process types because they have no clearly defined characteristics of their own; rather they are partly like the material and partly like the mental.
 Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 250):
The usual unmarked present tense for behavioural processes is present in present, like the material … however, we also find the simple present in its unmarked sense (ie not meaning habitual) … which suggests an affiliation with a mental.
Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 250):
The participant who is ‘behaving’, labelled Behaver, is typically a conscious being, like the Senser; the Process is grammatically more like one of ‘doing’.
Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 255):
… ‘behavioural’ process clauses are not so much a distinct type of process, but rather a cluster of small subtypes blending the material and the mental into a continuum …

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

'Deploying Functional Grammar' On "Behavioural" Processes

In Deploying Functional Grammar (Martin et al. 2010: 124), the following clauses are said to be 'best treated as behavioural':
the tyres went 'screech!'
the little engine went 'wheeee!'
the car went 'bang!'
This is a very strange analysis, not least because behavioural processes are processes of psychological and physiological behaviour.

Looked at from above, in terms of the meaning being realised, these are creative happenings (making noises).

Looked at from their own level, in terms of the wording that realises the meaning, these are verbal clauses quoting locutions (cf and she went "Oh my God!").

They are therefore metaphorical clauses in which a material happening [meaning] is realised as a verbal projection nexus [wording] — one stylistic resource for personifying inanimate objects in children's stories.

The source of this confusion — aside from not taking a trinocular perspective — appears to be the unsupported claim that behavioural processes include 'processes which concern the creation of a symbolic representation' (ibid) — though it is more likely that this was added as an ad hoc afterthought intended to justify the analysis.

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 252):
… while ‘behavioural’ clauses do not ‘project’ indirect speech or thought, they often appear in fictional narrative introducing direct speech, as a means of attaching a behavioural feature to the verbal process of ‘saying’.
For example: "She's responsible", they gossiped. 

Monday, 27 October 2014

Van Leeuwen's Verticality As "Ideal – Real"

upper class
lower class

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Reconstruing Email Discussions As Protolanguage

After more than a decade of observing the socio-semiotic dynamics of another social species, rainbow lorikeets, as they continually "renegotiate" their position in the pecking order, it strikes me that the socio-semiotic dynamics of humans on academic discussion lists, such as sys-func and sysfling, can also be construed in terms of the microfunctions of protolanguage.

exterior phenomenon
I want you-&-me
I want it
I think you-&-me
I think it

regulatory: demands for compliance (i.e. bullying)
interactional: collegiality and grooming (e.g. flattery*)
instrumental: requests for goods-&-services (e.g. for articles and analyses)
personal: opinions (e.g. on analyses and theory)

* Some instances:

David Rose to Margaret Berry (Sys-Func and Sysfling 27/9/13):
I can't tell you what a pleasure it is having someone with your experience and stature and personal generosity fomenting discussion on sysfling… its such a great potential resource for the community…

David Rose to Gordon Tucker (Sys-Func and Sysfling 5/12/13):
And I am glad that you are adding your academic weight to correct the epidemic error that process types are classifications of verbs.

David Rose to Margaret Berry (Sys-Func 13/2/14):
 Thank heavens you're still with us Margaret

David Rose to Margaret Berry (Sys-Func 15/2/14):
Thanks Margaret, its such a pleasure to read your posts

I might point out that David Rose has openly boasted, with glee — at least three times in my presence — that if he tells a colleague he likes their work they "roll over and become like kittens".

Flattery corrupts both the receiver and the giver.
— Edmund Burke

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Words We Get From Irish: 'Tory'

Tory (n.) 1566, "an outlaw," specifically "one of a class of Irish robbers noted for outrages and savage cruelty," from Irish toruighe "plunderer," originally "pursuer, searcher," from Old Irish toirighim "I pursue," from toir "pursuit," from Celtic *to-wo-ret- "a running up to," from PIE root *ret- "to run, roll" (see rotary). 

About 1646, it emerged as a derogatory term for Irish Catholics dispossessed of their land (some of whom subsequently turned to outlawry); c.1680 applied by Exclusioners to supporters of the Catholic Duke of York (later James II) in his succession to the throne of England. After 1689, Tory was the name of a British political party at first composed of Yorkist Tories of 1680. Superseded c.1830 by Conservative, though it continues to be used colloquially. In American history, Tory was the name given after 1769 to colonists who remained loyal to George III of England; it represents their relative position in the pre-revolutionary English political order in the colonies. As an adjective from 1680s.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Pedagogues 'R' Us

Let's not burn the universities yet. 
After all, the damage they do might be worse.
 — H. L. Mencken

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Realisation: Encoding & Decoding

In an identifying relation, the identity either encodes the Value (the higher level of abstraction) by reference to the Token (the lower level of abstraction), or it decodes the Token by reference to the Value (Halliday & Matthiessen 2004: 230).

So, in the identifying relation: expression realises content
the identity either encodes content by reference to expression,
or it decodes expression by reference to content.

And, in the identifying relation: form realises function
the identity either encodes function by reference to form,
or it decodes form by reference to function.

And, in the identifying relation: structure realises system
the identity either encodes system by reference to structure,
or it decodes structure by reference to system.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Construing Experience

'A quantum of experience is not defined before it is construed' (Halliday & Matthiessen 1999: 118)

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Circumstance Vs Expanding Clause

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 369):
In the creation of text, we choose between augmenting a clause ‘internally’ by means of a circumstantial element and augmenting it ‘externally’ by means of another clause in a complex. The decision depends on many factors; but the basic consideration has to do with how much textual, interpersonal and experiential semiotic ‘weight’ is to be assigned to the unit.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Semantic Weight

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 111):
… whenever two figures are related in a sequence, they may be either equal or unequal in semantic weight. … The projecting and projected figures may have equal status in the sequence: this relation is that of quoting … . Or they may have unequal status: this relation is that of reporting ….

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Projections Of Meaning & Wording: Ideas & Locutions

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 108):
We have suggested that the relation of projection sets up one figure on a different plane of reality — we refer to this as the second-order or semiotic level. This second-order level of reality is the content plane of a semiotic system. That is to say, the projected figure is projected in the form of ‘content’. We have seen that the content plane is stratified into two levels — semantics (the level of meanings) and lexicogrammar (the level of wordings). Consequently, we would expect projections to be located at either or both of these levels, and this is indeed what happens: a projected figure is either a meaning or a wording. […] We will refer to these [i.e. meaning and wording] in the context of projection as ideas and locutions.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Comment Adjuncts

Examples Of Adverbs
on whole
naturally, inevitably, of course
obviously, clearly, plainly, of course
doubtless, indubitably, no doubt
unsurprisingly, predictably, to no-one’s surprise
surprisingly, unexpectedly
evidently, allegedly, supposedly
desirable: luck
luckily, fortunately
desirable: hope
sadly, unfortunately
on Subject
wisely, cleverly
foolishly, stupidly
rightly, correctly, justifiably
wrongly, unjustifiably
truly, honestly, seriously (+ tone 1)
admittedly, certainly, to be sure (+ tone 4)
actually, really, in fact, as a matter of fact
generally, broadly, roughly, ordinarily, by and large, on the whole
personal engagement
frankly, candidly, honestly, to be honest
confidentially, between you and me
personally, for my part
truly, strictly

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 130)