The Thought Occurs

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

One Way To Analyse The Transitivity Of A Difficult Clause


The guitar lends itself well to playing pentatonic scales.



Take a trinocular perspective.

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 31):
We cannot expect to understand the grammar just by looking at it from its own level; we also look into it ‘from above’ and ‘from below’, taking a trinocular perspective. But since the view from these different angles is often conflicting, the description will inevitably be a form of compromise.


QUESTION: What type of clause is it in terms of the experiential meaning being realised?

ANSWER: In terms of the meaning it is realising, the clause is an ‘attributive relational’.

REASON: An entity (guitar) has some class attributed to it (the class of things good for playing pentatonic scales)

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 219):
In the ‘attributive’ mode, an entity has some class ascribed or attributed to it.


QUESTION: What type of clause is it in terms of lexicogrammatical paradigmatic and syntagmatic relations?

ANSWER: In terms of the wording realising the meaning, the clause is ‘material’.

REASON: The clause structure includes a Recipient (‘playing pentatonic scales’) of the lending process, and the Recipient is a participant restricted to ‘material’ clauses.

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 191):
Recipients occur only in ‘transitive transformative’ clauses of the ‘extending’ type; and within that category, they occur with those clauses that denote a transfer of the possession of goods. …

(4) THE VIEW ‘FROM BELOW’: WORDING (group/phrase rank)

QUESTION: What type of clause is it in terms of how it is realised at the rank below?

ANSWER: ‘Material’ is not excluded by the probe for unmarked present tense of the verbal group.

REASON: The unmarked ‘present in present’ tense is used for specific doings and happenings, whereas the marked ’simple present’ tense is for generalised or habitual doings, such as construed by this clause.

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 179-80):
The unmarked tense selection is the present–in–present (eg is doing) rather than the simple present (eg does) … The present–in–present serves to narrow down the present from the extended now of habits and ‘general truths’ that is characteristic of the simple present with ‘material’ clauses …


The clause is a ‘material’ realisation of an ‘attributive’ relation, and so an instance of grammatical metaphor. The structural analysis is as follows:

The guitar: Actor
lends: Process: material
itself: Goal
well: Manner: quality
to [[playing pentatonic scales]]: Recipient


FIRST OBSERVATION: the role of Actor is filled by an inanimate (guitar) rather than animate entity

COMMENT: This is at odds with the notion of Actor as the source of energy for a material process.

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 179):
… ‘material’ clauses are clauses of doing–&–happening: a ‘material’ clause construes a quantum of change in the flow of events as taking place through some input of energy. … the source of the energy bringing about the change is typically a participant — the Actor … The Actor is the one who does the deed — that is, the one that brings about the change.

SECOND OBSERVATION: the role of Recipient is filled by a ‘macrothing’ (an Act) rather than a ’simple thing’, conscious or non-conscious.

COMMENT: This is at odds with the notion of Recipient as the one to whom goods are given.

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 191):
The Recipient is the one that goods are given to …