The Thought Occurs

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Anything Goes In SFL — Except Truth

Slide from Jim Martin's plenary today at ASFLA 2016

Shield of the Trinity representation of the trivium.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Language As Social Power

As Bertrand Russell observed in The History Of Western Philosophy, social power is power over each other.

As Douglas Adams observed in The Hitchhiker's Guide To the Galaxy:
it is a well-known and much lamented fact that those people who most want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it.

Friday, 23 September 2016

The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays by M. M. Bakhtin

An English translation is freely available for download here.

From the glossary:

This is the speaking personality, the speaking consciousness. A voice always has a will or desire behind it, its own timbre and overtones. Single-voiced discourse is the dream of poets; double-voiced discourse the realm of the novel. At several points Bakhtin illustrates the difference between these categories by moving language-units from one plane to the other — for example, shifting a trope from the plane of poetry to the plane of prose: both poetic and prose tropes are ambiguous [literally "double-meaninged"] but a poetic trope, while meaning more than one thing, is always only single-voiced. Prose tropes by contrast always contain more than one voice, and are therefore dialogised.

The base condition governing the operation of meaning in any utterance. It is that which insures the primacy of context over text. At any given time, in any given place, there will be a set of conditions — social, historical, meteorological, physiological — that will insure that a word uttered in that place and at that time will have a meaning different than it would have under any other conditions; all utterances are heteroglot in that they are functions of a matrix of forces practically impossible to recoup, and therefore impossible to resolve. Heteroglossia is as close a conceptualisation as is possible of that locus where centripetal and centrifugal forces collide; as such, it is that which a systematic linguistics must always suppress.

Dialogism is the characteristic epistemological mode of a world dominated by heteroglossia. Everything means, is understood, as a part of a greater whole-there is a constant interaction between meanings, all of which have the potential of conditioning others. Which will affect the other, how it will do so and in what degree is what is actually settled at the moment of utterance. This dialogic imperative, mandated by the pre-existence of the language world relative to any of its current inhabitants, insures that there can be no actual monologue. One may, like a primitive tribe that knows only its own limits, be deluded into thinking there is one language, or one may, as grammarians, certain political figures and normative framers of "literary languages" do, seek in a sophisticated way to achieve a unitary language. In both cases the unitariness is relative to the overpowering force of heteroglossia, and thus dialogism.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

The Intellectual Origins Of Van Leeuwen's Ideal–Real Verticality: The Medieval Scale Of Being

Kœstler (1959/79: 97-9):
It was a walled-in universe like a walled-in medieval town.  In the centre lies the earth, dark, heavy and corrupt, surrounded by the concentric spheres of the moon, sun, planets, and stars in an ascending order of perfection, up to the sphere of the primum mobile, and beyond that the Empyrean dwelling of God.
But in the hierarchies of values, which is attached to this hierarchy of space, the original simple division into sub-lunary and supra-lunary regions has now yielded to an infinite number of sub-divisions.  The original, basic difference between coarse, earthly mutability and ethereal permanence is maintained; but both regions are sub-divided in such a manner that the result is a continuous ladder, or graded scale, which stretches from God down to the lowliest form of existence. …
The […] theory was put into a more specifically Christian shape in The Celestial Hierarchy and The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy by the second most influential among the Neoplatonists, known as the pseudo-Dionysius. … It was he who provided the upper reaches of the ladder with a fixed hierarchy of angels, which were afterwards attached to the star-spheres to keep them in motion: the Seraphim turning the Primum Mobile, the Cherubim the sphere of fixed stars, the Thrones the sphere of Saturn; the Dominations, Virtues, and Powers the spheres of Jupiter, Mars, and the sun; the Principalities and Archangels the spheres of Venus and Mercury, while the lower angels look after the moon.
If the upper half of the ladder was Platonic in origin, the lower rungs were provided by Aristotelian biology, which was rediscovered around A.D. 1200.  Particularly important became his 'principle of continuity' between apparently divided realms of nature…
The 'principle of continuity' made it not only possible to arrange all living beings into a hierarchy according to criteria such as 'degrees of perfection', 'powers of soul' or 'realisation of potentialities' (which, of course, were never exactly defined).  It also made it possible to connect the two halves of the chain — the sub-lunary and the celestial — into a single continuous one, without denying the essential difference between them. …
The chain, thus unified, now reached from God's throne down to the meanest worm.  It was further extended downward through the four elements into inanimate nature. … A further downward extension led into the conic cavity in the earth, around whose narrowing slopes the nine hierarchies of devils were arranged in circles, duplicating the nine heavenly spheres; Lucifer, occupying the apex of the cone in the precise centre of the earth, marked the bitter end of the chain.
The medieval universe, as a modern scholar remarked, is thus not really geocentric, but 'diabolocentric'.
Note that, in terms of metafunction, the ideal/real distinction is, of course, an ideational distinction, not a textual one.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Bernstein's Codes From The Perspective Of SFL Theory

Halliday (1978: 25):
What are these linguistic codes, or fashions of speaking? They relate, essentially, to a functional interpretation of language. It is not the words and the sentence structures — still less the pronunciation or ‘accent’ — which make the difference between one type of code and another; it is the relative emphasis placed on different functions of language, or, to put it more accurately, the kinds of meaning that are typically associated with them. The ‘fashions of speaking’ are socio-semantic in nature; they are patterns of meaning that emerge more or less strongly, in particular contexts, especially those relating to the socialisation of the child in the family.

Halliday (1978: 27):
We are still far from being able to give a comprehensive or systematic account of the linguistic realisations of Bernstein’s codes …

Halliday (1978: 27):
Seen from a linguistic point of view, the different ‘codes’, as Bernstein calls them, are different strategies of language use. […] All children have access to the meaning potential of the system; but they may differ, because social groups differ, in their interpretation of what the situation demands.

Halliday (1978: 31):
But the kind of meanings that one child expects to be associated with any particular context of situation may differ widely from what is expected by another. Here we are back to Bernstein’s codes again, which we have now approached from another angle, seeing them as differences in the meaning potential which may be typically associated with given situation types.

Halliday (1978: 67):
In terms of our general picture, the codes act as determinants of register, operating on the selection of meanings within situation types: when the systemics of language — the ordered sets of options that constitute the linguistic system — are activated by the situational determinants of text (the field, tenor and mode […]), this process is regulated by the codes.

Halliday (1978: 68):
It is important to avoid reifying the codes, which are not varieties of language in the sense that registers and social dialects are varieties of language. […] The code is actualised in language through register, the clustering of semantic features according to situation type. (Bernstein in fact uses the term ‘variant’, i.e. ‘elaborated variant’, to refer to those characteristics of a register that derive from the choice of code.) But the codes themselves are types of social semiotic, symbolic orders of meaning generated by the social system. Hence they transmit, or control the transmission of, the underlying patterns of a culture and subculture, acting through the primary socialising agencies of family, peer group and school.

Halliday (1978: 88):
It was clear, however, that any significant linguistic generalisations that could be made would be at the semantic level, since it was through meanings that the codes were manifested in language.

Halliday (1978: 88):
The hypothesis was that, in a given context, say that of parental control of the child’s behaviour, various different subsystems within the semantic system might typically be deployed; hence the ‘codes’ could be thought of as differential orientation to areas of meaning in given social situations.

Halliday (1978: 98):
The sort of differences that are in question, insofar as they are linguistic, are probably to be interpreted along the lines of Bernstein’s ‘codes’, as linguistic manifestations of differences in the social semiotic, different subcultural ‘angles’ on the social system. There are styles of meaning distinguishing one culture or one subculture from another …

Halliday (1978: 106):
What Bernstein’s work suggests is that there may be differences in the relative orientation of different social groups towards the various functions of language in given contexts, and towards different areas of meaning that may be explored within a given function.

Halliday (1978: 106):
We can interpret the codes, from a linguistic point of view, as differences of orientation within the total semantic potential.

Halliday (1978: 111):
‘Code’ is used here in Bernstein’s sense; it is the principle of semiotic organisation governing the choice of meanings by a speaker and their interpretation by a hearer. The code controls the semantic styles of the culture.
Codes are not varieties of language, as dialects and registers are. The codes are, so to speak, ‘above’ the linguistic system; they are types of social semiotic, or symbolic orders of meaning generated by the social system. The code is actualised in language through the register, since it determines the semantic orientation of speakers in particular social contexts; Bernstein’s own use of ‘variant’ (as in ‘elaborated variant’) refers to those characteristics of a register which derive from the form of the code. When the semantic systems of the language are activated by the situational determinants of text — the field, tenor and mode — this process is regulated by the codes.
Hence the codes transmit, or control the transmission of, the underlying patterns of a culture and subculture, acting through the primary socialising agencies of family, peer group and school. As a child comes to attend to and interpret meanings, in the context of situation and context of culture, at the same time he takes over the code. The culture is transmitted to him with the code acting as a filter, defining and making accessible the semiotic principles of his own subculture, so that as he learns the culture he also learns the grid, or subcultural angle on the social system. The child’s linguistic experience reveals the culture to him through the code, and so transmits the code as part of the culture.

Halliday (1978: 123):
The specification of the register by the social context is in turn controlled and modified by the code: the semiotic style, or ‘sociolinguistic coding orientation’ in Bernstein’s term, that represents the particular subcultural angle on the social system. This angle of vision is a function of the social structure. It reflects, in our society, the pattern of social hierarchy, and the resulting tensions between an egalitarian ideology and a hierarchical reality. The code is transmitted initially through the agency of family types and family rôle systems, and subsequently reinforced in the various peer groups of children, adolescents and adults.

Halliday (1978: 181):
In this respect, therefore, it [an anti-language] is more like Bernstein’s (1974) concept of a code, or coding orientation. A code may be defined just in this way: as a systematic pattern of tendencies in the selection of meanings to be exchanged under specified conditions. (Note that the ‘specified conditions’ are in the sociolinguistic environment. They may be social or linguistic, the tendency being, naturally, that the higher the level of variation, the more likely it is that the relevant context will be social rather than linguistic. Hence in the definition of code we could say ‘in specified social contexts’.)

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

A Cruel Insight

Peter Medawar (1961):
Just as compulsory primary education created a market catered for by cheap dailies and weeklies, so the spread of secondary and latterly tertiary education has created a large population of people, often with well-developed literary and scholarly tastes, who have been educated far beyond their capacity to undertake analytical thought.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Theme In Non-Finite Bound Clauses

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 127):
If non-finite, there may be a conjunction or preposition as structural Theme, which may be followed by a Subject as topical Theme; but many non-finite clauses have neither, in which case they consist of Rheme only.

That is, the Predicator in non-finite bound clauses has no thematic status.