The Thought Occurs

Friday, 28 April 2017

Lexis, Delicacy And Instantiation

In Systemic Functional Grammatics, delicacy is the scale from the most general (grammatical) features to the most specific (lexical).

The notion of lexis as most delicate grammar is exemplified by Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 198-9) as follows: 
… we can differentiate both processes and participants into finer and finer subcategories, until we reach a degree of differentiation that is associated with the choice of words (lexical items). Note that it is not (usually) the lexical items themselves that figure as terms of the systems in the network. Rather, the systems are systems of features, and the lexical items come in as the synthetic realisation of particular feature combinations. Thus lexis (vocabulary) is part of a unified lexicogrammar; there is no need to postulate a separate “lexicon” as a pre-existing entity on which the grammar is made to operate.

The process of instantiation is the selection of features and the activation of their realisation statements in a system network, from the most general (grammatical) systems to the most delicate (lexical) systems.

The cline of instantiation is the scale from the system, as potential, to the instance — to the features and activated realisation statements of an actual text.

The instantiation of lexis, therefore, is the instantiation of the most delicate systems of the lexicogrammar.  Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 327): 
Instantiation is the relation between the system and the instance. When we shift attention along this scale, we are moving between the potential that is embodied in any stratum and the deployment of that potential in instances of the same stratum … this move can be made at any degree of delicacy.
The notion of lexis as most local context (Fontaine ISFC 2017 Keynote) is, of course, nonsense.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

The Problem With Martin's Notion Of Grammatical Metaphor As 'Stratal Tension'

(a) In terms of discourse semantics, Martin (1992: 199) analyses the logical relation in the following instance as concessive purpose:
Ben can train hard without improving his time.
In terms of lexicogrammar, on the other hand, the logical relation in this instance is not a type of enhancement (purpose), but the type of extension termed addition: adversative — X and conversely Y — as shown by the paratactic agnate Ben can train hard and not improve his time.  See Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 471-6).

There is thus a "tension" between discourse semantics (concessive purpose) and lexicogrammar (adversative addition). However, despite this tension, this does not constitute an instance of grammatical metaphor. The tension, rather, is between an understanding of logico-semantic relations and a misunderstanding of them.

(b) In terms of discourse semantics, Martin (1992: 203) analyses the logical relation in the following instance as manner: comparison: contrast:
Whereas usually we win, this time we lost.
In terms of lexicogrammar, on the other hand, the logical relation in this instance is not a type of enhancement (manner), but, again, the same type of extension as in (a): addition: adversative — X and conversely Y.

There is thus, again, a "tension" between discourse semantics (contrastive comparison) and lexicogrammar (adversative addition).  However, despite this tension, this does not constitute an instance of grammatical metaphor. The tension, again, is between an understanding of logico-semantic relations and a misunderstanding of them.

The notion of grammatical metaphor as 'stratal tension' requires the establishment of discourse semantic systems that are not "in tension" with the lexicogrammar in order to identify those cases that are not metaphorical.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Grammatical Metaphor: Two Levels Of Semantic Abstraction

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 288):
The correspondence that is construed through grammatical metaphor is an elaborating relationship: an identity is set up between two patterns … In this identity, the metaphorical term is the ‘Token’ and the congruent term is the ‘Value’ … The identity holds between the two configurations as a whole; but … the components of the configurations are also mapped one onto another …
The metaphorical relation is thus similar to inter-stratal realisation in that it construes a token–value type of relation. Here, however, the relation is intra-stratal: the identity holds between different meanings, not between meanings and wordings. The metaphor consists in relating different semantic domains of experience …

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Do Ellipsed Subjects Function As Theme?

No — this would be a contradiction.  Ellipsis marks elements as textually non-prominent, whereas Theme marks elements as textually prominent. Therefore, ellipsed elements do not function as Theme.  Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 563):
Ellipsis marks the textual status of continuous information within a certain grammatical structure. At the same time, the non-ellipsed elements of that structure are given the status of being contrastive in the environment of continuous information. Ellipsis thus assigns differential prominence to the elements of a structure: if they are non-prominent (continuous), they are ellipsed; if they are prominent (contrastive), they are present. The absence of elements through ellipsis is an iconic realisation of lack of prominence.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

The Difference Between The Social Environment Of A Text And Its Context Of Situation

When we construe the social environment of a text, we are construing phenomena of first-order experience.

When we construe the 'context of situation' of a text — an instance of the culture as semiotic system — we are construing phenomena of second-order experience, that is: metaphenomena.

The cultural context is realised by the language that is projected by interlocutors.  The semiotic context realised by language is second-order experience, whereas the interlocutors doing the projecting constitute first-order experience.

See also here.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

The Ergativity Of Identifying Clauses

In identifying clauses, the Identified is the Medium of the Process, but the Identifier varies according to the direction of coding, functioning as
  • the Range of a decoding clause, where it maps onto Value, but
  • the Agent of an encoding clause, where it maps onto Token.

In other words,
  1. decoding: Token/Identified/Medium and Value/Identifier/Range,
  2. encoding: Token/Identifier/Agent and Value/Identified/Medium.
(The Identifier is the element that is most likely to be realised by tonic prominence — it is presented as New information.)