The Thought Occurs

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Martin's Rebranding Of Halliday's 'Extended Numerative' As "Focus"

From Deploying Functional Grammar (Martin et al 2010: 169):
However, there is one type of structure where the two types of structure [logical and experiential] are out of phase with one another … .  This happens when the Head is a noun that does not represent a thing in its own right but rather an elaboration or extension of another thing, as in the side of the house, two metres of fabric, another cup of coffee. … we'll suggest an analysis here that treats these structures as having an embedded nominal group with the multivariate function Focus …


Blogger Comments:

To be clear, this is merely a rebranding of Halliday's 'complex Numerative' (IFG2: 195-6) or 'extended Numerative' (IFG3: 332-5; IFG4: 394-6) as "Focus".  The analysis above is merely a rebranding of:

extended Numerative: quantum

No argument is provided in support of the change of terminology, which fails to acknowledge its Numerative function, and the term itself is textual, not experiential, in orientation, and is already in use in SFL theory for the focus of New information.

For other examples of Martin rebranding other people's ideas, see here.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

A Pedagogically Harmful Misunderstanding

Dimensionality and all that: new tools for understanding disciplinary knowledge building across the school years
The metalanguage for talking about SFL’s discourse semantic stratum (Martin, 1992; Martin & Rose, 2007) has increasingly been found useful for analysing students’ writing and facilitating classroom talk about disciplinary genres. This paper reports on new descriptions of SFL systems of IDEATION (Hao, 2015, in press), which, with emerging descriptions of field (Doran and Martin in press), have provided valuable ways of talking about knowledge building. Focussing on resources for building relations between items and activities in the field (i.e. dimensionality of entities), we report on the application of this metalanguage in three disciplinary contexts. Looking first at the discipline of science, we show how dimensionality and fine-tuned distinctions of entity types revealed some previously hidden critical aspects of development in young learners’ report writing. We then move to the senior years to show the work of dimensionality in categorising items and activities according to disciplinary specifications in Biology before also exploring the work of dimensionality in response genres of senior Visual Arts. Throughout the presentation we draw attention to the value of a discourse semantic metalanguage and ways in which it may be recontextualised as theoretically principled ‘bridging’ metalanguage to facilitate productive classroom discussion.

Blogger Comments:

The abstract of this seminar paper argues for the value of Martin's model of discourse semantics, in general, and his experiential discourse system of IDEATION, in particular, on the mistaken notion that what is useful to teachers is sufficient to guarantee the validity of a theory.  Logically, pedagogical utility is distinct from theoretical validity.

As demonstrated here, the theorising of discourse semantics (Martin 1992) is founded on misunderstandings of SFL theory, at all scales, from its macro architecture to its micro systems.

As demonstrated here, the experiential discourse system of IDEATION (Martin 1992) is a confusion of textual lexical cohesion (misunderstood), lexis as most delicate grammar, and logical relations (misapplied).

As demonstrated here, Working With Discourse (Martin & Rose 2007) further develops the misunderstandings of Martin (1992) and additionally misunderstands and misrepresents the (theoretically coherent) semantic system of APPRAISAL.

If talented teachers can make good use of even demonstrably very poor theorising, imagine how much more they could achieve by using theory that is self-consistent, consistent with the rest of SFL theory, and its principles, and consistent with experience.  Imagine how much less harm would be done to students, to teachers and to the SFL community in general, if serious misunderstandings of the theory weren't actively promoted.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

What Does Martin Say Saussure Means By 'Sign'?

The extracts below are from Martin, J.R. 2013 Systemic Functional Grammar: A Next Step Into The Theory — Axial Relations

Saussure's concept of the sign is regularly mistaken for a conception he was in fact struggling against — namely the common sense idea that a symbol stands for a concept. …
Saussure does his best, in other words, to establish the sign as the bond between signifié  [signified] and signifiant [signifier].  One important implication of this is that unless one is introducing Saussure's concept of the sign, as we are doing here, there is no need in linguistics or semiotics to refer to either the signifié or signifiant as distinct entities.  What matters in linguistics and semiotics is the sign.

If we return to our initial image of the sign for a moment, we can see that what Hjelmslev is developing is the idea that the line we drew binding signifié with signifiant needs to be theorised with enough brea[d]th and depth to accommodate the complexity of the relations involved.  It might help in this regard to use the analogy of a coin rather than a piece of paper: the coin binds heads with tails, but with a little more room than a piece of paper has between one side and the other.  Linguists and semioticians work in this space, developing ways of formalising the network of relations binding 'heads and tails' (signifié and signifiant). … We've expanded this workspace to highlight what we mean in the two-dimensional diagram below. …

Blogger Comments:

[1] This is precisely what Saussure does mean by a sign; see the quotes in the previous post.  As Saussure (1915: 67) explicitly states:
I call the combination of a concept and a sound-image a sign

[2] Martin misconstrues Saussure's sign, two levels of symbolic abstraction (in SFL: stratification), as the "bond" between the levels (in SFL: realisation).  As Saussure (1915: 67) explicitly states:
I propose to retain the word sign [signe] to designate the whole

The question that arises from Martin's misinterpretation is: What is the epistemological status of signifié (e.g. 'go') and signifiant (e.g. 'green') if they are external to linguistics and semiotics?  What is  it that is being "bonded" by linguistics and semiotics?

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

What Does Saussure Mean By 'Sign'?

The extracts below from the 3rd edition of de Saussure, Ferdinand (1915) Course in General Linguistics.

1 A Sign Is Not An Association Of A Thing And A Name

Some people regard language, when reduced to its elements, as a naming-process only — a list of words, each corresponding to the thing that it names. For example:
This conception is open to criticism at several points. 
  • It assumes that ready-made ideas exist before words (on this point, see below, p. 111); 
  • it does not tell us whether a name is vocal or psychological in nature (arbor, for instance, can be considered from either viewpoint); 
  • finally, it lets us assume that the linking of a name and a thing is a very simple operation — an assumption that is anything but true. 
But this rather naive approach can bring us near the truth by showing us that the linguistic unit is a double entity, one formed by the associating of two terms.

2 A Sign Is A Psychological Association Of Concept And A Sound-Image 

The linguistic sign unites, not a thing and a name, but a concept and a sound-image. The latter is not the material sound, a purely physical thing, but the psychological imprint of the sound, the impression that it makes on our senses. The sound-image is sensory, and if I happen to call it "material," it is only in that sense, and by way of opposing it to the other term of the association, the concept, which is generally more abstract. …
The linguistic sign is then a two-sided psychological entity that can be represented by the drawing:

3 A Sign Is A Psychological Association Of Signified (Concept) And A Signifer (Sound-Image = Word)

Our definition of the linguistic sign poses an important question of terminology. I call the combination of a concept and a sound-image a sign, but in current usage the term generally designates only a sound-image, a word, for example (arbor, etc.). One tends to forget that arbor is called a sign only because it carries the concept "tree," with the result that the idea of the sensory part implies the idea of the whole.
Ambiguity would disappear if the three notions involved here were designated by three names, each suggesting and opposing the others. I propose to retain the word sign [signe] to designate the whole and to replace concept and sound-image respectively by signified [signifié] and signifier [signifiant]; the last two terms have the advantage of indicating the opposition that separates them from each other and from the whole of which they are parts.
Now the real interpretation of the diagram of the signal becomes apparent. Thus
means that in French the concept "to judge" is linked to the sound-image juger; in short, it symbolises signification.