The Thought Occurs

Sunday, 25 November 2018

Today's 'Typology Forum' Paper By Jim Martin

Paralanguage – a systemic-functional perspective

J R Martin
University of Sydney
SFL research exploring semiotic systems other than language, inspired by Kress & van Leeuwen's Reading Images (1996), has led to a surge of interest in multimodal discourse analysis. In this paper, drawing on this work, I will present some proposals for a model of paralanguage inspired by this work, and ask questions about the nature of the relationship between paralanguage and language – beginning to explore how this relationship is similar or different form that between language and other modalities of communication (asking in other words "What's 'para-' about paralanguage?"). Alongside Doran's and Johnston's presentations this opens up consideration of the nature of a functional perspective on typology which looks not just across languages but across semiotic systems – with a special focus on symbolism (i.e. formal symbolic systems such as those used in mathematics), sign language and paralanguage for this forum.

Blogger Comments:

To be clear, the model of body language that Martin and his collaborators have been using since 2009 is (their understanding of) the one I devised at the time as a Research Assistant. It was not inspired by Kress & van Leeuwen's Reading Images (1996), but by the final chapter of Halliday & Matthiessen's Construing Experience Through Meaning (1999), which relates language to other semiotic systems.

The model distinguishes three broad types of body language: protolinguistic, linguistic and epilinguistic. Protolinguistic body language is the use of the body to express the meanings of protolanguage; this does not cease with the ontogenetic move into language. Linguistic body language is the supplementary use of the body to make the meanings of language, as the raising of eyebrows in tune with the raising of tonic pitch, or the beating of hands in time with the rhythm of speech. Epilinguistic body language is the (non-linguistic) use of the body to express the meanings made possible by language, the analogue of pictorial semiotic systems. Linguistic body language is, of course, tri-stratal, but the others are bi-stratal (no grammar, just content and expression).

Postscript (17/1/19):

Martin's most recent publication misunderstanding, misrepresenting and rebranding my ideas, Embodied meaning: a systemic functional perspective on paralanguage (2019), is being critiqued here.

Saturday, 24 November 2018

Today's 'Typology Forum' Paper By David Rose

The textual metafunction: making matter mean

David Rose
University of Sydney
The textual metafunction is sometimes presented as if it were an afterthought, there merely to organise interpersonal and ideational meanings into convenient structures of clause and text. But in the first stages of language, and in much of everyday discourse, it is the primary means of turning the world into meaning, with exophoric reference to the shared sensations of me and you, this and that, here and there. Once the world gets classified, and configured into clauses, and strung out into texts, the same resources used to indicate the world around us are re-deployed to indicate the semiotic world within a text. Where once there were only signs, now meanings come in messages, each of which must be sensible in the unfolding world of the text, and manage listeners’ attention to the information they present. 
Textual typological studies might start from observing these three general functions: introducing and tracking meanings through a text, or phoricity, contextualising messages, or thematicity, and managing information prominence, or newsworthiness. Resources for realising these functions are prototypically distributed between language strata: phoricity in the reference chains of discourse, thematicity in segmental structures of clauses, and newsworthiness in periodic structures of tone groups. But while they are in principle independently variable, both the functions and their realisations interact with each other, and variations in textual functions proliferate as a result. Perhaps also as a consequence of these interactions, their realisations come to vary across languages and registers. 
This paper will make some general observations about interactions between phoricity and thematicity and between thematicity and newsworthiness, and will exemplify variations in these interactions between languages. In the process, it will also illustrate textual variations in register, from dialogue to monologue, and from accompanying to constituting fields.

Blogger Comments:

[1] Rose's negative appraisal — implied by 'afterthought' and 'merely' (counter-expectancy: limiting) — of an unsourced characterisation of the textual metafunction is unjustified. Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 398):
The textual metafunction is second-order in the sense that it is concerned with semiotic reality: that is, reality in the form of meaning. This dimension of reality is itself constructed by other two metafunctions: the ideational which construes a natural reality, and the interpersonal, which enacts an intersubjective reality. The function of the textual metafunction is thus an enabling one with respect to the rest; it takes over the semiotic resources brought into being by the other two metafunctions and as it were operationalises them.
[2] Here Rose confuses the ideational and textual metafunctions.  It is the ideational metafunction that construes experience as meaning ("turns the world into meaning").

[3] As Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 530) point out, the textual metafunction only operationalises the resources already created by the other metafunctions:
Reference is a way of referring to things that are already semiotically accessible: either actually, in the text, or potentially, in the context of situation.
[4] To be clear, "classifying the world" is construing experience as ideational meaning.

[5] To be clear, it is experiential options that are "configured into clauses", and "configured" takes a structural (syntagmatic) rather than systemic (paradigmatic) perspective on the clause.

[6] To be clear, it is meaning that is "strung out into texts", through the process of instantiation during logogenesis.

[7] To be clear, these resources are ideational potential, construed of experience, and on the SFL model, they do not "indicate" the world, since there are no meanings outside semiotic systems that can be "indicated".

[8] To be clear, in theoretical terms, this "redeployment" is the process of instantiation during logogenesis.

[9] To be clear, in theoretical terms, "indicate" here refers to the logical projection of second-order meaning.

[10] To be clear, in SFL terms, this is the semogenic distinction between protolanguage ("signs") and language ("messages"), though there is no reason to think that this is Rose's meaning.

[11] Here Rose switches to promoting Martin's work on textual systems, as if the preceding paragraph leads naturally to them, and as if they address the (confused) issues he has raised.

[12] This misrepresents the model in Martin (1992).  The meanings that are introduced and tracked are participants, and the system for doing so is termed IDENTIFICATION, not phoricity.  Martin's model is Halliday & Hasan's (1976) model of cohesive reference, misunderstood, rebranded and relocated from lexicogrammar to discourse semantics (evidence here).  Essentially, Martin confuses
  • textual reference with reference in the sense of ideational denotation, like his source Du Bois (1980),
  • interpersonal deixis of nominal group structure with non-structural textual reference, and, as a result,
  • nominal groups realising participants with reference items,
which is why the experiential feature 'participant' is presented (Martin 1992: 325) as the unit and entry condition of this textual discourse semantic system.

[13] These refer to Martin's (1992) reworkings of Halliday's THEME and INFORMATION, which confuse linguistic theory (Theme, New) with writing pedagogy, namely:
  • introductory paragraph, rebranded as Macro-Theme, 
  • topic sentence, rebranded as Hyper-Theme (misunderstood from Daneš (1974)), 
  • paragraph summary, rebranded as Hyper-New, and 
  • text summary, rebranded as Macro-New.
Evidence here.

[14] In SFL theory, these are all systems of the lexicogrammatical stratum.

[15] In SFL theory, reference chains represent (non-structural) cohesive relations within the lexicogrammar.

[16] The claim that thematicity is "distributed" in segmental structures is not only inconsistent with SFL theory, but also with Martin (1992), and most notably with Martin & Rose (2007), where such structures are modelled as waves in a chapter titled Periodicity.

[17] This follows Martin (1992: 384) in confusing the content plane (INFORMATION is a lexicogrammatical system) with the expression plane (the tone group is a rank unit of the phonological stratum).

[18] The notion of "interaction" between strata — different levels of symbolic abstraction — repeats Martin's (1992: 488) misunderstanding of the dimensions of the SFL theoretical architecture as modules.  See the explanatory critiques here.

[19] To be clear, in SFL theory, because 'register' refers to a functional variety of language, it is modelled as a point on the cline of instantiation.  Here Rose follows Martin (1992) in misconstruing register as a stratum of context, the culture as semiotic system.  See the critiques here.

[20] To be clear, in SFL theory, the dialogue vs monologue distinction is one of MODE, a system of context (culture), not register (language).

[21] The notion of 'constituting field' derives from Martin (1992: 185, 193) where it applies to activity sequences, which are modelled in that work as context (field), misconstrued as register, but in Martin & Rose (2007: 100-3) as discourse semantic.  To complicate matters further, Rose, like Martin, confuses the ideational semantics (that realises a field) with field (misconstrued as register).

Moreover, in presenting this distinction as a textual distinction at the level of context, it invites confusion with Hasan's (1985/9: 58) feature opposition of ancillary vs constitutive LANGUAGE RÔLE in her model of MODE, the textual system at the level of context (culture), not register (language):
First, there is the question of the LANGUAGE RÔLE — whether it is constitutive or ancillary. These categories should not be seen as sharply distinct but rather as two end-points of a continuum.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Matthiessen On Register (abstract for the 3rd Halliday-Hasan International Forum on Language)

Approaching register trinocularly

Christian M.I.M. Matthiessen
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Like many other linguistic phenomena, or indeed more generally semiotic ones, register — or more helpfully, register variation — has proved to be “slippery”. This is partly because semiotic phenomena are inherently hard to pin down: they exist (or unfold) as semiotic phenomena, of course, but at the same time are also (enacted) as social phenomena, (embodied) as biological phenomena, and (ultimately manifested) as physical phenomena. And within their own order of phenomena, while they are located stratally, they derive their value from their stratal neighbourhood, and (crucially) they are extended somewhere along the cline of instantiation. The slippery nature of register is reflected in the history of the term in Systemic Functional Linguistics. Taken from Reid (1956) by Halliday and his colleagues in the 1960s (e.g. Halliday, McIntosh & Strevens 1964; Gregory 1967), the term register meant registerial variation — functional variation in language according to context of use; it reflected the nature of language as an adaptive system. However, in J.R. Martin’s work, the term slipped stratally from language into context, and it came to stand for the contextual variables implicated in functional variation, i.e. field, tenor and mode. Martin has documented this terminological slippage very clearly and carefully (e.g. 1992). So terminologically, we now have two distinct (but related) uses of the term register— its original and still current sense of functional variation, and its later sense as (roughly) situation type. But the phenomenon of functional variation — register variation — is still recognized, regardless of the terminology (cf. Martin 2010). In what follows I use register in its original sense of functional variation.

The slippery nature of the phenomenon of register variation makes me think of one of M.A.K. Halliday’s technical terms, viz. “semantic slime”. He had in mind, in the first instance, the semantic slime that accompanies terms as they slide from everyday use to technical-scientific use; but perhaps we need to recognize such slime also when terms such as register slither from one theoretical area to another. (And of course, “register” is also used with other senses in linguistics, as in phonetics.)
Fortunately, SFL comes with a theoretical principle, and method, that enables us to deal with slippery phenomena like register. This is Halliday’s trinocular vision (spelled out by him and others in many places, e.g. Halliday 1978, 1979, 1996; Halliday & Matthiessen 2004). The principle is simple but very powerful: since the systemic functional theory of the “architecture” of language is relational in nature (rather than modular), and is based on intersecting semiotic dimensions like the hierarchy of stratification (cf. Matthiessen 2007), the cline of instantiation and the spectrum of metafunctions, we can shunt along these dimensions (cf. Halliday 1961, on shunting — borrowed from the railways) and adopt different observer points, viewing phenomena trinocularly. Halliday (e.g. 1978) worked this out for the hierarchy of stratification: any phenomenon can be viewed “from above” (from a higher stratum), “from below” (from a lower stratum) and “from roundabout” (from its own stratum, its own primary location). Register variation is semantic variation in the first instance, so its primary location is the stratum of semantics. Consequently, when we view it “from above”, we look at it from the point of view of context, when we view it “from below”, we look at it from the point of view of lexicogrammar (and by further steps, phonology, and then phonetics, or graphology, and then graphetics).

Now, I think that Halliday’s trinocular vision can be applied to all semiotic dimensions, not only to the hierarchy of stratification, where it was first applied. For instance, locally within a stratum, we can use it to move up and down the rank scale as we adopt different views on some particular phenomenon. While I think this is by now a well-known extension of the use of trinocular vision, I believe it is still helpful to view register trinocularly in terms of all the relevant semiotic dimensions, and this is what I propose to focus on in my talk:

·      global semiotic dimensions: 
o   the hierarchy of stratification: register viewed from above — contextual variables and values; register viewed from below — lexicogrammatical realizations (and lower-stratal ones as well); register viewed from roundabout — registers as “meanings at risk”;
o   the cline of instantiation: register viewed from above — from the point of view of the overall meaning potential: registers as subpotentials [with potentially distinct probabilities of instantiation]; register viewed from below — from the point of view of instances of this potential, i.e. texts as flow of meaning: registers as particular patterns (in context of situation), possibly emergent as new adaptations detectable at first as text types [with new relative frequencies]; register viewed from roundabout — the point of view of the mid-region of the cline of instantiation, between potential and instance: registers as systems of semantic strategies adapted to institutional settings (as in Halliday 1973, and Patten 1988).
o   the spectrum of metafunction: all metafunctions (and their contextual correlates) are equally involved in the characterization of register, but we still benefit from viewing registers horizontally as it were — ideationally (logically, experientially), interpersonally and textually.

·      local semiotic dimensions:
o   the hierarchy of rank: any given register will extend across all of the relevant ranks of the semantic rank scale, but we still need to shunt along this hierarchy, viewing texts as instantiating particular registers (and so the registers themselves) both from the highest rank and the lowest rank, making sure that they meet in the middle. (The question whether there is one general semantic rank scale, comparable to the general rank scales in lexicogrammar and phonology is a very interesting one, but a tough one to answer since it depends on extremely extensive analysis of texts from a vast number of different registers, and nobody has even come close in any framework. I suspect it will turn out that the semantic rank scale needs to be differentiated both metafunctionally and registerially. And it is also important to note that rank is as it were experientially biased; the other metafunctional modes have complementary models for dealing with “composition” — including the logical one of complexing, which is what Bill Mann, Sandy Thompson and I focussed on when the developer RST [Rhetorical Structure Theory].)
o   the hierarchy of axis: this hierarchy has only two “values”; but any given register can be viewed from above in terms of systemic organization [paradigmatic axis] and from below in terms of structural organization [syntagmatic axis].
If we re-view register trinocularly along the lines that I have suggested, have we covered everything there that needs to be said about register? The short answer is obviously no.

On the one hand, phenomenologically, we also need to consider the ordered typology of systems operating in different phenomenal domains into account, viewing register not only semiotically, but also social, biologically and physically. For example, we need to take account of the role of register in the complex relationship between social hierarchies and the division of labour, noting the way that register variation and dialect variation intersect. (Many of the semiotic upheavals that we witness today can be related to the physical technology of the Internet — i.e. in the first instance (but not only!) to the rapid changes in the channel of the mode variable of context. The ramifications are extensive, just as when the printing press was introduced as another new channel technology.)

On the other hand, to address and take account of all the insightful observations that have been made about register (and also  the potentially misguided ones), we need to go meta — we need to find or create a framework of observations that transcends SFL since a great deal of very valuable work on register has been done and is being done outside SFL, as will be easy to see once the new pioneering journal Register Studies has been launched in 2019).

On the third hand (semiotically, we are not at all limited to our two biological hands — and even this may change Frankenstenially within the biological order of systems if Yuval Noah Harari is on the right track with his vision of Homo Deus, his “history” of tomorrow — which I would call a forecast), there are quite a few phenomena that have yet to be interpreted consensually — like ideology (see Lukin 2019) and individuation (discussed by various contributors to Bednarek & Martin 2010). Ideology and individuation are two of the issues in the exploration of language in context that I pointed to in a talk at ALSFAL XIV hosted by BUAP in Puebla (8-12 October, 2018): “Issues: ideology, individuation, institutions; intervention; impact; implementation”. Time permitting, I will try to touch on these issues since I think they are all central to the theme of this Halliday-Hasan Forum, “Register: New Questions and Possibilities”. One central area of impact is education, and fortunately Kazuhiro Teruya will deal with this area in his talk.

This talk is part of my attempt over the years to contribute to our understanding and investigation of register — e.g. Matthiessen (1993, 2015). The focus on register in this third Forum is very timely, also in view of the launch next year of the new journal Register Studies that I mentioned above. The first issue will include interviews with scholars dealing with register in different traditions and from different point of departure, and my contribution represents SFL; a later issue will include an interview of me about register, conducted by Wang Bo and Helen Ma.