Thursday, 19 January 2017

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Trinocular Perspective

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 48):
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.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Overall Meaning Potential As An Aggregate Of Registerial Subpotentials

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 48):
Language has evolved as a fully systemic semiotic system: it is possible to posit and describe the overall meaning potential for a given language, interpreting this meaning potential as an aggregate of registerial subpotentials.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Other Semiotic Systems And The Cline Of Instantiation

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 48):
Another interesting issue is to what extent different semiotic systems extend all the way along the cline of instantiation from the instance pole to the potential pole.  We can ask of any one given semiotic system how systemic it is — which clearly relates to the question of how much individual variation there is across a speech fellowship (or speech community). … it is theoretically quite possible that certain other semiotic systems are more usefully interpreted as operating with systems located somewhere midway along the cline of instantiation; in other words, they are most usefully described in register-specific terms. For example, if we consider semiotic systems that have been included under the heading of ‘visual semiotics’, we can note how highly contextually adapted and specialised systems such as technical drawing, mass transport route cartography and press photography are; it is not immediately clear that they can all be regarded as registerial subsystems of a general visual semiotic system.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Cline Of Integration Of Semiotic Systems

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 48):
One interesting issue that relates to both questions posed above is to what extent the different semiotic systems operating in context are integrated with one another and to what extent they operate independently of one another. To explore this issue, we can posit a cline of integration, extending from completely integrated systems to completely independent ones (cf. Matthiessen, 2009a).

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Relations Between Instantiations Of Language And Other Semiotic Systems

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 47):
If we take ‘text’ to mean an instance of the system of a language operating in a context of situation, then we can ask: (1) how it relates to instances of other semiotic systems operating in the same context of situation, and (2) how semiotic labour is divided among these different semiotic systems – how they complement one another.

Blogger Comment:

Theoretical caveat: Here text (Token) is construed metaphorically as a material Actor, and the cultural situation (Value) it realises is metaphorically construed as its Location.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Language And Gesture

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 46-7):
Most accounts of ‘multimodal text’ so far have probably focused on combinations of written texts and instances of ‘visual semiotic’ systems. From a developmental and evolutionary point of view, it would make more sense to start with spoken texts unfolding together with instances of other somatic semiotic systems (i.e. other semiotic systems using some aspect of the body as their expression plane; see Matthiessen, 2009a, and cf. Thibault’s, 2004, notion of the ‘signifying body’) before moving on to interpret and describe exo-somatic semiotic systems. Indeed, the protolanguages of early childhood tend to be both vocal and gestural in their expression (see Halliday, 1975, 1992d, 2004); and we can hypothesise that the same was true of protolanguages in human evolution (see Matthiessen, 2004a). … An early systemic functional contribution to the study of language and gesture is Muntigl (2004), and the systemic functional work on language and gesture has been followed up by Hood (2011).

Blogger Comment:

Not insignificantly, the theoretical basis of "Hood's contribution to the study of language and gesture" is the unpublished work of this blogger (Cléirigh 2009), which distinguishes — on the basis of ontogenesis and phylogenesis — between protolinguistic, linguistic and epilinguistic gesture–&–posture systems.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Text As Instance Across Semiotic Modes

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 46):
The term ‘text’ includes both spoken and written instances of the linguistic system. … However, the sense of text is being extended to other semiotic systems, and scholars refer to instances of e.g. ‘visual semiotic’ systems as ‘(visual) texts’ (thus a painting would be a visual semiotic text) and they also refer to ‘multimodal texts’ — instances of more than one semiotic system.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Textual Semantic Units

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 45-6):
Textually, a text is a flow of information, or, more accurately, waves of information. These wave patterns extend from the whole text through rhetorical paragraphs to local waves, or messages — quanta of information that are realised by clauses in their textual guise, and (in spoken language) also by information units.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Interpersonal Semantic Units

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 45):
Interpersonally, a text is a series of exchanges between speaker and addressee – even if it is a one-sided monologue that is essentially a series of statements acknowledged silently by the addressee. These exchanges are propelled forward locally by moves, which are realised by clauses in their interpersonal guise.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Ideational Semantic Units

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 45):
In describing the structure of the text, we have foregrounded the perspective of the ideational metafunction. Sequences are construed through logical resources and figures through experiential ones; and rhetorical paragraphs and groups of paragraphs can be interpreted as being formed by logical resources – in terms of logico-semantic relations (cf. Halliday, 2001; Matthiessen, 2002a). At the same time, texts are also organised in terms of interpersonal and textual patterns of meaning.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Grammar Beyond The Clause Complex: Cohesion

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 44):
Thus the grammar makes the local structure of the text ‘tighter’, more highly integrated, by constructing it not only as meaning but also as wording. However, the grammar also provides some important guidance beyond the domain of the clause complex, i.e. beyond the most extensive domain of grammatical structure. It does this by means of the resources of cohesion, e.g. by means of cohesive conjunctions such as for example, in addition, in contrast, therefore, meanwhile, which can mark relations between sequences realised by clause complexes and also between (groups of) rhetorical paragraphs.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

The Relationship Between Situation, Text, and Clause

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 44):
Globally, a text is structured according to the situation it operates in; the contextual structure is projected onto the text, and the contextual elements are realised by patterns of meaning in the text. As a semantic unit, the text consists of semantic domains of different sizes. It is likely to consist of rhetorical paragraphs (or parasemes (see Halliday, 2002d), which may or may not correspond to orthographic paragraphs in writing). In turn, these consist of sequences – sequences of figures, i.e. configurations of processes, participants involved in these and attendant circumstances. These more local domains, sequences and figures, are typically realised grammatically: sequences are realised by clause complexes, and figures by clauses.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Modelling Text Depth: Rank Scale vs Internal Nesting

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 44):
In general, two approaches to the account of the depth of texts have emerged in various traditions: the depth of layering may be modelled in terms of a semantic rank scale operating with some kind of constituency structure (analogous to the lexicogrammatical and phonological rank scales discussed above), as in Longacre’s work since the 1970s; or it may be modelled in terms of internal nesting of relational organisation — along the lines of Grimes (1975) and Beekman, Callow & Kopesec (1981). Within systemic functional linguistics, we also find these two models of the depth of text — the rank-scale model with rhetorical units proposed by Cloran (1994) and the internal-nesting model derived from Rhetorical Structure Theory (RST, e.g. Matthiessen & Thompson, 1988; Matthiessen, 1992, 2002a). The two are applied to the analysis of the same text by Cloran, Stuart-Smith & Young (2007). They are not, of course, mutually exclusive; they can be interpreted as capturing different aspects of the ‘depth’ of texts. And as grammarians we do not have to choose between the two as long as they provide us with motivated accounts of how to relate semantics to grammar.

Friday, 6 January 2017

The Depth Of Texts

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 43-4):
Texts have ‘depth’ – ordered layers of semantic patterns, ranging from the global semantic domain of the whole text to local semantic domain corresponding to domains of lexicogrammatical patterning. This depth is reflected in traditional accounts within composition and rhetoric in notions like rhetorical paragraph and topic sentence, and linguists and other scholars concerned with the analysis of texts and the description of the systems that lie behind them have proposed various frameworks for accounting for the ‘depth’ of texts, including pioneering contributions from the broad tradition of tagmemic linguistics …

Blogger Comment:

Notions like 'rhetorical paragraph' and 'topic sentence' are the concern of writing pedagogy.*  Writing pedagogy is a "macro-proposal" for the writing of texts, whereas linguistic theory is a "macro-proposition" for the modelling of language.

*Note that Martin (1992) rebrands 'introductory paragraph' as 'macro-Theme' and 'topic sentence' as 'hyper-Theme' and presents them as linguistic theory.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Context Structure Projected Onto Text Structure

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 43):
If the situation is one of ‘meaning’ in terms of the sociosemiotic activity then the entire structure of the situation is projected onto the text. For example, in a situation of telling a traditional folk tale, the structure would be (from Hasan, 1984, but slightly simplified):
(Placement ^ ) Initiating Event ^ Sequent Event¹⁻ⁿ ^ Final Event ( ^ Finale) (° Moral)
This structure is projected onto the text operating in the situation – and possibly also onto other accompanying semiotic processes such as a musical score. Each element, or stage, of the structure of the situation is realised by distinctive semantic patterns, as illustrated for Placement by Hasan (1984). These distinctive semantic patterns are, in turn, realised by distinctive lexicogrammatical patterns; but the patterns of wording in the lexicogrammar are always mediated by the patterns of meaning in the semantics.

Blogger Comment:

This new addition to IFG by the editor, Matthiessen, reinterprets Hasan's work on 'Generic Structure Potential' (GSP) as 'context structure projected onto text structure'.

Hasan (1984) was concerned with deriving semantic structure 'from above', that is: from context, in accordance with the trinocular perspective advocated by Halliday, together with the principle that a functional theory prioritises the view 'from above'.

Hasan was concerned with semantic structure potential of particular genres, or text types; that is, of particular registers.

Here Matthiessen reinterprets Hasan's register-specific semantic structure potential as the structure of an instance of context that is projected onto the semantic structure of an instance of language.

Note that the aspects of the situation that are not projected onto the structure of the text include:
  • what's going on (field), e.g. a parent reading to a child at bed-time;
  • who's involved, e.g. the tenor relation between parent and child; and
  • the rôle of language, e.g. spoken mode.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Text As Semantic Unit

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 43):
A text is organised internally as patterns of logical, experiential, interpersonal and textual meaning. At the same time, it is organised externally as a unit operating in context: the structure of the context of situation that a text operates in is, as it were, projected onto the text.

Blogger Comments:

[1] This new addition to IFG by the editor, Matthiessen, blurs the distinction between semantics and instantiation, as a result of blurring the distinction between 'text' as a unit of the semantic stratum and 'text' as an instance of a linguistic system.  (The topic under discussion is 'semantics'.)

On the SFL model of stratification, a text realises a context of situation.  The relation between them one of symbolic abstraction, a sub-type of intensive identity.  The relation between text and situation, therefore, is not spatio-temporal (text "in" situation).

The notion of a text as 'a unit operating in context of situation' construes 'text' as Actor of a material Process and 'context of situation' as its spatio-temporal Location:

in context of situation
Process: material

This is a (metaphorical) construal of text as a Medium of the instantiation process during logogenesis, not a construal of text as a unit of the semantic stratum.

[2] On the SFL model, context and language are construed together (as different levels of symbolic abstraction).  The metaphor that 'the structure of the context of situation is projected onto the text' construes 'the structure of the context of situation' as Goal/Medium of a material Process and 'the text' as its spatio-temporal Location:

the structure of the context of situation
is projected 
onto the text
Process: material

Tuesday, 3 January 2017


Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 43):
The basic unit of semantics is the text — language functioning in context, an instance of the semantic system.

Blogger Comment:

Note that this new addition to IFG by the editor, Matthiessen, blurs the distinction between 'text' as a unit of the semantic stratum and 'text' as an instance of a linguistic system.  Most importantly:
  • the theoretical notion of 'text as semantic unit' is not restricted to the instance pole of the cline of instantiation, and 
  • the theoretical notion of 'text as instance' is not restricted to the semantic stratum.

It will be seen that this blurring compromises the discussion that follows.

Monday, 2 January 2017

Content: Semantics & Lexicogrammar

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 43):
As the upper of the two content strata within language, semantics is the interface between context and lexicogrammar. Semantics transforms experience and interpersonal relationships into linguistic meaning, and lexicogrammar transforms this meaning into words, as we put it above, adopting the speaker’s perspective.

Blogger Comment:

Note that this new addition to IFG by the editor, Matthiessen, construes each of semantics and lexicogrammar as both the Assigner and Value of these identifying relations — as both the Agent and Range of the Process.

experience and interpersonal relationships
linguistic meaning
Process: relational
Identified Token

Identifier Value

this meaning

Process: relational
Identified Token

Identifier Value

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Semantics As Interface

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 42-3):
Semantics is the highest stratum within language; it serves as an ‘interface’ between language and the environment outside language. This means that semantics interfaces with context, but not only with context — it also interfaces with other systems that operate within context, viz. with the content systems of other semiotic systems and with bio-semiotic systems such as our systems of perception and our system of bodily action (cf. Halliday & Matthiessen, 1999).

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Mixed Channels And The Blurring Of Sharing Vs Exploring

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 42):
Technological advances have continued to enhance the potential of both phonic and graphic channels, and to enable mixed channels (cf. Halliday, 2008: 140–141). Importantly, mobile and web-based technologies (for hardware and software) have changed the possibilities of ‘sharing’ in rather dramatic ways, with a whole host of new options like e-mail messages, text messages, blogs, tweets and other formats associated with social media, as investigated and discussed by Macnamara (2010). As a result, the distinction between the private sphere of ‘sharing’ values and opinions and the ‘public’ sphere of exploring them has become blurred.

Friday, 30 December 2016

Mode: Channel

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 42):
Channel determines the ‘bandwidth’ of the flow of meanings in a situation. For most of human history, the channel was only phonic, but typically with visual contact (thus also allowing for accompanying gestures, facial expressions and other forms of visual ‘paralanguage’); but with the gradual emergence of writing, initially in certain city-based civilisations around five thousand years ago, graphic channels were added, and archival uses of language became possible.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Orientation Of Text Towards Both Field And Tenor: 'Enabling' Situations

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 42):
The goals of ‘enabling’ situations can also be said to relate to both field and tenor, but in a different way. They concern the addressee’s activities in some field, but tenor comes into the picture as well because these activities are ‘modulated’: the addressee is either capacitated to undertake them (instruction) or required to do so (regulation). In terms of their organisation, instructional texts tend to be more field-like, being organised as the sequence of steps that make up a procedure. In contrast, regulatory texts have a less clearly field-based organisation; and like ‘promoting’ texts, they may include motivations – although typically threats of forms of punishment rather than the irresistible features of a product or service!

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Orientation Of Text Towards Both Field And Tenor: 'Recreating' Situations

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 41-2):
Orientation towards both field and tenor means that the goals of the situation, or intended outcomes, are concerned with field and/or tenor. Thus the goals of ‘recreating’ situations may be concerned with the construal of some imaginary world, ranging from a slight variant of our own world to a world of pure fantasy; but the goals may at the same time involve moral principles embodied in tenor. In this way, utopias and dystopias are concerned with both field and tenor. The orientation towards both field and tenor is reflected in the structure of traditional folk tales or nursery tales: field is reflected in the sequence of events (initiating, sequent and final), and tenor is reflected in evaluations, which may be strung out prosodically through the narrative and/or encapsulated in a separate ‘moral’ at the end of the tale (cf. Hasan, 1984).

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Orientation Of Text To Tenor vs Field In Relation To Internal vs External Conjunction

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 41):
The orientation towards tenor is thus likely to be reflected in the semantic organisation of texts operating in ‘recommending’ and ‘exploring’ contexts in the use of fairly global internal relations – called internal conjunctive relations (see Halliday & Hasan, 1976; Martin, 1992) or internal rhetorical relations (see Mann & Matthiessen, 1991). 
Both evidence and motivation can be interpreted as internal versions of cause
  • evidence: ‘I claim/you should believe that ... because ... ’; 
  • motivation: ‘I want you/you are obliged to ... because ...’. 
In general, orientation towards tenor is characteristic of ‘sharing’, ‘recommending’ and ‘exploring’ contexts, and also in principle of ‘enabling’ contexts of the ‘regulatory’ subtype (but see immediately below). In contrast, texts operating in contexts with an orientation towards field are much less likely to involve internal relations; instead, they are organised both globally and locally in terms of external relations.

Blogger Comment:

Note that this new addition to IFG by the editor, Matthiessen, fails to alert the reader to the fact that Martin (1992) misunderstands the distinction between internal and external conjunctive relations.  See, for example:

Monday, 26 December 2016

Orientation Of Text Towards Tenor

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 41):
Orientation towards tenor means that the goals of the situation, or intended outcomes, are concerned with tenor, more specifically with the relationship between speaker and addressee – with maintaining or changing this relationship, as when speakers try to bring their addressees closer to their own positions.  When texts operate in such situations, they tend to be organised in terms of tenor, with a central proposition or proposal supported by text segments that provide evidence for the proposition, increasing the likelihood that the addressee will agree, or motivation for the proposal, increasing the likelihood that the addressee will comply (if the proposal is some form of command) or accept (if the proposal is some form of offer).

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Orientation Of Text Towards Field

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 41):
Orientation towards field means that the goals of the situation, or intended outcomes, are concerned with field, more specifically with the development of field, as in an ‘expounding’ context where the speaker’s goal might be to construe a taxonomy for the addressee, a classification of some classes of phenomena. When texts operate in such situations, they tend to be organised in terms of field — in terms of the structure of the field, as when a text is organised according to the classes of a taxonomy. Orientation towards field is characteristic of ‘expounding’, ‘reporting’ and ‘doing’ contexts, and also in principle of ‘enabling’ contexts of the ‘instructing’ subtype.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Relating Mode To Orientations Of Language To Field And Tenor

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 38):
However, we can relate these particular categories [of rhetorical mode] to the orientation of the text (i) towards the field of the situation, (ii) towards the tenor or (iii) towards some mixture of both.

Blogger Comment:

Note that this new addition to IFG by the editor, Matthiessen, misrepresents the stratificational relation between context and language.

The relation between an instance of language (text) and an instance of context (situation) is realisation, which is a subtype (symbolic identity) of an intensive identifying (Token-Value) relation. 

an instance of language
the field, tenor and mode of its situation
Process: intensive

'Orientation', on the other hand, means the alignment or positioning of something relative to other specified positions.  An alignment relation between a Token and a Value is circumstantial (spatio-temporal), not intensive.

an instance of language
the field and tenor of its situation
Process: circumstantial: spatio-temporal

Consequently, the spatio-temporal relation of 'orientation' — like other circumstantial relations, such as cause — is inconsistent with the theoretical meaning of stratification.