Wednesday, 22 February 2017

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Grammatical Class

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 74):
A class is a set of items that are in some respect alike. The most familiar, in our traditional grammar, are classes of words: verb, noun, adjective, adverb, pronoun, preposition, conjunction (and sometimes also interjection), in the usual list. But every unit can be classified: there are classes of group and phrase, classes of clause, and, at the other end of the rank scale, classes of morpheme.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Why The Clause Is Significant

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 74):
The clause, as we said, is the mainspring of grammatical energy; it is the unit where meanings of different kinds, experiential, interpersonal and textual, are integrated into a single syntagm.

Monday, 20 February 2017

What Grammarians Do

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 74):
What grammarians do … is to construct an abstract model of the system of language, based on observation of language instantiated in use.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

The Evolution Of Language Involves Gradual Changes In Probabilities

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 73-4):
If we include probabilistic information in the description of the lexicogrammar, we also pave the way for interpreting the system as one that is always in the process of becoming, not one that is in a frozen state of being: the evolution of language involves gradual changes in probabilities, over long periods of time but also over much shorter periods.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

The System Of Lexicogrammar Is Probabilistic In Nature

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 73):
Variation in lexicogrammar across varieties of English is, of course, not only qualitative but also quantitative; the system of lexicogrammar is probabilistic in nature, and probabilities vary across varieties of English – dialectal, codal and registerial varieties.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Dialectal, Codal and Registerial Variation

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 73):
In general, like any other language, English needs to be interpreted and described as an assemblage of varieties — varieties that are differentiated along different dimensions, with fuzzy boundaries. Thus, English is subject to dialectal, codal and registerial variation, each type of variation having a different locus within the strata of the language and covering a different range along the cline of instantiation.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Language As The Outcome Of Ongoing Grammaticalisation

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 68-9):
So when we talk of the ‘system’ of language, as the underlying potential that is instantiated in the form of text, we are in effect theorising a language as the outcome of ongoing grammaticalisation in all these three dimensions of time [phylogenetic, ontogenetic, logogenetic].

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

The Three Timescales Of Grammaticalisation

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 68):
Nevertheless we can recognise grammaticalisation as a process taking place in time – in fact, in three distinct dimensions of time.
(i) We can see it in ontogenetic time when we observe children’s early language development, which is built around the creation of proto-grammatical and then grammatical systems. 
(ii) We cannot observe it directly in phylogenetic time, the evolution of human language; but we can track examples in the history of particular languages (for example, secondary tenses and the passive voice in English. 
(iii) We can see it in logogenetic time, the unfolding of discourse, when a passage of some extent – a clause or more – is recapitulated in a single word or group.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

The Term ‘Grammaticalisation’

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 68):
A systemic grammar is one that is organised around this concept of grammaticalisation, whereby meaning is construed in networks of interrelated contrasts.  The term ‘grammaticalisation’ itself, however, is problematic; it foregrounds the sense of ‘process’ — something being turned into a grammatical system, and this obscures the point that it is the inherent nature of language to be organised in grammatical systems.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Grammaticalisation: Realisation

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 68):
Grammaticalisation is not dependent on how the categories are realised. They may be realised in a variety of ways: 
  • a change in the form, articulatory or prosodic, of some word or words; 
  • an addition of some element, to a word, a group or a clause; 
  • a change in the order of words, groups, or clauses. 
The realisation may not be the same for all categories or in all environments; but it will be systematic in some way in the majority of cases, enough to establish and maintain the proportionality – with only a minority of ‘exceptions’ (which are likely to include some of the more frequent items).

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Three Properties That Characterise 'Grammaticalised' Meaning

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 68):
If a meaning is ‘grammaticalised’, this means that it is organised in the language
(i) as a closed system of mutually exclusive terms [closure],
(ii) associated with some general category [generality], and
(iii) displaying proportionality throughout [proportionality].

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Lexical–Grammatical Complementarity

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 67):
… even in a general account of the grammar it is important to maintain a comprehensive picture that will show the relation between choice of words (lexical items) and choice of grammatical categories — especially in view of the complementarity between these two.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Why The Grammar Description Hasn’t Been Elaborated To Maximum Delicacy

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 67):
If we maintain the grammarian’s viewpoint all the way across the cline, lexis will be defined as grammar extended to the point of maximum delicacy.  It would take at least 100 volumes of the present size to extend the description of the grammar up to that point for any substantial portion of the vocabulary.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Between Grammar & Lexis

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 66):
But if grammar and lexis are interpreted as the endpoints of a continuum, what lies in between them, around the middle? It is here that we locate those items that, on the paradigmatic axis, enter into series which could be regarded from both angles of vision: either, in a grammatical perspective, as rather large and fuzzy closed systems or, in a lexical perspective, as somewhat determinate and limited open sets. This would include, in English, things like prepositions, temporal and other specialised adverbs, and conjunctions of various kinds.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Logogenesis Defined

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 63):
As the text unfolds, patterns emerge, some of which acquire added value through resonating with other patterns in the text or in the context of situation. The text itself is an instance; the resonance is possible because behind it lies the potential that informs every choice made by the speaker or writer, and in terms of which these choices are interpreted by listeners and readers. We refer to this ongoing creation of meaning in the unfolding of text as logogenesis.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Syntagm (Defined) Realises Structure (Defined)

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 39):
Such a sequence of classes is called a ‘syntagm’. … The significance of such a syntagm is that here it is the realisation of a structure: an organic configuration of elements, which we analyse in functional terms.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Word Classes Viewed 'From Above' & 'From Roundabout'

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 59):
Word classes can be viewed ‘from above’ — that is, semantically: verbs typically refer to processes, nouns to entities and adjectives to qualities (of entities or of processes). They can also be viewed ‘from round about’, at their own level, in terms of the relations into which they enter: paradigmatic relations (the options that are open to them) and syntagmatic relations (the company they keep). On either of these two axes we can establish relationships of a lexical kind (collocations and sets) and of a grammatical kind (structures and systems).

Sunday, 5 February 2017

The SFL Description Of English Grammar Is Designed For Text Analysis

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 57):
The description of English grammar presented here is not designed as a reference grammar. However, unlike the recent reference grammars — or all previous ones for that matter, this description has been designed as one that can be used in text analysis — a task that imposes quite stringent demands on the description.


Blogger Comment:

Cf the (self-promoting) misrepresentation of Systemic Functional grammar (and grammarians) by Martin & Rose in Working With Discourse: Meaning Beyond The Clause (2007: 1, 4):
In this book we are concerned with interpreting discourse by analysing it. For us this means treating discourse as more than words in clauses; we want to focus on meaning beyond the clause, on semantic resources that lead us from one clause to another as a text unfolds. … In a sense then this book is an invitation to grammarians to reconsider meaning in the clause from the perspective of meaning in texts; …
Grammarians are particularly interested in types of clauses and their elements. But texts are usually bigger than single clauses, so a discourse analyst has more to worry about than a grammarian (expanded horizons).
Critiques of these and other misrepresentations can be found at the blog working with discourse.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Systemic Functional Grammar In Relation To Other Accounts Of Grammar: Description

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 56-7):
This introduction to (systemic) functional grammar differs in various ways from other accounts — in terms of both theory and description. … (ii) In terms of description, this book is of course an introduction to a systemic functional description of the grammar of English — constituting one descriptive strand evolving among other ones in systemic functional linguistics. This description may be compared with other descriptions of the grammar of English that have appeared over the past 500 years or so. These descriptions naturally vary in many ways, e.g. 
  • relationship to theory (homogenous or heterogeneous [‘eclectic’]), 
  • relationship to corpus, relationship to time (diachronic vs. synchronic, or some kind of synthesis), 
  • relationship to dialectal variation (what varieties of English are included), 
  • coverage of phenomena — from grammars of very selective coverage via grammars with a registerial focus (such as grammars of spoken English) to reference grammars, and 
  • relationship to intended users — ranging from language learners to professional grammarians.
Reference grammars are, in principle, the most comprehensive descriptions.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Systemic Functional Grammar In Relation To Other Accounts Of Grammar: Theory

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 56):
This introduction to (systemic) functional grammar differs in various ways from other accounts – in terms of both theory and description. (i) In terms of theory, we can locate systemic functional theory of grammar within a general family of functional theories of grammar, contrasting these with formal theories of grammar. Within the family of functional theories, systemic functional theory is unique in its paradigmatic orientation – its orientation to grammar as system, represented by means of system networks; other functional theories are syntagmatic in their orientation. Systemic functional theory also differs from many other functional theories in its emphasis on comprehensive, text-based descriptions – descriptions that can be used in text analysis; other functional theories have tended to foreground linguistic comparison and typology based on descriptive fragments from a wide range of languages.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

The Description Of The System Of MOOD Is Specific To English

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 55-6):
However, this theoretical template does not include details that are specific to particular languages or even to large sets of languages. For instance, the description of the system of MOOD is specific to English: according to this description, there is a system of INDICATIVE TYPE, with ‘indicative’ as its entry condition and ‘declarative’ and ‘interrogative’ as its two terms, and the term ‘declarative’ is realised by the sequence of Subject followed by Finite. This description is grounded in generalisations about English data, i.e. spoken and written texts; and all descriptions must be based on empirical evidence. … Typological generalisations are both possible and desirable, serving many purposes; but they are still grounded in empirical evidence, not based on theoretical hypotheses.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

The Theoretical Architecture Of Grammar

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 55):
The theory includes the ‘architecture’ of grammar — the dimensions that define the overall semiotic space of lexicogrammar, the relationships that inhere in these dimensions — and its relationship to other sub-systems of language — to semantics and to phonology (or graphology). Thus, according to systemic functional theory, lexicogrammar is diversified into a metafunctional spectrum, extended in delicacy from grammar to lexis, and ordered into a series of ranked units.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Particular Description Vs General Theory

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 55):
While a description is an account of the system of a particular language, a theory is an account of language in general. So we have descriptions of various languages such as English, Akan and Nahuatl; but we have a theory of human language in general.  This introduction to (systemic) functional grammar is both an introduction to the general theory of grammar and to the description of the grammar of a particular language, English.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Register: Generalised Analysis Vs Specialised Description

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 54-5):
Analysis and description thus operate at the outer poles of the cline of instantiation within a given language. Regions intermediate between these two poles can be approached in terms of either analysis or description: the account of a text type can be interpreted as a generalised analysis of a sample of texts, and the account of a register can be interpreted as specialised description of the general system; but, in either case, the account will ultimately be grounded in textual data.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Describing A Language: Generalising From The Analysis Of Textual Data

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 54):
If there is no description to draw on, this means that we will gradually have to develop one based on the analysis of a representative sample of texts (a corpus). In other words, describing a language is a process of generalising from the analysis of textual data. The outcome of this process is a description of the system of the language, and we keep testing such descriptions by deploying them in continued text analysis and by applying them to different tasks such as language education or natural language processing.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Analysis Vs Description As Instance Vs Potential

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 54):
If we have access to an existing account of the system of the language (at the potential pole of the cline of instantiation), then we will analyse texts by relating instantial patterns in the system. In other words, we undertake the analysis of texts by means of the description of the system that lies behind them, identifying terms in systems and fragments of structures that are instantiated in the text. In the course of undertaking the analysis, we are likely to find gaps in the description, or even mistaken generalisations. Text analysis is a very rigorous way of testing, and thus improving, existing descriptions because everything in a given text has to be accounted for in the description.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Theory And Data: A Dialectical Complementarity

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 53):
We would argue for a dialectical complementarity between theory and data: complementarity because some phenomena show up best if illuminated by a general theory (i.e. from the ‘system’ end), others if treated as patterns within the data (i.e. from the ‘instance’ end; dialectical because each perspective interpenetrates with and constantly redefines the other.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Grammatical Systems Are Probabilistic

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 52):
It is clear by this time that grammatical systems are probabilistic in nature: that, for example, the system of POLARITY in English has to be modelled not simply as ‘positive/negative’ but as ‘positive/negative with a certain probability attached’ (which has been found to be of the order of 0.9 : 0.1).

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Text As The Product Of Instantiation And Realisation

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 51):
But ‘text’ is a complex notion.  In the form that we typically receive it, as spoken and written discourse, a text is the product of two processes combined: instantiation and realisation. The defining criterion is instantiation: text as instance. But realisation comes in because what becomes accessible to us is the text as realised in sound or writing. We cannot directly access instances of language at higher strata — as selections in meaning, or even in wording.  But it is perhaps helpful to recognise that we can produce text in this way, for ourselves, if we compose some verse or other discourse inside our heads. If you ‘say it to yourself’, you can get the idea of text as instance without the additional property of realisation.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Text & System As Data & Theory

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 49):
Whenever we shift our perspective between text and system — between data and theory — we are moving along this instantiation cline. The system … is the potential that lies behind the text.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Grammatical Structure

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 49):
Structure is analysed in functional terms, explaining the part played by each element in the organic configuration of the whole. We shall see later on that the configurational view of structure is oversimplified, if not distorted, because the way linguistic units are structured tends to vary according to metafunction. But it is possible to reduce all types of structure to a configurational form, as a strategy for exploring the grammar.