Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Abstract Material Clauses

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 196):
Material clauses do not necessarily represent concrete, physical events; they may represent abstract doings and happenings … But as the process becomes more abstract, so the distinction between Actor and Goal becomes harder to draw. … Even with concrete processes, however, we have to recognise that there are some where the Actor is involuntary, and thus in some respects like a Goal … With more abstract processes, we often find ‘operative’ and ‘receptive’ forms side by side with little difference between them … There is still some difference: if the ‘receptive’ form is used, we can probe for an explicit Actor — we can ask who by?, whereas with the ‘operative’ form we cannot.

The Different Way Material Processes Unfold Through Time

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 179-80, 180n):
… processes of the ‘material’ type tend to differ from all other types (with the partial exception of ‘behavioural’ processes …), and this is seen in how present time is reported. The unmarked tense selection is the present–in–present (eg is doing) rather than the simple present (eg does) … The present–in–present serves to narrow down the present from the extended now of habits and ‘general truths’ that is characteristic of the simple present with ‘material’ clauses … The narrowing–down effect of the present–in–present is not brought out by the names most commonly used for this tense — the ‘present progressive’, or the ‘present continuous’.

Transient Processes And Permanent Participants

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 178):
The border between these two is indeterminate; the lexicogrammar of every language will allow considerable discretion in how phenomena are treated in discourse, and lexicogrammars of different languages draw the borderline in different places. … This is an area of considerable fluidity; but most phenomena are treated as either as process or participant, and have to be reconstrued metaphorically to change their status in the grammar …

Construing Change: Transience And Permanence

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 178):
The contrast [between participants and processes] is also reflected in in the organisation of nominal groups and verbal groups in two ways: while nominal groups have evolved the system of determination for locating referents in a referential space, verbal groups have evolved the system of tense for locating a unique occurrence of a process in time.

Construing Change: Transience And Permanence

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 177-8):
The units that realise the process, participant and circumstance elements of the clause make distinct contributions to the modelling of a quantum of change. The elements that make up the ‘centre’ of the clause — the process and the participants involved in it — construe complementary facets of the change. These two facets are transience and permanence. Transience is the experience of unfolding through time; it is construed by a verbal group serving as the process. Permanence is the experience of lasting through time and being located in (concrete or abstract) space; it is construed by nominal groups serving as participants. Thus participants are relatively stable through time, and an instance of a participant can take part in many processes … In contrast, processes are ephemeral; every instance is a unique occurrence
This contrast between participants and processes explains why there are names of individual participants — ‘proper names’, as well as names of classes of participants — ‘common nouns’, but only names of classes of processes: all lexical verbs are ‘common’ verbs.

Process Type Determines Participant Functions

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 197):
It is important to recognise … that the functions assumed by the participants in any clause are determined by the type of process that is involved.

Process, Participant And Circumstance

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 178):
The concepts of process, participant and circumstance are semantic categories which explain in the most general way how phenomena of our experience of the world are construed as linguistic structures.