Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 32):
As we have noted above, language operates in context. In terms of linguistic theory, we recognise this important principle by developing an ‘ecological’ theory of language – one in which language is always theorised, described and analysed within an environment of meanings; a given language is thus interpreted by reference to its semiotic habitat. This way of approaching language was given a considerable theoretical and empirical boost by the anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski in the 1920s and 1930s, based initially on his extensive fieldwork in the Trobriand Islands in the 1910s; and his insights were taken up and developed within linguistic theory by J.R. Firth, and then built into a general theory of language in context by systemic functional linguists (e.g. Halliday, McIntosh & Strevens, 1964; Halliday, 1978, 1992a; Halliday & Hasan, 1985; Ghadessy, 1999; Butt & Wegener, 2007). This is the conceptualisation of context that we use here.