Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 364):
Here we can note that certain ‘adverbs’ such as up, out, over can be analysed alternatively as prepositions in prepositional phrases without a Range.
Here we can note that certain ‘adverbs’ such as up, out, over can be analysed alternatively as prepositions in prepositional phrases without a Range.
But prepositional phrases encroach on the functional ground of adverbial groups, partly by means of phrasal templates such as in a ... way (manner), as in yeah it’s not done in an antagonistic way (instead of .... not done antagonistically); and adverbial groups may serve as Location in time or space. These latter often have as Head an adverb that derives from preposition + noun (for example upstairs, outside, overseas; today, tomorrow).
While adverbial groups tend to realise circumstances of Manner: quality … and Manner: degree … — as well as modal and textual Adjuncts, other, experientially more complex circumstances that are more like indirect participants (for example Location, Cause, Accompaniment) tend to be realised by prepositional phrases.
… there is functional overlap between adverbial group (and conjunction group) and prepositional phrase. They have the same general functional potential; but they differ in two related respects.(1) Since prepositional phrases include a nominal group, they have greater expressive potential than adverbial groups.
(2) Consequently they can construe more experientially complex circumstances.
A phrase is different from a group in that, whereas a group is an expansion of a word, a phrase is a contraction of a clause. Starting at opposite ends, the two achieve roughly the same status on the rank scale, as units that lie somewhere between the rank of a clause and that of a word. In terms of the modal structure of the clause, prepositional phrases serve as Adjuncts, and in terms of the experiential structure, they serve as circumstances.
In terms of the modal structure of the clause, nominal groups serve as Subject or Complement, verbal groups as Finite + Predicator, and adverbial groups as Adjunct; and in terms of experiential structure, nominal groups serve in participant rôles, verbal groups as Process, and adverbial groups in circumstance rôles.
At the same time, in interpreting group structure we have to split the ideational metafunction into two modes of construing experience: experiential and logical. So far what we have been describing under the ideational heading has been meaning as organisation of experience; but there is also a logical aspect to it – language as the construal of certain very general logical relations – and it is this we have to introduce now. The logical component defines complex units, e.g. the clause complex … and group and phrase complexes … . It comes in at this point because a group is in some respects equivalent to a word complex — that is, a combination of words built up on the basis of a particular logical relation. This is why it is called a group (= ‘group of words’).
Although we can still recognise the same three components, they are not represented in the form of separate whole structures, but rather as partial contributions to a single structural line. The difference between clause and group in this respect is only one of degree; but it is sufficient to enable us to analyse the structure of the group in one operation, rather than in three operations as we did with the clause.
… in the grammar of the clause each component contributes a more or less equal complete structure, so that the clause is made up of three distinct structures combined into one (three lines of meaning) …
(1) Transitivity structures express representational meaning: what the clause is about, which is typically some process, with associated participants and circumstances;(2) Mood structures express interactional meaning: what the clause is doing, as a verbal exchange between speaker/writer and audience;(3) Theme structures express the organisation of the message: how the clause relates to the surrounding discourse, and to the context of situation in which it is being produced.These three sets of options together determine the structural shape of the clause.
… the English clause is a composite affair, a combination of three different structures, deriving from distinct functional components. These components (called ‘metafunctions’ in systemic theory) are the ideational (clause as representation), the interpersonal (clause as exchange) and the textual (clause as message). What this means is that the three structures serve to express three largely independent sets of semantic choice.
Figure 5-46 shows the systems of PROCESS TYPE and AGENCY interact in the system network of TRANSITIVITY. This system network adds a subnetwork for ‘verbal’ clauses to the sub-networks given in Figure 5-10 (material clauses), Figure 5-16 (mental clauses), and Figure 5-17 (relational clauses). Note that the mental distinction between ‘emanating’ and ‘impinging’ is now interpreted as the distinction between ‘middle’ and ‘effective’ (but mental clauses with an Inducer are not covered by the system network).
Table 5-45 sets out the principal criteria for distinguishing the types of process discussed in the present chapter, taking account of
- the number and kind of participants,
- the directionality and voice,
- the pro-verb,
- the form of the unmarked present tense, and
- the phonological properties of the verb.
The ergative structure is open–ended, and a further round of agency can always be added on:the ball rolled : Fred rolled the ball : Mary made Fred roll the ball : John got Mary to make Fred roll the ball : …The transitive structure, on the other hand, is configurational; it cannot be extended in this way. Thus, from a transitive point of view, Mary made Fred roll the ball is not a single process; it is two processes forming one complex.
From a transitive point of view, in these initiating structures there is a feature of cause added. This is also possible with (i) mental clauses and with (ii) relational ones.
(i) Corresponding to the initiating structure in material clauses, we find an inducing structure in mental clauses; for example, remind can be interpreted as ‘induce to remember’
(ii) Corresponding to the initiating structure in material clauses, we find attributed and assigned structures in relational clause. As we have seen, for the transitive analysis we have to recognize the additional functions of Attributor and Assigner; but from the ergative point of view, these clauses simply add a feature of agency.
There is a large class of material processes of this kind where the agnate causatives are, or may be, attributive: the sun ripened the fruit/made the fruit ripen, her voice calmed the audience/made the audience calm; these will belong to the ‘initiating’ type — if we say the sun ripened, her voice calmed, the meaning changes from ‘make (ripe/calm)’ to ‘become (ripe/calm)’.
Putting the two analyses together, we would expect to find that these two types of clause are not identical, but that there is no clear line between them; and that is precisely the case. One difference is whether or not there can be an analytic causative with make: we can say the police made the bomb explode, but not the lion made the tourist chase. But this leaves many uncertain: what about Mary made the boat sail, the nail made the cloth tear? — and, with a different verb, the lion made the tourist run? The distinction becomes somewhat clearer if we ask whether, if the second participant is removed, the rôle of the first participant changes. In the sergeant marched the prisoners/the sergeant marched, it clearly does; it is now the sergeant who is doing the marching (cf. the police exploded, which we now have to interpret in a transferred sense) – whereas in the lion chased no such interpretation is possible. Those where the rôle changes will have Initiator + Actor rather than Actor + Goal.
By interpreting processes ergatively as well as transitively we are able to understand many features of English grammar that otherwise remain arbitrary or obscure. We will take up just one such example, that of clauses such as the police exploded the bomb, the sergeant marched the prisoners, where — as suggested by the agnate clauses the bomb exploded, the prisoners marched – the meaning is not so much ‘do to’ as ‘make to do’ (what the sergeant made the prisoners do was march). Ergatively, there is no difference between these and clauses like the lion chases the tourist. Transitively, these appear as different configurations; we have to introduce the function of Initiator to take account of the executive rôle. But in modern English they are very much alike; and the ergative analysis expresses their likeness — both consist of a Medium and an Agent. In ergative terms, ‘a does something to x’ and ‘a makes x do something’ are both cases of ‘x is involved in something, brought about by a’.
… then there are the ‘indirect participants’ functioning as Complements to prepositions, some of which … are potential Subjects; these give various other kinds of receptive such as ‘Location–receptive’, for example the bed hadn’t been slept in, ‘Manner–receptive’, for example this pen’s never been written with, and so on. Normally these are also medio–receptives, that is, they are middle not effective clauses. But receptives with idiomatic phrasal verbs, such as it’s been done away with, she’s very much looked up to, that prize has never been put in for, are often ‘true’ receptives in the sense that the prepositional phrase really represents a participant …
… there are other potential Subjects besides Agent and Medium. There are the other participants, the Beneficiary and Range, either of which may be selected as Subject of the clause; the verb will then similarly be in passive.
In spoken English the great majority of receptive clauses are, in fact, Agent–less … The speaker leaves the listener to locate the source.
If the clause is effective, since either participant can then become Subject there is a choice between operative and receptive. The reasons for choosing receptive are as follows:(1) to get the Medium as Subject, and therefore as unmarked Theme … and
(2) to make the Agent either(i) late news, by putting it last … or
(ii) implicit, by leaving it out.
Strictly speaking an effective clause has the feature ‘agency’ rather than the structural function Agent, because this may be left implicit … The presence of an ‘agency’ feature is in fact the difference between a pair of clauses such as the glass broke and the glass was (or got) broken: the latter embodies the feature of agency, so that one can ask the question ‘who by?’, while the former allows for one participant only.
The way the voice system works is as follows. A clause with no feature of ‘agency’ is neither active nor passive but middle. One with agency is non-middle, or effective, in agency. An effective clause is then either operative or receptive in voice. In an operative clause, the Subject is the Agent and the Process is realised by an active verbal group; in a receptive [clause] the Subject is Medium and the Process is realised by a passive verbal group.
In a transitive pattern the participants are obligatory Actor and optional Goal; if there is Actor only, the verb is intransitive and active in voice, while if both are present the verb is transitive and may be either active or passive. This is still the basis of the English system; but there is little trace of transitivity left in the verb, and voice is now more a feature of the clause.
… the Complement of a preposition can often emerge to function as Subject … This pattern suggests that Complements of prepositions, despite being embedded in an element that has a circumstantial function, are still felt to be participating, even if at a distance, in the process expressed by the clause.
… just as those elements which are treated essentially as participants can sometimes occur with a preposition, so at least some elements which are treated essentially as circumstances can sometimes occur without one. With expressions of Extent and Location there is often no preposition as in they stayed two days, they left last Wednesday.
… the choice of ‘plus or minus preposition’ with Agent, Beneficiary and Range … serves a textual function. … The principle is as follows. If a participant other than the Medium is in a place of prominence in the message, it tends to take a preposition (ie to be construed as ‘indirect’ participant); otherwise it does not. Prominence in the message means functioning either
(i) as marked Theme (ie Theme but not Subject) or
(ii) as ‘late news’ — that is, occurring after some other participant, or circumstance, that already follows the Process.
In other words, prominence comes from occurring either earlier or later than expected in the clause; and it is this that is being reinforced by the presence of the preposition. The preposition has become a signal of special status in the message.
Semantically, therefore, Agent, Beneficiary and Range have some features of participants and some of circumstances: they are mixed. And this is reflected in the fact that grammatically also they are mixed: they may enter in to a clause either directly as nominal groups (participant–like) or indirectly in prepositional phrases (circumstance–like).
These, seen from a transitive perspective, are circumstantial: Agent is a kind of Manner, Beneficiary is a kind of Cause and Range is a kind of Extent; and they can all be expressed as minor processes. But seen from an ergative point of view they are additional participants in the major process: the nucleus of ‘Process + Medium’ has an inner ring of additional participants as well as an outer ring of circumstances surrounding it …
… the ergative is a nuclear rather than a linear interpretation; and if this component is to the fore, there may be a whole cluster of participant–like functions in the clause: not only Agent but also Beneficiary and Range.
The transitive is a linear interpretation; and since the only function that can be defined by extension in this way is Goal (together with, perhaps, the analogous functions of Target in a verbal process and Phenomenon* in a mental process of the please [‘impinging’] type), systems which are predominantly transitive in character tend to emphasise the distinction between participants (ie direct participants, Actor and Goal only) and circumstances (all other functions).
There may be in each type of clause one element which is not so much an entity participating in the process as a refinement of the process itself. This may be the name of a particular variety of the process, which being a noun can then be modified for quantity and for quality … Since here the kind of action, event, behaviour, sensing or saying is specified by the noun, as a participant function, the verb may be entirely general in meaning … Or, secondly, this element may be an entity, but one that plays a part in the process not by acting, or being acted upon, but by marking its domain … It is characteristic of this second type that they are on the borderline of participants and circumstances; there is often a closely related form of prepositional phrase …
… in the identifying, the criteria tend to conflict. For purposes of simplicity, we will interpret the Token as Medium and the Value as Range in all types, although this does ignore some aspects of the patterning of such clauses in text.
The two kinds of Verbiage, that which refers to the content, as in describe the apartment, and that which specifies the nature of the verbal process, such as tell a story, are analogous respectively to the material ‘entity Scope’ and ‘process Scope’.
[In the like [‘emanating’] type of mental process] the Phenomenon bears no kind of resemblance to a Goal. But it does show certain affinities with the Scope. It figures as Subject, in the ‘receptive’, under similarly restricted conditions; and it appears in expressions, such as enjoy the pleasure, saw the sight, have an understanding of, which are analogous to material Scope expressions of the ‘process’ type, such as play a game, have a game. So we can interpret the rôle of the Phenomenon in the like type of mental process as a counterpart of that of Scope in the material; it is the element which delimits the boundaries of the sensing.
[The please [‘impinging’] type of mental process] shares certain features of an effective material process: it occurs freely in the ‘receptive’ (I’m pleased with it), and it can be generalised as a kind of ‘doing to’ (What does it do to you? — It pleases me). Here the Phenomenon shows some semblance to an Actor: from the ergative point of view, they are both Agent.
In a ‘material’, the Range is the Scope; in a ‘behavioural’ clause, the Range is the Behaviour.
The Range is the element that specifies the range or domain of the process. A Range may occur in ‘material’, ‘behavioural’, ‘mental’, ‘verbal’, and 'relational' clauses — but not in ‘existential’ ones.
The Beneficiary regularly functions as Subject in the clause; in that case the verb is in the ‘receptive’ voice.
There are also a few ‘relational’ clauses of the ‘attributive’ mode containing a Beneficiary, for example him in she made him a good wife, it cost him a pretty penny. We shall just refer to this as a Beneficiary, without introducing a more specific term, since these hardly constitute a recognisably distinct rôle in the clause.
The Beneficiary is realised by (to +) nominal group (Recipient) or (for +) nominal group (Client); the presence of the preposition is determined by textual factors.
In a ‘material’ clause, the Beneficiary is either the Recipient or the Client. … In a ‘verbal’ clause, the Beneficiary is the Receiver.
The Beneficiary is the one to whom or for whom the process is said to take place. It appears in ‘material’ and ‘verbal’ clauses, and occasionally in ‘relational’ ones. (In other words, there are no Beneficiaries in ‘mental’, ‘behavioural’ or ‘existential’ clauses.)
⁵⁰ Note: Those in the top row are decoding clauses; the receptive is a medio-receptive and hence rare. Those below are encoding; the receptive is a ‘true’ receptive.
By contrast, in an encoding identifying clause, passive• is more or less as frequent as active, e.g. (‘which is the leader?’—) active Tom is the leader, passive the leader is Tom; but only the active will accommodate a further* agency – we do not say they elected the leader Tom. Hence in an active/passive pair such as (‘who are now the main suppliers?’—) active our company are now the main suppliers, passive the main suppliers are now our company, the agentive form is this decision leaves our company the main suppliers; the passive does not readily expand to this decision leaves the main suppliers our company.
In the identifying type, it is normally possible to add a feature of agency (an Assigner) provided the clause is operative (Token as Subject): thus, to (‘which is Tom?’—) Tom is (serves as) the leader corresponds an agentive such as they elected Tom the leader; and, with second order Agent, they got Tom elected the leader. We have seen that, with such decoding clauses (those where Token = Identified) the receptive is in any case rather rare.
In the attributive type, this is a distinct function analogous to the material Initiator: the one that brings about the attribution, e.g. the heat in the heat turned the milk sour. This is the Attributor.
In a mental process, it is the Phenomenon — provided the process is encoded in one direction, from phenomenon to consciousness ['impinging'] and not the other way round ['emanating'].
The Agent is the external agency where there is one. In a material process, it is the Actor — provided the process is one that has a Goal; otherwise it may be present as the Initiator of the process.
By using the ergative standpoint to complement the transitive one in our interpretation of English, we can match up the functions in the various process types. The table of equivalents is given as Table 5-41.
… in addition to the Medium, there may be another participant functioning as an external cause. This participant we will refer to as the Agent. Either the process is represented as self–engendering, in which case there is no separate Agent; or it is represented as engendered from outside, in which case there is another participant functioning as Agent.
The Process and the Medium together form the nucleus of an English clause; and this nucleus then determines the range of options that are available to the rest of the clause. Thus the nucleus … represents a small semantic field which may be realised as a clause either alone or in combination with other participant or circumstantial functions.
For the sake of simplicity, we represent meteorological processes such as it’s raining as having no Medium; but it would be more accurate to say that here the Medium is conflated with the Process.
Except in the special case of the medio–receptive voice, the Medium is obligatory in all processes; and it is the only element that is, other than the process itself. … The Medium is also the only element that is never introduced into the clause by means of a preposition (again with the same exception of medio–receptives); it is treated as something that always participates directly in the process.
Every process has associated with it one participant that is the key figure in that process; this is the one through which the process is actualised, and without which there would be no process at all. Let us call this element the Medium, since it is the entity through the medium of which the process comes into existence. … in a material process the Medium is equivalent to the Actor in an intransitive clause and Goal in a transitive clause. …
Thus the Medium is the nodal participant throughout the system. It is not the doer, nor the causer, but the one that is critically involved, in some way or other according to the particular nature of the process.
The coming of this pattern to predominance in the system of modern English is one of a number of related developments that have been taking place in the language over the past 500 years or more, together amounting to a far–reaching and complex process of semantic change. These changes have tended, as a whole, to emphasise the textual function, in the organisation of English discourse, by comparison with the experiential function; and within the experiential function, to emphasise the cause–&–effect aspect of processes by comparison with the ‘deed–&–extension’ one. … [The English transitivity system] is particularly unstable in the contemporary language, having been put under great pressure by the need for the language continually to adapt itself to a rapidly changing environment, and by the increasing functional demands that have been made on it ever since Chaucer’s time.
Looked at from this point of view, the variable is not one of extension but one of causation. Some participant is engaged in a process; is the process brought about by that participant, or by some other entity? In this perspective, the lion chased the tourist relates not so much to the lion ran as to the tourist ran: ‘the tourist did some running; either the running was instigated by the tourist himself (intransitive the tourist ran), or else by some external agency (transitive the lion chased the tourist)’. Note however that the terms ‘transitive’ and ‘intransitive’ are no longer appropriate here, since they imply the extension model. The pattern yielded by this second interpretation is known as the ergative pattern. The clauses the lion chased the tourist/the tourist ran form an ergative/non-ergative pair.* …
* In the typological literature on ‘case marking’ or ‘alignment’ systems, such pairs are often referred to as ‘ergative/absolutive’, contrasting with the ‘nominative/accusative’ pair of the transitive model.
The arguments for the ergative interpretation are long and technical. But while, as we have seen, there is clear evidence in the grammar for distinguishing one process type from another, there is also clear evidence for saying that, in a more abstract sense, every process is structured in the same way, on the basis of just one variable. This variable relates to the source of the process: what it is that brought it about. The question at issue is: is the process brought about from within, or from outside?
This is not the same thing as the intransitive/transitive distinction. There, as we saw, the variable is one of extension. The Actor is engaged in a process; does the process extend beyond the Actor, to some other entity, or not?
The account of lexical ergativity has sometimes been supported by reference to pronominal case marking in English. But this is also a mistake; pronominal case marking is not a feature of the experiential system of transitivity but rather of the interpersonal system of mood: the non-oblique (‘nominative’) case is used for Subjects in finite clauses and the oblique (‘accusative’) case in all other environments (including Subjects in non-finite clauses). It is thus related to arguability status, not the transitive model of transitivity.
Some linguists have in fact thought that English is only lexically ergative. But this is not a tenable position once we realise that lexis and grammar are not separate modules or components, but merely zones within a continuum: ‘lexical ergativity’ in English is an extension in delicacy of ‘grammatical ergativity’ within the experiential clause grammar; and the explanation for the evolution of ergative patterning is grammatical in the first instance rather than lexical.
But ergativity is not restricted to the lexical zone of lexicogrammar. Rather it is also a grammatical phenomenon, and the explanation can be stated in grammatical, rather than lexical, terms since it is the grammar that engenders the lexical patterns …
The ergative model is now fully systemic in English; that is, it is not restricted to certain registers, but together with the transitive model, it makes up the general system of transitivity, and it has been gaining ground over the last half a millennium. The two models complement one another, which is why they are variably foregrounded across registers: they embody different generalisations about the flux of experience, resonating with different situation types.
These registers include those that are collectively known as Scientific English — registers that evolved over the last 500 years or so; but they also include those that are collectively known as casual conversation — the frontier of change in English.
The difference between ‘doing’ and ‘happening’ derives from a different principle from the transitive one of extension–and–impact: ‘happening’ means that the actualisation of the process is represented as being self–engendered, whereas 'doing' means that the actualisation of the process is represented as being caused by a participant that is external to the combination of Process + Medium [i.e. Nucleus]. This external cause is the Agent.
… the medium through which the process is actualised.*
* Halliday (1968: 185/2005: 117) originally suggested the term ‘affected’ for what is now called ‘medium’, although Fawcett and other linguists working with and developing descriptions within the ‘Cardiff Grammar continue to use the term ‘affected’ in their accounts. Within other linguistic frameworks, something like the role of Medium has been characterized by means of other labels. For example, in Starosta’s (1988: 128) Lexicase theory, ‘“Patient” corresponds to Halliday’s medium’.
… the transitive model is based on the configuration of Actor + Process. The Actor is construed as bringing about the unfolding of the Process through time; and this unfolding is either confined in its outcome to the Actor or extended to another participant, the Goal. The Goal is construed as being impacted by the Actor’s performance of the Process.
These models are summarised in Table 5-37. We have constructed the table to suggest that (i) generalisation across process types and (ii) transitivity model are independently variable. In English and in many other languages, it is the transitive model that differentiates the different process types and it is the ergative model that generalises across these different process types. But the alignments could be different.
Note that ‘transitivity’ is the name for the whole system, including both the ‘transitive’ model and the ‘ergative’ one. ‘Ergativity’ is thus not the name of a system, but a property of the system of transitivity: within this system of transitivity, we can recognise the ‘transitive model’ and the ‘ergative model’.
It is true that, from one point of view, all these types of process are different. Material, behavioural, mental, verbal, relational and existential processes each have a grammar of their own. At the same time, looked at from another point of view they are all alike. At another level of interpretation, they all have the same grammar: there is just one generalised representational structure common to every English clause.
These two perspectives complement one another, giving us a balance in the account of transitivity between similarity and difference among the process types. The two perspectives constitute two different modes of modelling transitivity. We shall call these the transitive model and the ergative model of transitivity.
In the modern elaborated registers of adult speech and (especially) writing, the circumstantial elements have evolved very far from their concrete origins – especially the spatial ones. It is beyond our scope here to treat these developments systematically; here are a few examples, with suggested interpretations:
they closed down with the loss of 100 jobs [Accompaniment: addition]
the directive was now with the Council of Ministers [Accompaniment: comitation]
we have now been introduced to a new topic [Location: place]
we learn from this experiment [Manner: means]
the committee decided against their use [Cause: behalf ‘not + in favour of’]
the problem lies in our own attitudes [Location: place]
the group will work through all these materials [Extent: distance]
the venture would have failed without the bank’s support [Contingency: default]
my colleague works for the transport section [Cause: behalf]
these products are made to a very high standard [Manner: quality]
we have been asked to assist in a further project [Matter]
consult the chart for the full operational details [Cause: purpose]
Experiential time is time as a feature of a process: its location, its duration or its repetition rate in some real or imaginary history. Interpersonal time is time enacted between speaker and listener: temporality relative to the speaker–now, or usuality as a band of arguable space between positive and negative poles. Textual time is time relative to the current state of the discourse: ‘then’ in the text’s construction of external reality, or in the internal ordering of the text itself.
Modal and Conjunctive Adjuncts are outside the transitivity system, hence while typically thematic, they are not topical Theme and therefore cannot be given special thematic prominence; nor will they carry the only focus of information in the clause. … But many items can occur both as circumstance and in one of the other functions.
Prepositional phrases also function in the structure of nominal groups, following the noun, like in the wall in the hole in the wall. In some varieties of English, especially the more elaborated registers of adult writing, this is the predominant function of prepositional phrases …
In general it is clear whether any given prepositional phrase is circumstance in the clause or Qualifier in the nominal group; where it is uncertain, there will often be some thematic variation that can be used to question the text.
This also involves prepositional phrases functioning as participants; but here there is no alternation between prepositional phrase and nominal group. Instead, the preposition is closely bonded with a verb, so that it is functioning as part of the Process, as with turn into; similarly look at the sky consists of Process look at + Phenomenon the sky. There is no simple diagnostic criterion for deciding every instance; but a useful pointer is provided by the thematic structure, which gives an indication of how the clause is organised as a representation of the process.
Process: mental: perception
Wherever there is systematic alternation between a prepositional phrase and a nominal group, the element in question is interpreted as a participant.
At the same time, there are many instances where a nominal group seems to have more or less the same function whether it is brought into the clause directly, or indirectly via a prepositional phrase: for example, John in sent John a message/sent a message to John. We have interpreted these as participant functions, rather than as circumstantial elements… . But they also suggest that the line between participants and circumstances is not a very clear one, and that the preposition does function like some highly generalised kind of process, by reference to which the nominal group that is attached to it establishes a participant status.
We saw also that in circumstantial and possessive relational processes there are often close parallels between be + preposition and a verb, e.g.
the delay was because of a strike ~ was caused by a strike
a carpet was over the floor ~ covered the floor
the bridge is across the river ~ crosses/spans the river
a path is along(side) the wood ~ skirts the wood
a halo is around the moon ~ surrounds the moon
This similarity between verb and preposition can also be seen in cases where there is a close relationship between a prepositional phrase and a non-finite dependent clause:
he cleaned the floor with a mop ~ using a mop
grass grows after the rain ~ following the rain
In this way certain prepositions are themselves derived from non-finite verbs; e.g. concerning, according to, given, excepting. These considerations suggest that the nominal group stands to the preposition in some kind of transitivity relation, as well as in a relationship like that of Complement to Predicator in mood structure.
Most circumstances are realised by prepositional phrases. A prepositional phrase can be interpreted as a shrunken clause, in which the preposition serves as a ‘minor process’, interpreted as a kind of mini-verb, and the nominal group as a participant in this minor process. … The preposition, it was suggested, acts as a kind of intermediary whereby a nominal element can be introduced as an ‘indirect’ participant in the main process.
Rounding off our discussion of circumstances, let us now review their status in the grammar, focusing on the prepositional phrases in the grammar since most circumstances are realised by prepositional phrases. Issues arise because while prepositional phrases serve as circumstances by default, they can also serve as participants in the clause, and even as elements of groups (nominal or adverbial). Issues also arrive because while prepositions serve in prepositional phrases by default, they can also come to serve as extensions of verbs, so-called phrasal verbs (and we can also note conjunctive prepositions, prepositions used as structural conjunctions in bound clauses, as in who will authorise payment on ascertaining that the item was really received.
This type is expressed by [prepositional phrases introduced by] the simple preposition to or by complex prepositions such as in the view/opinion of, from the standpoint of … This type of Angle occurs in ‘relational’ clauses that are agnate with Senser in ‘mental’ clauses: that’s very interesting to me (cf. that interests me).
It is expressed by [prepositional phrases introduced by] complex prepositions such as according to, in the words of. (Note that according to can also mark a circumstance of Manner …).
Angle is related either to
(i) the Sayer of a ‘verbal’ clause, with the sense of ‘as … says’ or
(ii) to the Senser of a ‘mental’ clause, with the sense of ‘as … thinks’.
We can call type (i) ‘source’ since it is used to represent the source information …
We can call type (ii) ‘viewpoint’ since it is used to represent the information given by the clause from somebody’s viewpoint …
One way of giving prominence to a Theme is to construe it as if it was a circumstance of Matter; for example, as for the ghost, it hasn’t been seen since. By being first introduced circumstantially, the ghost becomes a focused Theme.
In mathematical expressions, there is a special form of Matter, typically with ‘relational’ clauses: for all x such that x > 5 … .
Matter is related to verbal processes; it is the circumstantial equivalent of the Verbiage, ‘that which is described, referred to, narrated, etc’. The interrogative is what about?. Matter is expressed by [prepositional phrases introduced by] prepositions such as about, concerning, with reference to and sometimes simply of … It is frequent with both ‘verbal’ clauses and ‘mental’ ones (especially of the ‘cognitive’ subtype).
Although circumstances of expansion relate to ‘relational’ clauses, circumstances of projection relate to projecting ‘mental’ and ‘verbal’ clauses — either to the Senser or Sayer of that clause (Angle) or to the [Phenomenon or] Verbiage (Matter).
There is a related pattern in the clause which could be regarded as a circumstance of Rôle, except that it does not involve a prepositional phrase. This is the structure whereby an Attribute is added to a material process, either (i) as depictive, corresponding to the guise, or (ii) as resultative, corresponding to the product; e.g. (i) he came back rich, (ii) bend that rod straight. Typically such an Attribute appears as an adjective; the pattern can occur with a general noun (he came back a rich man/a millionaire), but the related nominal attribute is usually construed circumstantially, with as: he came back as a millionaire, it’s frozen into a solid mass (cf. it’s frozen solid).
… in some instances, such as act as, turn into, the preposition as, into was so closely bonded with the verb that it should be analysed as part of the Process. … The boundary is indeterminate; but [the phrasal verb] analysis is suggested where the verb could not easily occur without the prepositional phrase, or is separated from the preposition thematically.
Product corresponds to the interrogative what into? with the meaning of ‘become’, similarly as attribute or identity; e.g. aren’t you growing into a big girl? (‘becoming a big girl’), he moulded the army into a disciplined fighting force.
Thematic circumstances of Rôle may indicate a period of time in a person’s life; for example … as a young boy … . This is distantly agnate with a temporal clause with a temporally enhancing relational clause — when he was a young boy …
Guise corresponds to the interrogative what as? and construes the meaning of ‘be’ (attribute or identity) in the form of a circumstance … The usual preposition is as; other, complex prepositions with this function are by way of, in the rôle/shape/guise/form …
This category construes the meanings of ‘be’ and ‘become’ circumstantially; the Rôle corresponds to the Attribute or Value of an ‘intensive relational’ clause. Rôle includes the subcategories of Guise (‘be’) and Product (‘become’). … A circumstance of Rôle usually relates to a participant in the clause — more specifically, to the Medium; but we also find circumstances of Rôle that do not.
Elaborating circumstances augment the configuration of process + participants through the specification of the rôle in which one of the participants participates in the process: this participant is elaborated circumstantially. There is only one type of elaborating circumstance: Rôle.
The additive represents the process as a two instances; here both entities clearly share the same participant function, but one of them is represented circumstantially for the purpose of contrast. … when one participant is represented circumstantially it can be given the status of [marked] Theme …
The comitative represents the process as a single instance of a process, although one in which two entities are involved. It ranges from some cases where the two entities could be conjoined as a single element … to others where they could not … Sometimes the comitative element is actually an accompanying process … [grammatical metaphor]
Accompaniment … corresponds to the interrogatives and who/what else?, but not who/what?. It is expressed by prepositional phrases with prepositions such as with, without, besides, instead of.
Accompaniment is a form of joint participation in the process and represents the meanings ‘and’, ‘or’, ‘not’ as circumstantials … We can distinguish two subcategories, comitative and additive; each has a positive and negative aspect. … A circumstance of Accompaniment may have an additional sense of cause or contingency — ‘since/if x has/hasn’t’.
Extending circumstances augment the configuration of process + participants through the specification of an element that stands in an extending relation to one of the participants in relation to its participation in the process. This element ranges on a scale from a co-participant … to an ‘appendix’ to one of the participants. … There is only one type of extending circumstance: Accompaniment.
Default circumstantials have the sense of negative condition — ‘if not, unless’; they are expressed by prepositional phrases with the complex prepositions in the absence of, in default of …
Concession circumstantials construe frustrated cause, with the sense of ‘although’; they are expressed by prepositional phrases with the prepositions despite, notwithstanding, or the complex prepositions in spite of or regardless of …
… the Head/Thing of a nominal group introduced by the preposition tends to be
- a noun denoting an entity whose existence is conditional …
- a noun denoting an event that might eventuate … or
- a nominalisation denoting a reified process or quality …
- Eventive nouns include those naming meteorological processes …
Circumstantials of Condition construe circumstances that have to obtain in order for the process to be actualised; they have the sense of ‘if’. They are expressed by prepositional phrases with complex prepositions in case of, in the event of, on condition of …
Circumstances of Contingency specify an element on which the actualisation of the process depends. Again, there are three sub-types: Condition, Concession, Default.
This category [Behalf] includes in principle the concept of the Client, the person for whom something is performed. But the Client is treated in the grammar as a kind of participant: it occurs without preposition, except when in a position of prominence, and can become Subject in the passive.
Expressions of Behalf represent the entity, typically a person, on whose behalf or for whose sake the action is undertaken — who it is for. They are expressed by a prepositional phrase with for or a complex preposition such as for the sake of, in favour of (negative: against), on behalf of … The usual interrogative is who for?.
… the Head/Thing of the nominal group introduced by the purposive preposition tends to be either a noun denoting [an] entity that is to be obtained through the actualisation of the process or a nominalisation representing a reified process. The latter is in fact a metaphorical variant of what would congruently be realised as a clause.
Circumstantials of Purpose represent the purpose for which an action takes place – the intention behind it; they have the sense of ‘in order that’. They are typically expressed by a prepositional phrase with for or a complex preposition such as in the hope of, for the purpose of, for the sake of … The interrogative corresponding is what for?.
A circumstantial expression of Reason represents the reason for which a process takes place – what causes it; they have the sense of ‘because’. It is typically expressed by a prepositional phrase with through, from, for or a complex preposition such as because of, as a result of, thanks to, due to; also the negative for want of …
There is also one class of expressions with of, one of the few places where of functions as a full preposition (ie representing a minor process) as distinct from being merely a structure marker; for example, die of starvation. The corresponding WH– forms are why? or how?.
The circumstantial element of Cause construes the reason why the process is actualised. It includes not only Reason in the narrow sense of existing conditions leading to the actualisation of the process, but also Purpose in the sense of intended conditions for which the process is actualised (what has been called ‘final cause’). Both Reason and Purpose tend to be eventive (and are therefore commonly construed as clauses in a clause nexus); but there is another type of Cause that tends to denote a person — the circumstance of Behalf. …
The semantic relations of reason and purpose tend to be realised as separate clauses rather than as phrases within the clause;
Circumstances of Degree shade into mood Adjuncts of intensity. The difference between them can be seen in an example such as it almost destroyed the house:(Degree) ‘it destroyed the house to a large extent’,
(Mood Ajunct) ‘it didn’t destroy the house’.
Circumstances of Degree construe the extent to which the process is actualised, and are thus agnate with lexical grading, as is seen particularly clearly in the lexicogrammar of emotion (cf. adore ‘love deeply’; detest ‘dislike intensely’). In contrast, Adjuncts of intensity assess the proposition – how close it comes to being actualised, and are thus agnate with other types of assessment and related to polarity.
Degree is typically expressed by an adverbial group with a general indication of degree … or with a collocationally more restricted adverb of degree … The collocationally restricted adverbs collocate with verbs serving as Process … Less commonly Degree may be expressed by a prepositional phrase, usually with to plus a nominal group with extent, degree as Thing and an intensifying adjective … as Epithet. Degree expressions characterise the extent of the actualisation of the process and they often occur immediately before or immediately after the Process … [The interrogative is how much?.]
Comparison is typically expressed by a prepositional phrase with like or unlike, or an adverbial group of similarity or difference … The interrogative is what … like?.
… circumstances of Quality may also embody positive or negative interpersonal evaluations (e.g. the positively evaluated eloquently), and they may include comparative reference, as with that way, similarly, thus, thus contributing to cohesion in the text.
Quality is typically expressed by an adverbial group with an -ly adverb as Head; the interrogative forms is how? or how … ? plus an appropriate adverb. Less commonly, Quality is realised by a prepositional phrase. The general type is one where the preposition is in or with and the Head/Thing of the nominal group is the name of ‘manner’, either manner or way, or of a qualitative dimension such as speed, tone, skill, ease, difficulty, term; but phrasal expressions of Quality also include more specific types, such as specifications of the manner of movement.
The line between agent and instrument is not always very sharp. … Nevertheless, there is a significant distinction in the grammar between manner and agency, so that a passive by phrase, if it could not remain unchanged in the corresponding active clause, is interpreted as a participant, not as a circumstance of Manner. This reflects the fact that semantically, whereas the instrument is not usually an inherent element in the process, the agent typically is — although less clearly so when the process is expressed in the passive.
… the category includes, in principle, the concepts of both agency and instrumentality. The instrument is not a distinct category in English grammar; it is simply a kind of means [as shown by voice agnates]. … The agent, however, although it is expressed as a prepositional phrase, typically functions as a participant in the clause [as shown by voice agnates].
Means refers to the means whereby a process takes place; it is typically expressed by a prepositional phrase with the preposition by or with. The interrogative forms are how? and what with?.
Means is close to the participant rôle of Agent and Comparison is like a participant in a clause with the same type of process, whereas Quality and Degree are like features of the process itself. These differences in status are reflected in realisational tendencies: Means and Comparison tend to be realised by prepositional phrases, whereas Quality and [Degree] tend to be realised by adverbial groups.
The circumstantial element of Manner construes the way in which the process is actualised. Manner comprises four subcategories: Means, Quality, Comparison, Degree …
Abstract space is the source of various expressions that serve as realisations of other types of circumstance such as Manner (e.g. walk on one’s legs, make wine out of grapes), Rôle (e.g. cut into cubes, translate from Spanish into English). It can be difficult to determine whether such an expression serves as an abstract Location or as a circumstance of another type. But probes involving Wh– items usually help us draw the line. For example, using the spatial where, we can say where the dollar rose was to its highest point in the past year, which indicates that to its highest point in the past year is a Location in abstract space rather than a circumstance of some other kind. In contrast, we cannot say where she talked was on the meaning of life, which indicates that on the meaning of life is not a Location in abstract space but rather a circumstance of another kind.
Space includes not only concrete space, but also abstract space. Abstract space covers a range of experiential domains that are construed on the model of space; … the construal of abstract space often involves a ‘material’ process of motion through space like come, go, bring, take.
The abstractness is a feature of the clause as a whole, not just a single element; but the ‘clue’ to the abstract interpretation may be a single element or a combination of elements.
- The Location itself may be an abstract one, as with … this brings us back to the purpose of this symposium …
- the participant placed in relation to the Location may be an abstraction, as with … a great sadness came over him … or
- the participant causing this participant to be placed in relation to the Location may be an abstraction as in where is all this taking us?