Tuesday, 31 May 2016

The Difference Between System And Instance

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 555)
… what we call “system” and “instance” are one and the same phenomenon, being observed from different depths in time.

Monday, 30 May 2016

Phylogenesis: Changing System Probabilities

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 555) 
Historical change in language is typically a quantitative process, in which probabilities in systems at every level are gradually nudged in one direction or another, now and again becoming categorical so that some systemic upheaval takes place. Each instantiation of a tense form, say, whenever someone is speaking or writing in English, minutely perturbs the probabilities of the system …

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Register Variation: The Resetting Of Lexicogrammatical and Semantic System Probabilities

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 554) 
We can in fact define register variation as the resetting of probabilities in the lexicogrammatical and semantic systems …. 

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 557) 
… we define register variation as the ongoing resetting of probabilities in the lexicogrammar, which then functions to construe the ongoing variation at the level of the social process.

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Register Variation Realises Context Variation

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 554) 
… variation in register: the way in which meaning selections in texts tend to vary systematically with their contextual function — their value in the social process.
Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 557) 
… the diversity of spheres of social action is realised by variation in the line-up of semantic features — that is, by variation in register

Friday, 27 May 2016

Frequency In The Text As The Manifestation Of Probability In The System

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 552-3):
We have sometimes referred to the relative frequency of a particular feature of the grammar. For instance, in our two examples of the meaning base as a resource in language processing, certain patterns characteristically recurred: future tense in the weather forecasts, imperative mood in the recipes. In each case this was a special feature pertaining to the register in question: in weather forecasts, the future tense is especially frequent relative to the other primary tenses. To say this means that there is a general expectancy in English discourse that, again relative to the other primary tenses, future will occur less frequently than it does here. In other words, there is some global expectation, in the grammar of English, about the relative frequency of the different terms in the primary tense system, past, present and future. Similarly there is some global expectation about the relative frequency of imperative and indicative mood. Frequency in the text is to be interpreted, therefore, as the manifestation of underlying probability in the system.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Global Indeterminacy

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 552):
Local indeterminacies of all these types are found in all regions of the content plane, either within one stratum or at the interface between one stratum and another (including of course puns, which are formed at the interface of content and expression). Some of them involve very general categories, and hence resonate across wide stretches of semantic space, like the transitive/ergative complementarity. We may call them "local", however, in contrast to one global form of indeterminacy which is a feature of the entire system of language, and probably of any evolved semiotic system, namely its probabilistic character.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Indeterminacy Through Overlap: Behavioural Processes

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 551):
Behavioural processes such as listen, watch share some features with material processes ('present-in-present' as unmarked tense; no projection), other features with mental processes (the Medium/Behaver is a conscious being). They lie on the borderline between 'doing' and 'sensing’ (so can be re-iterated as do in some contexts but not in all).

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Five Basic Types Of Indeterminacy In The Ideation Base

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 549):
(1) ambiguities (‘either a or x’): one form of wording construes two distinct meanings, each of which is exclusive of the other.
(2) blends (‘both b and y’): one form of wording construes two different meanings, both of which are blended into a single whole.
(3) overlaps (‘partly c, partly z’): two categories overlap so that certain members display features of each.
(4) neutralisations: in certain contexts, the difference between two categories disappears.
(5) complementarities: certain semantic features or domains are construed in two contradictory ways.

Monday, 23 May 2016

The Reason For Indeterminacy

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 548):
We have tried to make the point that the human condition is such that no singulary, determinate construction of experience would enable us to survive. We have to be able to see things in indeterminate ways: now this, now that, partly one thing, partly the other — the transitivity system is a paradigm example, and that lies at the core of the experiential component of grammar.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Why The Mainstream Grammatical Tradition Treats Indeterminacy As The Exception

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 548-9):
But even non-metaphorical forms of writing construe with greater determinacy. We may cite two very pervasive distinctions between spoken and written discourse. On the one hand, writing construes the text into clear-cut constituents, marked off by spacing and other forms of punctuation; in spoken language there are no clear beginnings and endings in the expression (we cannot refer to pauses, since they tend to occur at transition points before something that is less predictable; pauses seldom mark the text's grammatical boundaries). On the other hand, many interpersonal and textual systems are realised in speech by intonation, and most intonation contrasts are gradual rather than categorical. Thus both syntagmatically and paradigmatically written language tends towards greater determinacy; hence our received model of language, in the mainstream grammatical tradition, emphasises clear-cut constituents and classes. Not that it has no tolerance at all for mixed and intermediate categories; but it treats them as the exception, not the norm.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Grammatical Metaphor Privileges Order

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 548): 
Grammatical metaphor objectifies our experience, transforming its being and happening into things; in so doing, it privileges order, since experience can now be categorised into classes and hierarchies of classes, which are significantly more determinate than the processes and properties favoured by the grammar in its congruent form.

Friday, 20 May 2016

The Greater Appearance Of Order In Written Language

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 548):
The immediate appearance of order in written language — the fact that it is presented to us in neat blocks and rows upon a page (or the equivalent, in other forms of technology), whereas speech is notorious for its hesitations, false starts, backtracking, clearing of the throat and whatever — is simply a consequence of the fact that we do not display its history: we leave out the provisional attempts and early drafts, and "publish" only the finished product. When analogous measures are taken with spoken language there is no significant difference between the two: speech is just as orderly as writing (cf. Halliday, 1985/9).

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Language As An Indeterminate System

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 547-8):
What does it mean to say that a natural language is an indeterminate system? In the most general terms, it suggests that the generalised categories that constitute language as a system — as "order", rather than as randomness or "chaos" (let us say randomness rather than chaos, since chaos in its technical reading is also a form of order) — are typically not categorical: that is, they do not display determinate boundaries, fixed criteria of membership, or stable relationships from one stratum to another. We could refer to them as "fuzzy", in the sense in which this term is used in fuzzy logic, fuzzy computing, etc.; but we prefer to retain the term "indeterminate" for the phenomena themselves, since "fuzzy" is usually applied to the theoretical modelling of the phenomena (it refers to meta-fuzz rather than fuzz).

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

The Place Of Indeterminacy In SFL

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 547):
We have not here explicitly foregrounded the concept of indeterminacy in language. But there is a reason for this. To foreground indeterminacy is to treat it as something special, as a marked feature that stands out from, and hence distorts and destabilises, the phenomenon under scrutiny. Here however we take indeterminacy for granted, as a normal and necessary feature of an evolved and functioning semiotic system. Rather than being something that needs to be especially remarked on, it is something that should be built in to our ways of representing and interpreting language: part of the background, rather than the foreground, to our account of the construal of experience.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Ideational Metaphor And The Reification Of Experience

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 547):
But it [grammatical metaphor] shaped it [our humanist world] in a way which soon came to be felt as decidedly inhuman. Already at the end of the eighteenth century, within a hundred years of Newton's "Opticks", people were reacting against the rigidity of the world of physics; what they could not accept were the ideological constraints set up by scientific discourse, by a grammar which construed all experience in terms of things. In our own twentieth century the scientists themselves have become weary of it, finding that it prevents them from engaging with the indeterminacy and the flow that they now regard as fundamental — let alone with the concept of the universe as conscious and communicating, as something itself to be interpreted as a semiotic system–&–process. Once we conceive of reality in semiotic terms, it can no longer surprise us that language has the power to construe it, maintain it, and transform it into something else.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Ideational Metaphor And The Semiotic Control Of Experience

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 546-7):
In the world of classical physics, the flux of experience was held under control: reality had to be prevented from wriggling, while it could be observed and experimented with. The control over experience is partly a physical matter; but it is also in part semiotic, and the semiotic control of experience is achieved by the nominalising power of the grammar. Since it is the grammar that has construed it in the first place, the grammar is able to transform it by reconstruing it in other terms. Grammatical metaphor played an important rôle in shaping our humanist world.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Metaphorical Nexus

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 546):
This reconstrual of experience is complex: what were first construed as happenings have become things, with the original things now serving merely as their appendages; but at the same time what were first construed as logical relationships between processes have been reconstrued as processes in their own right. So the transformation of diamond into graphite is caused by ... . It is also complex in another way: the original status accorded to the phenomenon is not lost, but enters into a metaphorical nexus with the new one. So transformation is still a process, as well as being a thing; is caused by, as well as being a process, is still a logical relation between processes. But, as we have seen, the overwhelmingly predominating effect of this reconstrual is a nominalising one, in which other phenomena are transformed into things. This is a major shift in ideational terms, and plays a significant part in the historical semiotic.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Ideational Metaphor: Textually Motivated With Ideational Effects

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 546):
We have shown that the motive for reconstruing experience in this way was in the first instance a textual one: in the grammars of these languages, when one is developing a reasoned chain of logical argument such that complex phenomena have to be given a clearly defined status in the organisation of information (the clause as "message"), such phenomena have to be constructed in nominal form. But there is no insulation between one part of the grammar and another, and this inevitably has ideational effects. Any semantic construct that appears as topical Theme has a function in transitivity; if it is formed as a nominal group, it is potentially a participant in some process, and therefore at some level it is an entity, a thing. If we say diamond is transformed into graphite, this is a process involving two things, diamond and graphite; if we reconstrue this as the transformation of diamond into graphite it has become one thing, transformation, with diamond and graphite serving only circumstantially to qualify it as a thing of a certain kind.

Friday, 13 May 2016

Grammatical Metaphor: Reconstruing Phenomena

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 545-6):
But to say that the semantic relations have become less explicit is to imply that these relations themselves have not changed. In one sense, this is true: we can "unpack" the metaphor, and experts will generally agree on how to do it. But in another sense it is not true. Scientific discourse began, as we saw, with the creation of technical taxonomies and mathematical constructs; these were already modulating the semiotic construal of experience, even if only at the margins, by creating a new realm of abstract things that had not existed before. But the transformation brought about by the renaissance was a more fundamental one; not only was this realm of abstract things greatly extended, but, more significantly, phenomena hitherto construed as processes and properties were now transformed into things — they were reconstrued, by grammatical metaphor.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Grammatical Metaphor And Explicitness

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 545):
… one effect of grammatical metaphor is to render many of the semantic relationships implicit: if the happening is construed as a clause, the semantic relations are spelt out in the configuration of grammatical elements, whereas if it is construed as a nominal group they are not, or only partially so … On the whole, the greater the degree of metaphor in the grammar, the more the reader needs to know in order to understand the text.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Grammatical Metaphor Made Scientific Registers Possible

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 545):
We have suggested that the immediate context for this change was a discursive one: the evolution of a register of experimental science, in which certain forms of argumentation were highly valued. This is usually interpreted simply as the emergence of a particular genre, the scientific article; but that is only one side of the story — no such genre could have come into being without these changes in the grammar of the clause.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Why Nominalise Qualities And Processes?

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 543-4):
The reason is to be found in the grammar of the textual metafunction. In order to function with the requisite value in the message, which means either as Theme or as focus of information, they cannot remain as complete clauses; they have to be "packaged" into single elements of clause structure, and the only available constituent for this purpose is the nominal group. … It can then take on a clearly defined status in the grammatical construction of the discourse.

Monday, 9 May 2016

The Emergence Of Scientific Registers

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 542):
It is with the "new learning" of the Renaissance that a distinct language of science begins to emerge, with a vastly greater dependence on grammatical metaphor. The earlier exercises in nominalisation had been abstract but only minimally metaphorical; there is a trace of grammatical metaphor in expressions like conclusion and the same number of altitude, but no more than is found in the language of daily life.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Exploiting Semogenic Potential: The Structure Of The Nominal Group

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 540):
The second of the resources that was brought into play was a syntactic one, the structure of the nominal group. The nominal group of ancient Greek was very like that of modern English: it had a similar arrangement of elements around the Head noun, allowing both prepositional phrases and clauses in modifying function (with some difference of ordering), and included among its deictic elements one which was very close to the English the. Thus any noun could accumulate qualifying clauses and phrases which were explicitly signalled as defining, analogous to English the electrons in an atom, the angles which make up a triangle. One context which demanded elaborate nominal group structures of this kind was that of mathematics, as scholars conducted more and more sophisticated measurements, for example in their attempts to understand planetary motion.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Exploiting Semogenic Potential: The Power Of Forming New Words

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 539):
For systematic scholarship it is necessary to technicalise some of the words that are used, and this imposes two requirements: the words must be interpretable in an abstract sense, since they need to refer not to outward appearances but to the properties and principles that lie behind them; and they need to relate to one another in a regular and systematic way, so as to form stable taxonomies.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Origins Of Ideational Metaphor In The West

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 539):
Why did such a significant development take place? The most important single factor was undoubtedly the evolution of science and technology. It is possible to trace the emergence of this pattern of grammatical metaphor back to the origins of western science in ancient Greece, and to follow its development step by step; each stage in the evolution of the grammar realises a stage in the evolution of a world view. 
The philosopher-scientists of the ancient Greek world, Thales, Pythagoras, Anaximander and their successors, inherited a language with a grammar of the kind outlined above, in which experiential meanings were construed in clausal patterns as a balanced interplay of happenings and things; nouns enjoyed no special privileged status. In the course of their writings (and no doubt first of all in the course of their sayings, only we have no access to these) they distilled this into a language of learning. We do not know how much they reflected on this process; it is unlikely they engaged in any very explicit language planning. What they did was to exploit the resources of everyday Greek, its fundamental semogenic potential. In particular, they exploited two of its grammatical powers: the power of forming new words, and the power of extending grammatical structures.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Why Congruent And Metaphorical Expressions Are Not Synonymous: Scale

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 538):
The second problem is that of sheer scale. If only odd, more or less random instances of this kind of metaphor occurred, they could have little effect on the system as a whole. But given the massive scale of this shift in the grammar, affecting as it does entire registers of modern English, it cannot simply be dismissed as meaningless variation. As we saw in Chapter 6, the metaphoric processes themselves are highly systematic; moreover they occur in typical syndromes, so that it is not just one aspect of the construction that is affected. Rather, the entire perspective is shifted sideways, so that each element in the configuration is reconstructed as something else. When this pattern comes to predominate throughout a large proportion of the discourse of adult life, it amounts to a fairly major resemanticising of experience.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Why Congruent And Metaphorical Expressions Are Not Synonymous: History

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 538):
It might be maintained that a pair of expressions such as in times of engine failure and whenever an engine failed are simply synonymous, and do not imply any reconstruction of experience. But there are two problems with this view, One is that of history, referred to above. If neither had preceded the other, they could simply be free alternatives (though language is seldom so extravagant with its resources as this would imply!). But since one form of wording came first, it inevitably acquired a rich semantic loading. Since nouns evolved as names of classes of things, anything which is represented as a noun inevitably acquires the status of a thing, with the implication of a concrete object as the prototype. Thus in engine failure, the grammar has construed a thing called failure; and the nominal group then accommodates classes of failure (with another noun as Classifier), such as crop failure, heart failure and engine failure. Thus engine failure and engines fail are precisely not synonymous, because in engine failure the happening fail has acquired an additional semantic feature as the name of a class of things.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Ideational Metaphor And Phylogenesis

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 537-8):
Under certain historical conditions, such a [congruent] theory [of experience] may come to be modified or reconstructed. No doubt there have been various more or less catastrophic changes in earlier human history which have brought about relatively rapid changes in language — relatively, that is, to the gradual evolution of the system that has taken place all the time. We have no means of knowing about these. But it seems likely that what we are here calling grammatical metaphor represents one such partial reconstruction, in which, in the context of science and technology, a rather different kind of "reality" is being construed.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Ideational Congruence And Ontogenesis

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 537):
"Congruent" is of course a contingent term. What it is saying is that, at the present moment in human history we can recognize forms of language which seem to represent a common coding of experience: this is the configuration that we referred to as "process + participant + circumstance" which is construed in grammars through some version of the trichotomy of verb, noun and the rest. If we relate this to English, it is the form of English that is learnt as a mother tongue, in which phenomena are interpreted clausally, in a kind of dynamic equilibrium of happenings and things. The prototypical thing is a concrete object which can be related by similarity to certain other objects, such that taken together they form a class, like engines. The prototypical happening is a change in the environment that is perceptible to the senses, or a change in the senser's own consciousness. A process is a happening involving one or two such objects, or one object and a conscious being. When children move from their own constructed protolanguage into the mother tongue, this provides a theory which they can use to give a plausible construction to their own individual experience.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Relative Metaphoricity: Semogenic Timescales

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 537):
Once we take note of progression in [phylogenetic, ontogenetic and logogenetic] time, then given a pair of such expressions we can identify one of the two as more metaphorical. The process is one of movement away from what we referred to as a “congruent” form.