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.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Metafunction–Rank Matrix

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 49):
Each system has its point of origin at a particular rank: clause, phrase, group and their associated complexes. … the clause is the primary channel of grammatical energy … . Systems at every rank are located in their metafunctional context; this means, therefore, that every system has its address in some cell of a metafunction-rank matrix … .  For example, the system of MOOD is an interpersonal system of the clause; so it is located in the ‘clause’ row, ‘interpersonal’ column in the matrix.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Organising Principle Is System

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 49):
Giving priority to the view ‘from above’ means that the organising principle adopted is one of system: the grammar is seen as a network of interrelated meaningful choices. In other words, the dominant axis is the paradigmatic one: the fundamental components of the grammar are sets of mutually defining contrastive features. Explaining something consists not of stating how it is structured but in showing how it is related to other things: its pattern of systemic relationships, or agnateness (agnation).

Friday, 20 January 2017

Functional Grammar Is ‘Semanticky’

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 49):
Being a ‘functional grammar’ means that priority is given to the view ‘from above’; that is, grammar is seen as a resource for making meaning — it is a ‘semanticky’ kind of grammar. But the focus of attention is still on the grammar itself.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Trinocular Perspective

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 48):
We cannot expect to understand the grammar just by looking at it from its own level; we also look into it ‘from above’ and ‘from below’, taking a trinocular perspective. But since the view from these different angles is often conflicting, the description will inevitably be a form of compromise.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Overall Meaning Potential As An Aggregate Of Registerial Subpotentials

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 48):
Language has evolved as a fully systemic semiotic system: it is possible to posit and describe the overall meaning potential for a given language, interpreting this meaning potential as an aggregate of registerial subpotentials.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Other Semiotic Systems And The Cline Of Instantiation

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 48):
Another interesting issue is to what extent different semiotic systems extend all the way along the cline of instantiation from the instance pole to the potential pole.  We can ask of any one given semiotic system how systemic it is — which clearly relates to the question of how much individual variation there is across a speech fellowship (or speech community). … it is theoretically quite possible that certain other semiotic systems are more usefully interpreted as operating with systems located somewhere midway along the cline of instantiation; in other words, they are most usefully described in register-specific terms. For example, if we consider semiotic systems that have been included under the heading of ‘visual semiotics’, we can note how highly contextually adapted and specialised systems such as technical drawing, mass transport route cartography and press photography are; it is not immediately clear that they can all be regarded as registerial subsystems of a general visual semiotic system.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Cline Of Integration Of Semiotic Systems

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 48):
One interesting issue that relates to both questions posed above is to what extent the different semiotic systems operating in context are integrated with one another and to what extent they operate independently of one another. To explore this issue, we can posit a cline of integration, extending from completely integrated systems to completely independent ones (cf. Matthiessen, 2009a).

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Relations Between Instantiations Of Language And Other Semiotic Systems

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 47):
If we take ‘text’ to mean an instance of the system of a language operating in a context of situation, then we can ask: (1) how it relates to instances of other semiotic systems operating in the same context of situation, and (2) how semiotic labour is divided among these different semiotic systems – how they complement one another.

Blogger Comment:

Theoretical caveat: Here text (Token) is construed metaphorically as a material Actor, and the cultural situation (Value) it realises is metaphorically construed as its Location.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Language And Gesture

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 46-7):
Most accounts of ‘multimodal text’ so far have probably focused on combinations of written texts and instances of ‘visual semiotic’ systems. From a developmental and evolutionary point of view, it would make more sense to start with spoken texts unfolding together with instances of other somatic semiotic systems (i.e. other semiotic systems using some aspect of the body as their expression plane; see Matthiessen, 2009a, and cf. Thibault’s, 2004, notion of the ‘signifying body’) before moving on to interpret and describe exo-somatic semiotic systems. Indeed, the protolanguages of early childhood tend to be both vocal and gestural in their expression (see Halliday, 1975, 1992d, 2004); and we can hypothesise that the same was true of protolanguages in human evolution (see Matthiessen, 2004a). … An early systemic functional contribution to the study of language and gesture is Muntigl (2004), and the systemic functional work on language and gesture has been followed up by Hood (2011).

Blogger Comment:

Not insignificantly, the theoretical basis of "Hood's contribution to the study of language and gesture" is the unpublished work of this blogger (Cléirigh 2009), which distinguishes — on the basis of ontogenesis and phylogenesis — between protolinguistic, linguistic and epilinguistic gesture–&–posture systems.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Text As Instance Across Semiotic Modes

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 46):
The term ‘text’ includes both spoken and written instances of the linguistic system. … However, the sense of text is being extended to other semiotic systems, and scholars refer to instances of e.g. ‘visual semiotic’ systems as ‘(visual) texts’ (thus a painting would be a visual semiotic text) and they also refer to ‘multimodal texts’ — instances of more than one semiotic system.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Textual Semantic Units

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 45-6):
Textually, a text is a flow of information, or, more accurately, waves of information. These wave patterns extend from the whole text through rhetorical paragraphs to local waves, or messages — quanta of information that are realised by clauses in their textual guise, and (in spoken language) also by information units.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Interpersonal Semantic Units

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 45):
Interpersonally, a text is a series of exchanges between speaker and addressee – even if it is a one-sided monologue that is essentially a series of statements acknowledged silently by the addressee. These exchanges are propelled forward locally by moves, which are realised by clauses in their interpersonal guise.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Ideational Semantic Units

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 45):
In describing the structure of the text, we have foregrounded the perspective of the ideational metafunction. Sequences are construed through logical resources and figures through experiential ones; and rhetorical paragraphs and groups of paragraphs can be interpreted as being formed by logical resources – in terms of logico-semantic relations (cf. Halliday, 2001; Matthiessen, 2002a). At the same time, texts are also organised in terms of interpersonal and textual patterns of meaning.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Grammar Beyond The Clause Complex: Cohesion

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 44):
Thus the grammar makes the local structure of the text ‘tighter’, more highly integrated, by constructing it not only as meaning but also as wording. However, the grammar also provides some important guidance beyond the domain of the clause complex, i.e. beyond the most extensive domain of grammatical structure. It does this by means of the resources of cohesion, e.g. by means of cohesive conjunctions such as for example, in addition, in contrast, therefore, meanwhile, which can mark relations between sequences realised by clause complexes and also between (groups of) rhetorical paragraphs.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

The Relationship Between Situation, Text, and Clause

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 44):
Globally, a text is structured according to the situation it operates in; the contextual structure is projected onto the text, and the contextual elements are realised by patterns of meaning in the text. As a semantic unit, the text consists of semantic domains of different sizes. It is likely to consist of rhetorical paragraphs (or parasemes (see Halliday, 2002d), which may or may not correspond to orthographic paragraphs in writing). In turn, these consist of sequences – sequences of figures, i.e. configurations of processes, participants involved in these and attendant circumstances. These more local domains, sequences and figures, are typically realised grammatically: sequences are realised by clause complexes, and figures by clauses.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Modelling Text Depth: Rank Scale vs Internal Nesting

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 44):
In general, two approaches to the account of the depth of texts have emerged in various traditions: the depth of layering may be modelled in terms of a semantic rank scale operating with some kind of constituency structure (analogous to the lexicogrammatical and phonological rank scales discussed above), as in Longacre’s work since the 1970s; or it may be modelled in terms of internal nesting of relational organisation — along the lines of Grimes (1975) and Beekman, Callow & Kopesec (1981). Within systemic functional linguistics, we also find these two models of the depth of text — the rank-scale model with rhetorical units proposed by Cloran (1994) and the internal-nesting model derived from Rhetorical Structure Theory (RST, e.g. Matthiessen & Thompson, 1988; Matthiessen, 1992, 2002a). The two are applied to the analysis of the same text by Cloran, Stuart-Smith & Young (2007). They are not, of course, mutually exclusive; they can be interpreted as capturing different aspects of the ‘depth’ of texts. And as grammarians we do not have to choose between the two as long as they provide us with motivated accounts of how to relate semantics to grammar.

Friday, 6 January 2017

The Depth Of Texts

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 43-4):
Texts have ‘depth’ – ordered layers of semantic patterns, ranging from the global semantic domain of the whole text to local semantic domain corresponding to domains of lexicogrammatical patterning. This depth is reflected in traditional accounts within composition and rhetoric in notions like rhetorical paragraph and topic sentence, and linguists and other scholars concerned with the analysis of texts and the description of the systems that lie behind them have proposed various frameworks for accounting for the ‘depth’ of texts, including pioneering contributions from the broad tradition of tagmemic linguistics …

Blogger Comment:

Notions like 'rhetorical paragraph' and 'topic sentence' are the concern of writing pedagogy.*  Writing pedagogy is a "macro-proposal" for the writing of texts, whereas linguistic theory is a "macro-proposition" for the modelling of language.

*Note that Martin (1992) rebrands 'introductory paragraph' as 'macro-Theme' and 'topic sentence' as 'hyper-Theme' and presents them as linguistic theory.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Context Structure Projected Onto Text Structure

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 43):
If the situation is one of ‘meaning’ in terms of the sociosemiotic activity then the entire structure of the situation is projected onto the text. For example, in a situation of telling a traditional folk tale, the structure would be (from Hasan, 1984, but slightly simplified):
(Placement ^ ) Initiating Event ^ Sequent Event¹⁻ⁿ ^ Final Event ( ^ Finale) (° Moral)
This structure is projected onto the text operating in the situation – and possibly also onto other accompanying semiotic processes such as a musical score. Each element, or stage, of the structure of the situation is realised by distinctive semantic patterns, as illustrated for Placement by Hasan (1984). These distinctive semantic patterns are, in turn, realised by distinctive lexicogrammatical patterns; but the patterns of wording in the lexicogrammar are always mediated by the patterns of meaning in the semantics.

Blogger Comment:

This new addition to IFG by Halliday's reviser, Matthiessen, reinterprets Hasan's work on 'Generic Structure Potential' (GSP) as 'context structure projected onto text structure'.

Hasan (1984) was concerned with deriving semantic structure 'from above', that is: from context, in accordance with the trinocular perspective advocated by Halliday, together with the principle that a functional theory prioritises the view 'from above'.

Hasan was concerned with semantic structure potential of particular genres, or text types; that is, of particular registers.

Here Matthiessen reinterprets Hasan's register-specific semantic structure potential as the structure of an instance of context that is projected onto the semantic structure of an instance of language.

Note that the aspects of the situation that are not projected onto the structure of the text include:
  • what's going on (field), e.g. a parent reading to a child at bed-time;
  • who's involved, e.g. the tenor relation between parent and child; and
  • the rôle of language, e.g. spoken mode.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Text As Semantic Unit

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 43):
A text is organised internally as patterns of logical, experiential, interpersonal and textual meaning. At the same time, it is organised externally as a unit operating in context: the structure of the context of situation that a text operates in is, as it were, projected onto the text.

Blogger Comments:

[1] This new addition to IFG by Halliday's reviser, Matthiessen, blurs the distinction between semantics and instantiation, as a result of blurring the distinction between 'text' as a unit of the semantic stratum and 'text' as an instance of a linguistic system.  (The topic under discussion is 'semantics'.)

On the SFL model of stratification, a text realises a context of situation.  The relation between them one of symbolic abstraction, a sub-type of intensive identity.  The relation between text and situation, therefore, is not spatio-temporal (text "in" situation).

The notion of a text as 'a unit operating in context of situation' construes 'text' as Actor of a material Process and 'context of situation' as its spatio-temporal Location:

in context of situation
Process: material

This is a (metaphorical) construal of text as a Medium of the instantiation process during logogenesis, not a construal of text as a unit of the semantic stratum.

[2] On the SFL model, context and language are construed together (as different levels of symbolic abstraction).  The metaphor that 'the structure of the context of situation is projected onto the text' construes 'the structure of the context of situation' as Goal/Medium of a material Process and 'the text' as its spatio-temporal Location:

the structure of the context of situation
is projected 
onto the text
Process: material

Tuesday, 3 January 2017


Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 43):
The basic unit of semantics is the text — language functioning in context, an instance of the semantic system.

Blogger Comment:

Note that this new addition to IFG by Halliday's reviser, Matthiessen, blurs the distinction between 'text' as a unit of the semantic stratum and 'text' as an instance of a linguistic system.  Most importantly:
  • the theoretical notion of 'text as semantic unit' is not restricted to the instance pole of the cline of instantiation, and 
  • the theoretical notion of 'text as instance' is not restricted to the semantic stratum.

It will be seen that this blurring compromises the discussion that follows.

Monday, 2 January 2017

Content: Semantics & Lexicogrammar

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 43):
As the upper of the two content strata within language, semantics is the interface between context and lexicogrammar. Semantics transforms experience and interpersonal relationships into linguistic meaning, and lexicogrammar transforms this meaning into words, as we put it above, adopting the speaker’s perspective.

Blogger Comment:

Note that this new addition to IFG by Halliday's reviser, Matthiessen, construes each of semantics and lexicogrammar as both the Assigner and Value of these identifying relations — as both the Agent and Range of the Process.

experience and interpersonal relationships
linguistic meaning
Process: relational
Identified Token

Identifier Value

this meaning

Process: relational
Identified Token

Identifier Value

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Semantics As Interface

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 42-3):
Semantics is the highest stratum within language; it serves as an ‘interface’ between language and the environment outside language. This means that semantics interfaces with context, but not only with context — it also interfaces with other systems that operate within context, viz. with the content systems of other semiotic systems and with bio-semiotic systems such as our systems of perception and our system of bodily action (cf. Halliday & Matthiessen, 1999).