Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Confusing Strata

Martin (1992: 1):
Like Cohesion In English [Halliday & Hasan], English Text uses systemic functional grammar to ask questions about text structure, and complements the grammar by developing additional analyses which focus on text rather than clause.  Cohesion In English organises this division of labour as the opposition between grammar and cohesion (between structural and non-structural resources for meaning).  English Text organises this division of labour in a different way — stratally, as an opposition between grammar and semantics (between clause oriented and text oriented resources for meaning).

Blogger Comments:

[1] In SFL, cohesion is not in opposition to grammar — it is within the grammar, and within the textual metafunction, as its non-structural component (Halliday & Matthiessen 2004: 524-85).  As such, cohesion is a lexicogrammatical means of realising textual meaning.  That is, cohesion is construed as a lower level of symbolic abstraction than semantics.

Symbolic abstraction is the principle on which linguistic strata are organised.  The relation between strata is one of realisation: lower stratum realises higher stratum.  A transitivity analysis of this shows that the relation between strata is identifying and intensive (elaborating):

lexicogrammar (wording)
semantics (meaning)
Process: identifying: intensive

[2] Clearly, construing the opposition between the non-structural textual grammar and the remainder of the grammar — textual, interpersonal, experiential, and logical — as a stratal opposition is inconsistent with the meaning of strata: as different levels of symbolic abstraction.

Since Martin distinguishes the content plane strata as an opposition "between clause oriented and text oriented resources for meaning", it is reasonable to conclude that he formulated his semantics on the basis of the size of units, rather than on the basis of symbolic abstraction.  This is a serious inconsistency with the original model.

Conclusion: The founding rationâle for establishing a stratum of 'discourse semantics' is inconsistent with the theory in which it is intended to be situated.

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