Friday, 10 April 2015

Why The Argument For A 'Discourse' Semantic Stratum Is Invalid

Martin (1992: 19):
The impetus for stratification provided by semantic motifs, grammatical metaphor and cohesion gives rise to a model in which the discourse semantics both generalises across grammatical resources and accounts for relations between as well as within clause complexes.  The discourse semantics is thus more abstract than, and deals with larger units than, lexicogrammar.

 Blogger Comments:

[1] Only one of the three purported rationâles, grammatical metaphor, provides a valid reason for stratifying the content plane; but grammatical metaphor does not justify a stratum of discourse semantics — merely a stratum of semantics, as in Halliday's original model.  See here.

As already explained in an earlier post, the discussion of semantic motifs confuses delicacy with stratification, and proposes a higher stratum system (attitude) that would be in an incongruent relation with a grammatical subsystem of process types (behavioural, mental and relational).  See here.

The discussion of cohesion provides no reasons for reconstruing cohesion as belonging to a higher level of symbolic abstraction.  The argument rests on separating cohesion from grammar — a false dichotymy — and the false claim: "the main problem with this treatment is that it fails to bring out the continuity of between the structural [taxis] and non-structural [cohesive] resources".  See here.  Note that, even if this were true, it would not justify relocating cohesion at a higher level of symbolic abstraction.

[2] This again confuses delicacy ("generalises") with stratification (symbolic abstraction).  The grammar is "generalised" by its least delicate systems.  A semantics is more symbolically abstract than lexicogrammar, not more general.

[3] Relations between and within clause complexes are already accounted for by the cohesive resources of the grammar.

[4] This has not been demonstrated.  The discourse semantics is not "thus" more abstract than the grammar, because neither generalisation nor syntagmatic extension is the same as symbolic abstraction.


[5] The proposed unit for the discourse semantic system of the textual metafunction, identification, is the participant (op cit: 325), which is smaller than the clause, and inconsistent with SFL theory in terms of metafunction, since the participant is an experiential, not textual, function. Moreover, the size of units is irrelevant as a criterion for levels of symbolic abstraction (stratification).

Conclusion:  The case for establishing a 'discourse semantic' stratum has not been made by any of the three purported rationâles.

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