Saturday, 2 May 2015

Confusing Nominal Groups With Reference Items

Martin (1992: 98-9):
The basic discourse option organising Table 3.2 has to do with phoricity (from endophoric, exophoric, homophoric, anaphoric, cataphoric).  The nominal groups in [3:1] have been organised semantically into phoric and non-phoric classes according to whether their grammar signals the identity of the participant they realise as recoverable or not.

Table 3.2. Coding recoverability in [3:1]
indefinite article:

I. I, I, I, I, I, I, me, me, my mum,
him, it ['the tiger']
a Hippopotamus…………………...
he, he, him
a gorilla……………………………
a baby gorilla

a watch


this man

definite article:

the zoo, the zoo
the tiger

proper name:


Blogger Comments:

[1] Martin here neglects to acknowledge that the term 'phoricity' comes from his major source, Du Bois (1980: 226), who coined it as a cover term for the types of reference in Cohesion In English (Halliday & Hasan 1976).   Its use by Martin here is merely a rebranding of Halliday's 'reference' — the Greek-derived morpheme 'phor-' and the the Latin-derived morpheme '-fer-' are cognates.

[2] As previously demonstrated, in SFL terms, Martin's focus on "definiteness" confuses nominal group deixis (non-specific vs specific) with cohesive reference (identifiability).  As a result, he mistakes entire nominal groups for reference items, as shown in Table 3.2, attributing phoricity to nominal groups instead of reference items, and leading to the absurdity of interpreting Mum as a reference item.  The analysis of reference, below, from Halliday (1994: 317), makes a clear distinction between reference items and the nominal groups in which they figure:

[3] The intrusion of the word 'semantically' is an unwarranted and misleading fudge in Martin's argument for a discourse semantic model of reference. Table 3.2 is a classification of grammatical units ('nominal groups') according to grammatical criteria ('whether their grammar signals the identity of the participant they realise as recoverable or not').

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