Sunday, 3 May 2015

Misconstruing Nominal Group Modality As Comparative Reference

Martin (1992: 117-8):
The final comparison system to be considered relates participants to relevant proposals (see Halliday 1985: 235-47) and is realised by too and enough.  These items assess quantity or quality with respect to the amount or degree necessary to enable a presumed proposal; this function is perhaps clearest when the proposal is embedded in the same nominal group as in [3:42] and [3:43]:
[3:42]  The boy was too upset [[to eat his breakfast]].
[3:43]  The boy had enough time [[to finish it]].
Too realises [difference]; [3:42] means that the boy was upset to a degree different from that required to eat his breakfast.  Enough on the other hand realises [semblance]; [3:43] means that the boy had the amount of time identical to that he needed to finish.

Blogger Comments:

[1] To be clear, contrary to the implication, Halliday (1985: 235-47) says nothing about comparison, and does not endorse the theoretical misunderstandings presented here by Martin.

[2] To be clear, in modifying the Head of a nominal group in terms of modality — possibility, necessity — these grammatical items function interpersonally.

[3] To be clear, neither of these embedded non-finite clauses realises a proposal (command or offer); both would realise propositions (statements) as ranking clauses: the boy ate his breakfast, the boy finished it.

[4] To be clear, this is 'difference' in the most general sense of one semiotic feature being different from another.

[5] To be clear, too in [3:42] means 'to a higher degree than is possible' (for eating breakfast).  It does not function as a comparative reference item because it makes no comparison of upset with to eat his breakfast.

[6] To be clear, this misunderstands the meaning of 'semblance'. In English, 'semblance' means 'the outward appearance or apparent form of something, especially when the reality is different'.

[7] To be clear, enough in [3:43] serves the same function as sufficient: a post-Deictic of modulation, as shown by the agnates (the) required and (the) necessary.  It does not function as a comparative reference item because it makes no comparison of time with to finish it.

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