Sunday, 3 May 2015

Misidentifying Instances of Reference In A Text

Martin (1992: 103):
This type of reference — [generic/specific] — is typical of scientific report writing and is illustrated in [3:16].  There the world's deserts are referred to generically six times: deserts, the true hot deserts, they, they, They, cool deserts (bold in text).  The text then turns to specific manifestations of this class: five major hot desert belts, the largest hot desert, this, the Great Sahara (small caps in text).
Fifteen per cent of the world's land area consists of desertsThe true hot deserts straddle the Tropics in both hemispheres.  They are found on all continents between the latitudes of approximately 15 to 30 degrees, and they extend inland from the west coasts to the interiors of these continents.  They are never found on east coasts in these latitudes as all east coasts receive heavy rains from either on-shore trade winds or monsoons. 
Cool deserts are found further polewards in the deep interiors of large continents like Eurasia or where mountains form rain-shadows, which keep out rain bearing winds that might otherwise bring wet conditions. 
There are FIVE MAJOR HOT DESERT BELTS in the world … THE LARGEST HOT DESERT extends from the west coast of North Africa eastwards to Egypt and the Red Sea — THIS is THE GREAT SAHARA that covers 9 million square kilometres.

Blogger Comment:

[1] There are multiple confusions here.

From the perspective of SFL theory — and Martin is claiming to be modelling the semantics of reference in SFL theory — the three instances of the personal co-reference item they all refer anaphorically to the referent the true hot deserts, whereas there are no references to either deserts or cool deserts.  That is, on the one hand, Martin includes the referent (the true hot deserts) with the reference items (they x 3), and on the other hand, Martin includes non-referents (deserts, cool deserts) with the three reference items.

From the perspective of SFL theory, the relation between deserts, true hot deserts and cool deserts is lexical cohesion, not reference.  That is, as a consequence of confusing referents with reference items, Martin confuses reference with lexical cohesion.

In claiming that 'the world's deserts are referred to six times', Martin is taking the view — consistent with Du Bois (1980), but inconsistent with SFL theory — that meaning is transcendent of semiotic systems; that language refers to meanings outside language.

[2] The same confusions are in evidence here as well.

From the perspective of SFL theory, the demonstrative co-reference item this refers anaphorically to the largest hot desert and cataphorically to the great sahara.  There is no reference to five major hot desert belts.

From the perspective of SFL theory, the cohesive relations between five major hot desert beltsthe largest hot desert and the great sahara are again those of lexical cohesion, not reference.

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