Friday, 1 May 2015

Misunderstanding The Use Of Reference In A Child's Text

Martin (1992: 94-5):
As suggested above, the tiger, this man and it seem to assume knowledge on the part of a general reader that s/he could not have.  Yet the tiger is realised in the same way as the zoo (the + noun); and the food is realised in the same way as the writer (pronominally).  Why is the zoo appropriate, but the tiger not?  Why but not it?  Clearly, the answer is not a grammatical one as with Rhinocerous, which is not a well formed nominal group.  In the remainder of this chapter an attempt will be made to analyse the way in which participants are identified in English which gives a text-based answer to these questions.  As with NEGOTIATION and MOOD, the focus will be on how English is structured to refer to participants, not simply on how it is used to do so.

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The 7-year-old's text under discussion is:
[3:1] at the zoo
One day I went to the zoo and I saw Rhinocerous I moved to a Hippopotamus I touched him and he is hand and he is big and so I went on and I saw the tiger and this man was feeding him it was eating it up Mum tod me mv on and next came then a gorilla. I had a baby gorilla. Mum tod me to move on. I saw a watch. It was 5 ock. …

[1] To be clear, in SFL terms, the "knowledge" presumed is the recoverability of the identity of the referent.

[2] This is manifestly untrue.  The demonstratives of the tiger and this man both cohesively refer anaphorically to the title of the text at the zoo.  The only slight obstacle to the recoverability of the personal reference it is its anaphoric reference to the Process feeding rather than a 'food' participant.

[3] The concessive conditional relation (if P then contrary to expectation Q) marked by yet creates a non-sequitur; see further below.

[4] To be clear, the tiger and the zoo are instances of demonstrative reference, whereas I and it are instances of personal reference.

[5] The proposition that the tiger is "inappropriate" is manifestly untrue.  As pointed out in [2], the identity of the tiger is recoverable from its anaphoric reference to the title at the zoo.

[6] For the degree of "inappropriateness" of it, see [2] above.  Interestingly, given that Martin is here purportedly concerned with the semantics of (cohesive) reference, the reference of "appropriate" I is exophoric, and only indirectly cohesive.  Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 624-5):
Exophoric reference means that the identity presumed by the reference item is recoverable from the environment of the text… . Here the reference links the text to its environment; but it does not contribute to the cohesion of the text, except indirectly when references to one and the same referent are repeated, forming a chain.

[7] Here Martin betrays the fact that he thinks grammatical issues are merely a matter of "well-formedness".  This is the perspective of Chomskyan Formal linguistics and its grammaticality judgements.

[8] Martin's opposition of grammatical vs text-based misleadingly implies that the grammar is not "text-based".

[9] This foreshadows three of the fundamental errors that invalidate the theorising in this chapter:
  • confusing nominal group deixis with cohesive reference;
  • misconstruing cohesive relations as structural relations;
  • confusing the textual resource for referring with the experiential meaning of the referent.

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