Thursday, 7 May 2015

Participant–Nominal Group "Incongruence"

Martin (1992: 129):
The entry condition for the IDENTIFICATION network developed in section 3.3 was participant, where this can be defined as a person, place or thing, abstract or concrete, capable of functioning as Agent or Medium in TRANSITIVITY.  Defined in this way, it can be argued that all participants are realised through nominal groups; but not all nominal groups realise participants and some nominal groups realise more than oneThis incongruence will now be explored in more detail …

Blogger Comments:

[1] To be clear, the entry condition for this system of the textual metafunction, at the level of discourse semantics, is a category of the experiential metafunction, at the level of lexicogrammar.  The theoretical inconsistencies are therefore twofold: metafunctional and stratal.

The mistaken focus on the experiential participant arises from misconstruing textual reference as ideational denotation, and the mistaken focus on the nominal group arises from confusing a structurally-realised system of nominal group, deixis, with the non-structural system of reference.

Importantly, the nominal group is not the only grammatical domain in which reference items appear.  Martin's 'reference as semantic choice' makes no provision for demonstrative and comparative reference made from within the adverbial group; see Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 625, 629, 633).

[2] On the one hand, this confuses the Thing of a nominal group ('person', 'thing') with participants of a clause ('Agent or Medium') — omitting Range and Beneficiary — and on the other hand, it mistakes a circumstance ('place') for a participant.  Moreover, as defined, these are all grammatical categories, not discourse semantic categories.

[3] To be clear, 'defined in this way', participants are realised by the Thing of a nominal group, not a nominal group; see [2].  This confusion recurs throughout the discussion that follows.

[4] To be clear, in SFL theory, it is simply not true that all participants are realised by nominal groups.  Agents and Mediums are also realised by prepositional phrases, as in:
  • the chihuahua was snatched by a pelican (Agent),
  • the incident was witnessed by the dog's owner (Medium)

[5] To be clear, nominal groups also realise circumstances, as in:
  • the pelican flew 20 metres (Extent)
  • it happened the day before yesterday (Location)

[6] This is a misunderstanding that arises from confusing Thing with participant (see [2]), as will be demonstrated in the relevant critique.

[7] This is misleading.  In SFL theory, the term 'incongruence' is used to refer to the relation between semantics and lexicogrammar in the case of grammatical metaphor — grammatical metaphor being the chief reason for modelling content as two levels, semantics and lexicogrammar.

Here Martin uses the term 'incongruence' — in the absence of metaphor — to imply, falsely, that the examples to be discussed provide a theoretical motivation for stratifying his IDENTIFICATION system "with respect to nominal group structure".

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