Monday, 11 May 2015


Martin (1992: 138-9):
The following text, villified [sic] as "superb balderdash" by Tarzie Vittachi (1989:11), creates numerous generic participants of this kind (nominalised participants in bold face).  None of the participants the grammar constructs are presumed in [3:76], but all have the potential to provide referents for subsequent phoric nominal groups.
The implementation of key targets as operational components of the new strategy — and hence also of the process of negotiation — may be conceived in the time frame of a decade but only in the form of a dynamic process, with different time frames for different components, and with an inbuilt and effective mechanism for review and reappraisal, leading to adjustments and correctives whenever the strategy is seen to deflect from the goals and objectives of development for which it was devised.  It should be in the form not of a 'plan of action' but rather of a manifesto, which provides the framework of a sustained commitment to, and implementation of, developmental goals and their operational components, and embodies institutional mechanisms for continuous negotiation, monitoring, appraisal, criticism and modification.

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Here is what Vittachi (1989) actually wrote (available here):
What on earth can that superb balderdash mean, especially to a villager in India or Tanzania even if it was translated into Hindi or Swahili? It was not intended for the man or woman at the receiving end but for the author's fellow elitists. The fact that none of them could decipher it matters not at all. The intention was to mystify everybody, including the writer. It was an exercise in total discommunication.
As Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 272) point out:
So the more the extent of grammatical metaphor in a text, the more that text is loaded against the learner, and against anyone who is an outsider to the register in question. It becomes elitist discourse, in which the function of constructing knowledge goes together with the function of restricting access to that knowledge, making it impenetrable to all except those who have the means of admission to the inside, or the select group of those who are already there.

It is this other potential that grammatical metaphor has, for making meaning that is obscure, arcane and exclusive, that makes it ideal as a mode of discourse for establishing and maintaining status, prestige and hierarchy, and to establish the paternalistic authority of a technocratic elite whose message is 'this is all too hard for you to understand; so leave the decision-making to us.
To be clear, Tarzie Vittachi was an award winning journalist who took personal risks to fight for social justice:
Tarzie Vittachi (September 23, 1921 – September 17, 1993), a Ramon Magsaysay Award-winning journalist (1959), was born in Colombo, Ceylon. He authored two popular columns "Bouquets and Brickbats", and "Fly by Night" in the Ceylon Daily News. He later became the youngest editor (at 32) of the oldest newspaper in Asia, The Ceylon Observer which was founded in 1834. He wrote a book known as Emergency 58 about the Government's involvement in the country's race riots known as 1958 anti-Tamil pogrom that won him the Magasaysay Prize in 1959 and led to his being declared persona non grata. From 1960 to 1965 he was Asian director of the International Press Institute, an organisation of editors devoted to promoting the freedom of the press. He was, at the same time, a correspondent for The Economist, the BBC and The Sunday Times of London and wrote a column for Newsweek. A book about the role of the Children's Fund in arranging truces to protect children in time of conflict, called "Between the Guns," was published posthumously.

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