Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Misconstruing Types Of Comment Adjuncts As Marking Modality Values Of A Logical Relation

Martin (1992: 223):
Depending on the probability of the objection that is pre-empted, a choice opens up among admittedly (objection possible), of course (objection probable) and needless to say (objection certain).  The median and low values are illustrated in [4:147] and the high value in [4:148]:
[4:147]  Moreover most linguists would probably say the same about linguistic differences between individual speakers: if there are differences between the grammar of two people, there is no way of knowing which has the higher prestige in society simply by studying the grammars.
Admittedly there are individuals who clearly have inherently imperfect grammars, such as children, foreigners and the mentally retarded, but these deviations are easy to explain and predict, and leave intact the claim that all normal people are equal with regard to their grammars.
Of course, there is no shortage of differences between grammars, whether of individuals or whole communities, but there are no purely linguistic grounds for ranking any of the grammars higher than the others. 
[4:148]  We might get around this problem by saying that child language is the domain of a branch of psychology rather than sociology, and that psychology can only provide general principles of language acquisition which will allow us to predict every respect in which the language of children in this society deviated from the language of adults.  If psychology were able to provide the necessary principles, then there would be a good deal to say about language in relation to individual development, but nothing about language in relation to society.
Needless to say, no psychologist would dream of claiming that this was possible, even in principle.

Blogger Comments:

[1] As the words probability and objection indicate, this continues the error of classifying conjunctive relations in terms according to features of the interpersonal metafunction.

[2] The wordings admittedly, of course and needless to say do not function as conjunctive Adjuncts, and as such, do not express conjunctive relations.  They all function as comment Adjuncts, and as such, realise interpersonal meanings.  In SFL theory, admittedly serves as a speech-functional comment Adjunct, whereas of course and needless to say serve as propositional comment Adjuncts:
  • admittedly typically realises persuasive: concession — not "objection possible";
  • of course typically realises asseverative: natural or obvious — not "objection probable"; and
  • needless to say typically realises asseverative: obvious — not "objection certain".
Needless to say, even in interpersonal terms, these comment Adjuncts do not represent values on a scale of probability (the domain of mood Adjuncts of modality).  See Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 126-131).