Friday, 11 September 2015

Misconstruing Semantics As Context

Martin (1992: 289-90):
For the remainder of this chapter it will be assumed that lexical cohesion will be analysed with respect to field oppositions, and that lexical relations can [be] approached from four different perspectives within a systemic functional model.  These perspectives are:
i. from the point of view of mutual expectancy in lexicogrammar (collocation
ii. from the point of view of more delicate options in lexicogrammatical networks (the grammarian's dream)
iii. from the point of view of semantic relations between lexical items in text (lexical cohesion
iv. from the point of view of register specific oppositions (field taxonomies)
An overview of these perspectives is provided in Table 5.2. …

Table 5.2. Lexical relations across planes and strata

field specific taxonomies
lexical relations (cohesion)
field neutral taxonomies (as delicate grammar)

collocation patterns (lexical sets)

Blogger Comments:

[1] In SFL theory, lexical cohesion is a grammatical resource of the textual metafunction and field is the ideational dimension of context.  Field oppositions and taxonomies are context oppositions and taxonomies, not language oppositions and taxonomies.

[2] In SFL theory, collocation is a type of lexical cohesion and both are located in the lexicogrammar.

[3] Not just in SFL theory, register is a functional variety of language.  Field, on the other hand, is the ideational dimension of context, which is not language, but the culture as a semiotic system that has language as its expression plane.  Field is more symbolically abstract than language.

Perhaps this confusion of register with context arose from the terms 'spoken registers' and 'written registers' in which registers are classified in terms of the context (mode features) they realise — as when Martin later writes: 'though these are less spoken in register' (op cit: 312).

[4]  In SFL theory, "field specific taxonomies" — in Martin's sense — are located at the level of semantics, not context, because they are a way of organising linguistic meaning, not the culture as semiotic.  Such a taxonomy constitutes a lexically oriented domain model, a way of modelling a semantic domain.  Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 323):
…the semantic correlate of a contextual field is a domain.  When we model the ideational semantics of a particular field, we create a domain model. … Domain models are variants of the general model.  A particular domain model specifies which of the semantic systems in the overall model are activated in a particular contextual field …
[5] As explained in the previous post, field "neutrality" is irrelevant for elaborating grammatical networks into the lexical zone.

[6] In SFL theory, 'lexical set' is opposed to 'collocation'.  That is, it describes the types of lexical cohesion in which the nature of the relation is paradigmatic (repetition, synonymy, hyponymy and meronymy).  Here the term is misapplied to the opposite type of lexical cohesion, collocation, in which the nature of the relation is syntagmatic.