Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Misunderstanding Metafunctions

Martin (1992: 494):
Seen from the perspective of language, context can be interpreted as reflecting metafunctional diversity.  Projecting experiential meaning onto context giving field,* interpersonal meaning giving tenor and textual meaning giving mode, Halliday (1978: 122) outlines the semiotic structure of context…
*Endnote #2 (p588):
Halliday is inconsistent as far as the question of whether ideational (i.e. experiential and logical) meaning projects field (1978: 116, 125) or whether the projection is from experiential meaning alone (1978: 143, 189, 1985: 9: 26).  This uncertainty has probably arisen because while the logico-semantics of logical meaning (expansion and projection; see also the discussion of nuclear relations in 5.3.3 above) is field oriented, taxis itself (grammatical intricacy) is very sensitive to mode.

Blogger Comments:

[1] This is misleading.  What is "projected" onto context — in the act of modelling it — are the metafunctional dimensions — not linguistic meanings — that also organise language.  Halliday (1978: 123):
The semiotic components of the situation (field, tenor and mode) are systematically related to the functional components of the semantics (ideational, interpersonal and textual): field to the ideational component, representing the 'content' function of language, the speaker as observer; tenor to the interpersonal component, representing the 'participation' function of language, the speaker as intruder; and mode to the textual component, representing the 'relevance' function of language, without which the other two do not become actualised.
[2] Halliday is not inconsistent on this matter; the uncertainty is Martin's only, and it arises from a misunderstanding.  Because the ideational metafunction includes both the experiential and logical metafunctions, the systematic relation to field can be stated in terms of all three metafunctional terms.

[3] This confuses taxis with grammatical intricacy and misrepresents the latter.

Taxis refers specifically to the 'degree of interdependency' — parataxis vs hypotaxis — between rank units in a complex (Halliday & Matthiessen 2014: 438).

Grammatical intricacy is the type of lexicogrammatical complexity found in spoken mode — in contrast to the lexical density of written mode.  Grammatical intricacy involves both interdependency and logical semantic relations.  Halliday (1985/9: 86):
It is often thought that sequences of conversational discourse like this are simply strings of 'ands'.  These extracts make it clear that they are not.  Rather, they are intricate constructions of clauses, varying not only in the kind of interdependency (parataxis or hypotaxis) but also in the logical semantic relationships involved.  These include not only the three basic types of expansion — adding a new point, restating or exemplifying the previous one, or adding a qualification — but also in the relationship of projection, whereby the speaker brings in what somebody else says or thinks and incorporates it grammatically into his own discourse.

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