Thursday, 7 April 2016

Rhapsodising On Modal Responsibility

Martin (1992: 489-90):
Finally modal responsibility accommodates the interlocutor, making ongoing assessments of meaning at risk.  Vulnerable meanings are woven through the Mood functions of a text's ranking clauses, constructing a constrained resource for openness — for interplay, as interlocutors negotiate the resolution of an exchange.  What is going on here is that meanings that can be shared without risk are not worth being made; there has to be some difference involved to make a text worth meaning.  At the same time, a text is not worth meaning if it cannot be shared.  And so the openness associated with point is delimited by the need to organise messages into interactive events in which certain meanings are taken for granted and others are the stakes.  Where interlocutors cannot agree, these stakes may be very high.  In summary, Residue is what interlocutors are judged to have in common; Mood is what they may not share.

Blogger Comments:

[1] This is manifestly untrue.  In SFL theory, modal responsibility is the meaning of Subject, and refers to the rôle of Subject as the element on which the validity of a proposition or proposal rests.  The Subject does not "accommodate" the interlocutor.  Consider the "accommodation" of the interlocutor provided by the Subject the square of the hypotenuse in the following clause:

the square of the hypotenuse
the sum of the squares of the other two sides

[2] This is manifestly untrue.  Subjects do not "make ongoing assessments of meaning at risk".  Consider the "ongoing assessment of meaning at risk" made by the Subject the square of the hypotenuse in the previous example.

[3] This is manifestly untrue.  Consider the "vulnerability" of the meanings of the square of the hypotenuse and equals that are "woven through the Mood functions" in the example above.

[4] The function of the Mood block, Subject + Finite, is to make propositions and proposals arguable.

[5] Not all texts involve "interlocutors negotiating the resolution of an exchange", but all texts involve Subjects.  Consider the "interlocutors negotiating the resolution of an exchange" in the following text:
How pleasant to know Mr. Lear,
Who has written such volumes of stuff.
Some think him ill-tempered and queer,
But a few find him pleasant enough.
[6] This is manifestly untrue.  Consider the "sharing of meaning without risk" in:
the square of the hypotenuse equals the sum of the squares of the other two sides
This, the Pythagorean theorem, is a fundamental relation in Euclidean geometry and might thus be considered as "worth being made".  Two geometers don't need to disagree about it for it to be "worth meaning".

[7] Martin's point includes paragraph summaries (hyper-News) and a text summary (macro-New).  Summaries do not open up a text, they keep it within the bounds of what has already been written.  See the most recent previous critique here.

[8] This confuses metafunctions.  Modal responsibility is an interpersonal function, whereas the organisation of texts is the province of the textual metafunction.

[9] As well as being manifestly untrue, this misunderstands the nature of Mood and Residue. Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 150):
… the Mood element has a clearly defined semantic function: it carries the burden of the clause as an interactive event. So it remains constant, as the nub of the proposition, unless some positive step is taken to change it
The Residue, on the other hand, comprises the remaining elements that realise the proposition (or proposal), but which do not 'bear the burden of the clause as an interactive event'.

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