Thursday, 11 August 2016

Inferring Invalidly From Misconstruals Of Semantic Structure As Field And Genre

Martin (1992: 547):
More to the point is the fact that Hasan's elements of structure at times collapse several nuclei in Barthes's sequence: Identification for example in Hasan's appointment making covers Barthes's telephone ringing, picking up the receiver and speaking.  At the same time, Hasan's elements may expand one of Barthes's nuclei, as Identification ^ Application ^ Offer ^ Confirmation do for Barthes's speaking in potentially the same genre (although Barthes could of course have recognised a micro-sequence here).  The point of these differences is that Hasan is placing boundaries at just those points where they are linguistically manifested, implying that the same sequences might be involved in very different genres (cf. Barthes's opposition of histoire and discours).  A telephone call in a modern nursery tale for example might just be one of a number of acts comprising the Initiating Event (which for Hasan continues until the expectation set up by its main act is frustrated); in appointment making on the other hand the call itself needs to be broken down into the genre's structural formula.
This suggests that where language is constitutive of what is going on (mode) the relationship between activity sequence (field) and text structure may be quite divergent (genre); where language is ancillary on the other hand, there may be little difference between the two.

Blogger Comments:

[1] As previously pointed out, both Barthes and Hasan are modelling the semantic structure of texts, with Barthes taking the view 'from below' and Hasan taking the view 'from above'.

[2] All structural boundaries in texts are "linguistically manifested".

[3] This is a non-sequitur, since the placement of structural boundaries says nothing about the incidence of specific structures in other text types.  However, on the other hand, it is trivially true that the same sequence, in the sense of both Barthes and SFL, can occur across many text types.

[4] Martin previously misrepresented this distinction, which Barthes took from the Russian Formalists (see here).  Histoire (fabula) refers to the raw material of a story, whereas discours (syuzhet) refers to the way the story is organised.  The inclusion of this distinction here is thus irrelevant.

[5] The preceding discussion suggests nothing at all about the relationship between activity sequence and text structure varying according to mode, because the two are different perspectives on semantic structure (see [1]).  Moreover, it says less than nothing about field and genre, since activity sequence isn't field, and text structure isn't genre.

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