Friday, 30 September 2016

Misrepresenting Martin (1992) On Discourse Semantics And Contextual Theory

Martin (1992: 587):
So — texts are coherent, cultures are not.  Where does this leave linguistics which is articulated as a form of social action?
Clearly one important job, which has already begun […] lies in deconstructing the naturalisation process.  Systemic functional linguistics has always adressed [sic] this concern, and English Text's development of discourse semantics and contextual theory was undertaken with this goal explicitly in mind.  What seems crucial here is a model which displays the way in which language inflects and is inflected by contextual systems; one model of this kind has been provided.

Blogger Comments:

[1] As demonstrated by the reasoned arguments in the 550+ analyses on this website, English Text's development of discourse semantics and contextual theory proceeds from multiple misunderstandings of SFL theory — misunderstandings so fundamental and pervasive that they undermine the validity of the work as theory.  In an intelligent, informed academic community that values reason and intellectual integrity, this would be a serious problem.

[2] The relation between language and context is precisely defined in SFL theory as realisation.  This is the relation of intensive identity between two levels of symbolic abstraction.

[3] The contextual model that has been provided confuses context (the culture that is realised by language) with sub-potentials of language itself (registers/genres).  The confusion is along two theoretical dimensions simultaneously: stratification and instantiation.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Subscribing To The Naturalistic Fallacy

Martin (1992: 586):
Beyond this studies are needed on the inter-relationships between affect and morality (between ATTITUDE and MODULATION to put this grammatically): I like/dislike clearly conditions you should/shouldn't in ways that have been barely broached (see Martin 1992a).

Blogger Comments:

[1] The claim here is that
  • the relation between affect (a neutral or charged tenor relation between interlocutors) and morality (principles of right and wrong
  • can be described as 
  • the grammatical relation between attitude (positive or negative evaluation) and modulation (obligation and inclination).

[2] The claim here is that the giving of information conditions the demanding of goods-&-services:
  • propositions that are realised by declaratives of the form I like/dislike
  • condition
  • proposals that are realised by declaratives of the form you should/shouldn't.

In philosophy, the claim that an "ought" (prescription) can be derived from an "is" (description) is known as the Naturalistic Fallacy (G.E. Moore); see also Hume's Law/Guillotine.

In SFL theory, the mental processes that relate to modulation are not those of emotion (I like), but those of desideration (I would like).  This is because desiderative processes project proposals and can serve as interpersonal metaphors of modulation, as in I would like you to finish this by tomorrow.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Confusing Tenor (Context) With Interpersonal Meaning (Semantics)

Martin  (1992: 586):
… it demonstrates that […] the coding orientations associated with class, gender, ethnicity and generation focus attitudes in systematic ways.  Affect is in other words ideologically addressed (see Martin 1986 on the orientation of attitude in ecological debates) and exploring this projection of interpersonal meaning is an important dimension of semiotic space.

Blogger Comments:

[1] This continues the misconstrual of Bernstein's coding orientation as ideology.

[2] This continues the confusion of affect, as a dimension of tenor (context stratum), with affect as interpersonal meaning (semantics stratum). Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 33) refer to the contextual system as 'sociometric rôles'.

[3] This stratal confusion is aided by the blurring of two distinct meanings of 'projection':
  • tenor as the theoretical "projection" of the interpersonal metafunction onto the context stratum;
  • interpersonal meaning as the verbal projection of speakers.

[4] Trivially, 'exploring' is not a dimension.

exploring this projection of interpersonal meaning
an important dimension of semiotic space
Identified / Token
Identifier / Value

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Affirming The Metastability Of Evolving Dynamic Open Systems

Martin (1992: 585):
Martin 1986 introduces the term contratextuality for texts which directly oppose each other from different positions and this idea has been extended in delicacy by Lemke (1988: 48).  Contratextuality is critically related to semogenesis in ways that are only beginning to be investigated (for a revealing study of the semiotic subversion of genre fiction by feminist writers see Cranny-Francis 1990) and it is probable that work in this area will be among the first to shed light on the vexing question of how text renovates system as dynamic open systems evolve, thereby affirming their metastability.

Blogger Comments:

[1] To be clear, the semogenesis to which contratextuality is related involves three related processes:
  • logogenesis, the instantiation of the system in the text;
  • ontogenesis, the development of the system in the individual; and
  • phylogenesis, the evolution of the system in the species.
[2]  To be clear, on the SFL model, the relation between text and system is instantiation.  In this view, language is a probabilistic system and it is differences in probabilities that define register variation (Halliday & Matthiessen 1999: 552-6).  Probabilities in the system are manifested as frequencies in the text, and the frequencies in each text minutely nudge the probabilities in the system up or down.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Misunderstanding System Architecture And Dynamics

Martin (1992: 582):
Martin [1986] suggested as part of a model for dealing with ideology in crisis as system involving two axes: protagonist/antagonist and left/right. […] In general terms the systemic oppositions are outlined below; as far as the dynamics of ideology are concerned these are best treated as genuine oppositions, not simply as alternative choices within a system.

Blogger Comments:

[1] This misunderstands system architecture.  In terms of SFL theory, the system network (Fig. 7.28) involves two simultaneous (conjunctively related) systems.  The term 'axis', on the other hand, refers to the distinction between the paradigmatic and syntagmatic dimensions: i.e. system vs structure.

[2] This misunderstands system architecture and dynamics.  Alternative choices (features) in systems are "genuine" oppositions, and the dynamics of the system is its instantiation (the selection of options and the activation of their realisation statements).

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Confusing Linguistic Variabilty With Contextual Tension

Martin (1992: 581-2):
As noted with respect to text [7:5] above, variable realisation implies in a sense that all texts are multi-voiced. There is in other words a certain tension in the system, which manifests itself in semiotic processes.

Blogger Comments:

[1] This involves two dimensions of confusion, as previously identified here.  Martin claimed that, because one mother's coding orientation was variably realised linguistically, she had 'more than one voice' in the conversation, and this was falsely equated with being dialogic in the Bakhtinian sense.

[2] There are two additional dimensions of confusion here — variability with tension, and language with context — since variability in the language realising context (one coding orientation) is misconstrued as tension in the context itself (misconstrued as ideology).

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Discursive Power And The Evolutionarily Necessary Resolution Of Semiotic Tension Through Dynamic Openness

Martin (1992: 581):
Because coding orientations are variably realised, ideology will never be a question of this or that but one of more or less; and because these coding orientations distribute discursive power unevenly, there will always be semiotic tension in the community. The variable realisation of ideology provides the dynamic openness through which this tension can be resolved — it is a necessary condition for the system to evolve.

Blogger Comments:

[1] This continues the confusion of variability in the linguistic realisation (semantic style) of one coding orientation with the different linguistic realisations (semantic variation) of different coding orientations; see earlier critique here.

[2] This continues the misconstrual of coding orientation as ideology; see earlier clarification here.

[3] Bernstein's coding orientations do not distribute (the undefined) "discursive power" — unevenly or evenly — and so this is not a cause of (the undefined) "semiotic tension in the community".  The codes are different orientations to language by different social groups.  Halliday (1978: 106):
What Bernstein’s work suggests is that there may be differences in the relative orientation of different social groups towards the various functions of language in given contexts, and towards different areas of meaning that may be explored within a given function.
And these sub-cultural angles are functions of the social structure; Halliday (1978: 123):
This angle of vision is a function of the social structure. It reflects, in our society, the pattern of social hierarchy, and the resulting tensions between an egalitarian ideology and a hierarchical reality.

[4] Two claims are made here about the mistaken notion of "the variable realisation of ideology":
  • it provides the dynamic openness through which semiotic tension can be resolved;
  • it is a necessary condition for the system to evolve.
No evidence or argument is offered to support either of these bare assertions.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Misconstruing Bernstein's Coding Orientation As Ideology

Martin (1992: 581):
Perhaps the most that can be said at this stage is that from a synoptic perspective, ideology is a system of coding orientations which makes meaning selectively available depending on subjects' class, gender, ethnicity and generation.  Interpreted in these terms, all texts manifest, construe, renovate and symbolically realise ideology, just as they do language, register and genre.

Blogger Comments:

[1] This confusion of ideology with coding orientation fixes ideology to the social co-ordinates of language users.  It should be obvious that speakers with similar social co-ordinates can project very different ideologies, and that speakers with very different social co-ordinates can project very similar ideologies.

[2] This misunderstands Martin's own model of stratification.  Taking (meta)metaredundancy into account, the claim — in Martin's terms only — should be:
  • language (not text) realises the realisation of ideology in the realisation of genre in register.

[3] In SFL theory, the relation between texts and language, register and genre is neither manifestation, nor construal, nor renovation, nor symbolic realisation.  The relevant theoretical dimension, instead, is the vector of instantiation:
  • text is a point of variation at the instance pole of instantiation, 
  • register and genre are complementary perspectives on a midway point of variation on the cline of instantiation, and 
  • language is the entire cline, since each point on the cline is a perspective on language.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Martin's Reasons For Not Devising Ideology Systems

Martin (1992: 580-1):
What are the implications of Hasan and Bernstein's work for the interpretation of ideology as system?  This is a question which is in some respects premature.  Work on mapping out the fashions of meaning constituting a culture at the level of ideology has only just begun (most of Hasan's own work in this area remains unpublished as of 1989). …
All of this is compounded by the fact that fashions of meaning and the more abstract notion of coding orientation need always to be interpreted in context — that is, with respect to the genre and register through which they are manifested.  Given our present understanding of these planes, this is a challenging task; and certainly not one for which even a provisional network of oppositions can be provided at this time.

Blogger Comments:

[1] The work of Hasan and Bernstein has no implications for the interpretation of ideology as system.  The reason for this is that neither work is concerned with ideology.  One way to define 'ideology' is as a system of ideas and ideals, especially one which forms the basis of economic or political theory and policy.  In contrast, from the perspective of SFL theory, Bernstein's work on codes is concerned with how social structures affect the semantics of registers, and Hasan's work is concerned with that semantic variation.

[2] The implication here is that Martin cannot devise an ideology system until Hasan has provided one that he can alter.

[3] This is misleading.  It misrepresents the work of Hasan and colleagues on semantic variation as framed within Martin's model of ideology.

[4] Given that Martin locates fashions of meaning and coding orientations on a contextual plane of ideology, this misconstrues lower levels in the stratification hierarchy as the context of higher levels.  This is the opposite of what the hierarchy represents.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Misunderstanding Semantic Variation And Bakhtin

Martin (1992: 580):

Don’t do that…Now look, you’ll get it all over me


It’s not funny.  What’s funny about that? You do it again and I’ll whack you. 
As Cloran points out this example nicely illustrates the variable nature of semantic styles as tendencies, not rules; the mother in 7:5 appeals to both an inherent consequence (You'll get it all over me) and a threat (I'll whack you) to control her son (the text is in Bakhtin's terms, dialogic — it realises more than one voice; his dialogism can thus be seen as a natural implication of any text based on semantic variation).

Blogger Comments:

[1] This confuses variability in the linguistic realisation (semantic style) of one coding orientation with the different linguistic realisations (semantic variation) of different coding orientations.  The notion of a text as "based on" semantic variation derives from this misunderstanding.

[2] Martin's claim here is that because the mother uses two different linguistic realisations of her coding orientation to control her son's behaviour, the text realises more than one voice, and that this makes it dialogic in Bakhtin's terms.  This misunderstands the terms 'voice' and 'dialogic', as formulated by Bakhtin. The glossary provided in Bakhtin (1981: 434, 428, 426) clarifies the distinction between them, and how they differ from heteroglossia:
This is the speaking personality, the speaking consciousness. A voice always has a will or desire behind it, its own timbre and overtones. Single-voiced discourse is the dream of poets; double-voiced discourse the realm of the novel. At several points Bakhtin illustrates the difference between these categories by moving language-units from one plane to the other — for example, shifting a trope from the plane of poetry to the plane of prose: both poetic and prose tropes are ambiguous [literally "double-meaninged"] but a poetic trope, while meaning more than one thing, is always only single-voiced. Prose tropes by contrast always contain more than one voice, and are therefore dialogised.

The base condition governing the operation of meaning in any utterance. It is that which insures the primacy of context over text. At any given time, in any given place, there will be a set of conditions — social, historical, meteorological, physiological — that will insure that a word uttered in that place and at that time will have a meaning different than it would have under any other conditions; all utterances are heteroglot in that they are functions of a matrix of forces practically impossible to recoup, and therefore impossible to resolve. Heteroglossia is as close a conceptualisation as is possible of that locus where centripetal and centrifugal forces collide; as such, it is that which a systematic linguistics must always suppress.

Dialogism is the characteristic epistemological mode of a world dominated by heteroglossia. Everything means, is understood, as a part of a greater whole — there is a constant interaction between meanings, all of which have the potential of conditioning others. Which will affect the other, how it will do so and in what degree is what is actually settled at the moment of utterance. This dialogic imperative, mandated by the pre-existence of the language world relative to any of its current inhabitants, insures that there can be no actual monologue. One may, like a primitive tribe that knows only its own limits, be deluded into thinking there is one language, or one may, as grammarians, certain political figures and normative framers of "literary languages" do, seek in a sophisticated way to achieve a unitary language. In both cases the unitariness is relative to the overpowering force of heteroglossia, and thus dialogism.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Misrepresenting Hasan

Martin (1992: 579):
Hasan's major innovation has been to base her study on semantic variables, essentially by conceptualising system networks as variable rules and coding her data on the basis of selections from delicately elaborated discourse semantic networks she devised.

Blogger Comment:

This is misleading.  The unwarranted intrusion of the word 'discourse' falsely implies that Hasan shares Martin's misconstrual of semantics as discourse semantics.  Hasan's networks are semantic networks.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Preparing To Misconstrue Bernstein's Codes As Ideology

Martin (1992: 576-7):
Basically Bernstein's suggestion […] is social class positions subjects to make meaning in distinctive ways depending on context.  Taking up Hallidays' (Thibault 1987: 620) terms quoted above, code "bifurcates" register, with the result that speakers from different classes (or generations, ethnicities and genders) construe context in different ways.  In Bernstein's own terms:
… I shall take the view that the code which the linguist invents to explain the formal properties of grammar is capable of generating any number of speech codes, and there is no reason for believing that any one language code is better than another in this respect. On this argument, language is a set of rules to which all speech codes must comply, but which speech codes are realised is a function of the culture acting through social relationships in specific contexts. (1971/1974: 197)
Without an interpretation of these divergent speech codes, or better, fashions of meaning, contextual theory does indeed run the danger of over-determining, homogenising and thereby reifying semiotic communities.  The notion of 'fashions of meaning' which has been used to relativise context here is based on work by Whorf who differentiated languages and cultures on the basis of different fashions of speaking …

Blogger Comments:

[1] To be clear, in terms of SFL theory, Bernstein's codes regulate the selection of meanings in the registers that realise situation types.  Halliday (1978: 67, 68):
In terms of our general picture, the codes act as determinants of register, operating on the selection of meanings within situation types: when the systemics of language — the ordered sets of options that constitute the linguistic system — are activated by the situational determinants of text (the field, tenor and mode […]), this process is regulated by the codes. …

It is important to avoid reifying the codes, which are not varieties of language in the sense that registers and social dialects are varieties of language. […] The code is actualised in language through register, the clustering of semantic features according to situation type. (Bernstein in fact uses the term ‘variant’, i.e. ‘elaborated variant’, to refer to those characteristics of a register that derive from the choice of code.) But the codes themselves are types of social semiotic, symbolic orders of meaning generated by the social system. Hence they transmit, or control the transmission of, the underlying patterns of a culture and subculture, acting through the primary socialising agencies of family, peer group and school.

[2] To be clear, in terms of SFL theory, Bernstein's 'fashions of speaking' are registerial varieties, at the level of semantics, as regulated by Bernstein's codes. Halliday (1978: 25):
The ‘fashions of speaking’ are sociosemantic in nature; they are patterns of meaning that emerge more or less strongly, in particular contexts, especially those relating to the socialisation of the child in the family.

[3] This misconstrues under-specifying as over-determining.

[4] This misconstrues under-specifying as homogenising.

[5] This misunderstands the meaning of 'reify'.  The meaning of reify is to convert into, or regard as, a concrete thing; that is, to metaphorically construe a phenomenon that is not a thing as a thing.  To claim that a community is not congruently a thing, is to claim that is either a quality, a process or a circumstance.  Of course, in using the word 'communities' Martin has construed the phenomenon as a thing himself.  On the basis of grammatical reactances, Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 193) classify human collectives as things that are intermediate between conscious things and non-conscious semiotic things (institutions):
Human collectives: intermediate between conscious beings and institutions. These can function as Senser in figures of sensing of all kinds, including those embodying desideration; but they accept either singular or plural pronouns, and if singular pronominalise with it (e.g. the family says it is united/ the family say they are united).

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Ignoring Halliday's Caution Against Premature Articulation

Martin (1992: 575):
Halliday himself it should be noted has remained rather Firthian in character as far as semantics is concerned, preferring register specific descriptions and cautioning against premature attempts to describe the semantic system as a whole — e.g. 1988: 3; needless to say English Text has nowhere heeded this caution.
Blogger Comments:

[1] The SFL model of ideational semantics is set out in Halliday & Matthiessen (1999).

[2] This is true.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Addressing "The Central Problem In Marxist Theory" By Adding A More Abstract Level

Martin (1992: 575, 576):
In their interpretations of language, register and genre as semiotic systems, systemicists have generally attempted to model cultures as a whole — to generalise meaning potential across all imaginable texts… .  The problems with this are:
1. as noted above, this meaning potential is not evenly distributed across participants in a culture; and 
2. for a culture to survive, this meaning potential has to evolve.
These two problems are in fact closely related; it is the tensions produced by the unequal distribution of meaning potential that forces a culture to change.  This brings social semiotic theory face to face with the central problem in marxist [sic] theory: what is the nature of the dialectic between base and superstructure that facilitates and at the same time frustrates social change?  Even more to the point, from the perspective of a theory of linguistics as social action, how is it possible to intervene in a dialectic of this kind?  These are the questions that the communicative plane of ideology has been articulated to address.

Blogger Comments:

[1] This is misleading.  Theory–competent Systemicists do not distinguish register and genre from language and do not model them as systems.

[2] This confuses culture (context potential) with the language that realises it.  The confusion is thus along the dimension of stratification.

[3] Neither of these are problems for proposing a system of language potential.  On the one hand, the social distribution of language system variants is a further dimension to be added to the model, and on the other, the evolution of the language system is modelled in SFL theory (Halliday & Matthiessen 1999: 18) by phylogenesis in relation to the other two semogenic processes:
  • logogenesis provides the material for ontogenesis which provides the material for phylogenesis, while
  • phylogenesis provides the environment for ontogenesis which provides the environment for logogenesis.
[4] The claim here is that:
  • it is the tensions produced by the unequal distribution of meaning potential that forces a culture to change
Leaving aside the possibility that there may be other factors that "force a culture to change", the implication here is that an equal distribution of meaning potential would reduce tensions, but by doing so, put an end to cultural change.

[5] On the basis of [4], the academic revolutionary is faced with the choice of either working for social inequity or working for cultural stagnation.

[6] The claim here is that adding another level of symbolic abstraction to Martin's stratification hierarchy will address two questions:
  1. what is the nature of the dialectic between base and superstructure that facilitates and at the same time frustrates social change?
  2. how is it possible to intervene in a dialectic of this kind?
It might be remembered that the following has also been promised (p546):
Discourses of generation, gender, ethnicity and class channel subjects in very different ways according to the coding orientations they enjoy. It is the responsibility of the plane of ideology to make the nature of this channeling clear, deconstructing the momentum and inherent contradictions which allow it to evolve.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Misrepresenting Martin (1992) On Register & Genre

Martin (1992: 575):
The register and genre theory reviewed and developed above represents systemic theory's attempts to model heteroglossia and dialogism; it does this by formulating register and genre as social semiotic systems realised through text, thereby providing an account not simply of how one text relates to another (cohesion across products) but in addition of how one text relates to all the texts that might have been (product in relation to system). …
The interpretation does however need to be qualified in two important respects — namely heterogeneity and semogensis [sic] (i.e. semiotic change). 

Blogger Comments:

[1] This is doubly misleading.  Firstly, 'the register and genre theory reviewed and developed above' does not represent systemic theory's attempts.  On the contrary, it is inconsistent with SFL theory, and represents Martin's attempts only.  Secondly, 'the register and genre theory reviewed and developed above' does not model heteroglossia and dialogism.  On the contrary, what is claimed bears little or no relation to heteroglossia and dialogism; see further below.

[2] This is inconsistent, both with Martin's model and with SFL theory.

In terms of Martin's stratification model, register and genre systems are realised by the systems of language, not by text.  In this, Martin confuses the system and instance poles of the cline of instantiation.

In terms of SFL theory, it involves two confusions.  Firstly, the notion of register and genre systems confuses a midway point of variation on the cline of instantiation (register/genre/text type) with the system pole of the cline.  Secondly, it misconstrues the relation between system and text as realisation instead of instantiation.  (This in addition to the inconsistencies entailed by modelling varieties of language as context rather than language.)

[3] This is misleading in terms of both register and genre.  In terms of register, any chance of providing an account how one text relates to another is undermined by Martin's numerous misinterpretations of field, tenor and mode systems, as demonstrated in many previous posts.  In terms of genre, Martin merely provides two simple taxonomies of factual and story genres (text types).  Martin nowhere presents any account of how his formulation of register and genre relates one individual text to another.

[4] To be clear, in SFL theory, cohesion is not a relation between 'products' (texts).

[5] This is the opposite of what is true.  This is precisely what Martin's model does not do.  In SFL theory, the relation of texts to text potential — of instances to system — is modelled as the cline of instantiation.  Martin's model is inconsistent with the cline of instantiation, due to the fact that it misconstrues the midway point on the cline (register/genre), not as language, but as systems of context, and as such, as higher levels of symbolic abstraction than language.  This follows from not understanding either stratification or instantiation, as demonstrated many times in previous posts.

[6] To be clear, Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 18) identify three types of semogenic processes:
  • logogenesis, the instantiation of the system in the text;
  • ontogenesis, the development of the system in the individual; and
  • phylogenesis, the evolution of the system in the species.