Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Misunderstanding Realisation

Martin (1992: 574):
In general terms Firth privileged text over system (see Halliday's comments in Thibault 1987: 603) and it was left to Halliday to develop system/process theory in a way that placed potential and actual on an equal footing, related through the dialectic of realisation.
Setting aside for a moment the problems of formalising realisation as a dialectic, English Text has for the most part followed Halliday's lead in refusing to privilege either system or process.  The attention paid to system however does run the risk of being read as involving an over-deterministic interpretation of language, register and genre as homogeneous systems.  This (mis)reading needs to be seriously addressed.

Blogger Comments:

[1] This misunderstands the relation between potential and actual, which is instantiation, not realisation.

[2] This misunderstands the notion of realisation.  Realisation is an intensive identifying relational process that relates different levels of symbolic abstraction.  It is the relation, for example, between strata, on the one hand, and between axes, on the other.

It also misunderstands the notion of dialectic, which refers to the art of investigating or discussing the truth of opinions. Its synonyms include reasoning, argumentation, contention, logic; discussion, debate, dialogue, logical argument.

[3] The notion of "formalising realisation as a dialectic" is therefore nonsensical, at best.

formalising (‘making formal’)
as a dialectic
Process: relational
Rôle: guise

[4] There is a concealed confusion here, in as much as Martin (1992) uses the term 'process' to mean structure, viewed dynamically, rather than the process of instantiation.  In terms of system vs structure, SFL theory, as the name implies, does give priority to system.  Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 49):
Giving priority to the view ‘from above’ means that the organising principle adopted is one of system: the grammar is seen as a network of interrelated meaningful choices. In other words, the dominant axis is the paradigmatic one: the fundamental components of the grammar are sets of mutually defining contrastive features.
[5] To be clear, SFL theory maps out the dimensions of language as a resource of choices for making meaning.

[6] Here diatypic varieties of language, register and genre, are again presented as not being language.

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