Saturday, 10 September 2016

Strategically Misrepresenting Hasan

Martin (1992: 572):
Mode also impinges on Hasan's model of context and text structure, since for her only texts where the role of language is ancillary and whose environment is pragmatic can be derived from contextual configurations (in her discussion she is opposing text types such as service encounters to the nursery tale; Hasan 1984: 76).  Since for constitutive modes, context cannot predict text structure, Hasan suggests that for these texts what matters most is "the array of existing conventions" (1984: 78).  Hasan's model then is one which derives text structures in two fundamentally different ways, depending on mode (see Harris 1987: 36-7 for a related critique).

Blogger Comments:

[1] The reason mode "impinges" on Hasan's model of context and text structure is because Hasan understands that
  • text structure is semantics, 
  • semantic structure realises semantic systems, and
  • semantics realises context (field, tenor and mode).

[2] This seriously misrepresents Hasan (1984: 78), who only raised this in order to point out that, by itself, it explains nothing:
The single most salient fact that appears most relevant is the overall adherence to an array of existing conventions.  But to say that the structure of a nursery tale is controlled by artistic conventions is to explain nothing, unless alongside this assertion we can also provide a convincing account of how artistic conventions themselves originate and how any change is successfully introduced into a body of pre-existing conventions.
In contrast, Hasan goes on to derive the structural potential of this text type from the semantics of the texts themselves.

[3] This is falsely presented as if it is a defect in the Hasan's theory, rather than a distinction that is motivated by the data.  In the passage immediately preceding the quote above, Hasan (1984: 78) explains :
I would suggest that the nature of the factors which motivate the elements of structure in such genres is relatively opaque.  This is because the environments in which such texts are either created or received bears only a tangential relationship to their inner unity.  It follows then that the elements of the structure of the nursery tale can neither be seen as fully governed by the author-audience interaction
To contextualise this and the previous misrepresentation, Hasan's (1984) paper was not easily accessible at the time that Martin was writing, being only published in a Nottingham Linguistic Circular.  However, the paper was eventually published in the 1996 collection Ways Of Saying: Ways Of Meaning.

[4] No indication is given as to how the critique in the following obscure paper relates to Martin's "critique" of Hasan.
Harris, S. 1987. "Court Discussion as Genre: some problems and issues".  Department of English, University of Nottingham.  Occasional Papers in Systemic Linguistics 2. 35-74.

This misrepresentation of Hasan's work is strategic because its function is to demonstrate that Martin's model is less complex, and thus preferable.  See the next post for an assessment of the truth of this proposition.

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