Saturday, 2 January 2016

Misunderstanding The Principles Of Metafunction And Stratification

Martin (1992: 402-3):
Considered from the point of view of an unstratified content plane, this allocation of cohesion to the textual metafunction makes sense; cohesion is about relating ideational and interpersonal meanings to each other, integrating them as text. … 
Considered from the perspective of a stratified content plane however, this metafunctional interpretation of cohesion is not appropriate.  Semantic systems in the model assumed here deal with meanings that are both more abstract and bigger in size than grammatical ones.  And it follows from setting up a text-focussed discourse semantics of this kind (as opposed to a speech act-focussed pragmatics or a proposition-focussed semantics) that systems on this stratum will be concerned with text integrating relations.

Blogger Comments:

[1] The notion of cohesion has, in fact, been theorised on the basis of a stratified content plane since its formulation.  Halliday & Hasan (1976: 304):
It has been pointed out that reference, while it is expressed by grammatical means, is actually a semantic relation, a relation between meanings of particular instances rather than between words or other items of linguistic form.  Substitution and ellipsis, on the other hand, are formal relations between elements at the lexicogrammatical level.
[2] The "allocation" of cohesion to the textual metafunction is consistent with the theoretical definitions of both cohesion and the textual metafunction.  Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 398): 
The textual metafunction second–order in the sense that it is concerned with semiotic reality: that is, reality in the form of meaning. This dimension of reality is itself constructed by [the] other two metafunctions: the ideational, which construes a natural reality, and the interpersonal, which enacts an intersubjective reality. … The function of the textual metafunction is thus an enabling one with respect to the rest; it takes over the semiotic resources brought into being by the other two metafunctions and as it were operationalises them …
[3] Many of the discourse systems are not more abstract than lexicogrammar.  For example, as many previous posts demonstrate, identification is a misunderstanding of reference, ideation is merger of misunderstandings of lexical cohesion, lexicogrammatical delicacy and transitivity, and the system of conjunction is a merger of misunderstandings of logical relations between clauses and cohesive conjunction between messages.  Simply relocating reworkings of previous work by other theorists to a higher stratum does not make such systems more abstract.

[4] The notion of meanings being "bigger in size" — which is irrelevant to the principle (symbolic abstraction) on which stratification is based — suggests that meaning is conceived here structurally rather than systemically.  In SFL theory, as the name suggests, priority is given to system. With regard to syntagmatic extent, it is appropriate to point out that the textual and experiential discourse semantic units, participant and message part, are both less extensive than the clause, the unit of highest rank in lexicogrammar.

[5] This continues the misunderstanding of stratification.  In SFL, the content plane is stratified into meaning (semantics) and wording (lexicogrammar).  "Grammatical meanings" are the meanings of the semantic stratum that are realised in the wordings of the lexicogrammatical stratum.

[6] This does not follow at all.  A semantics that is "text-focussed" is not limited to "text integrating relations". In SFL theory, the text is a semantic unit and semantics involves all metafunctions.  The text forming systems, on the other hand, are those of the (aptly named) textual metafunction.  The ideational and interpersonal metafunctions are not concerned with integrating text, but with construing experience and enacting intersubjective relations.