Saturday, 19 March 2016

Misconstruing Modal Responsibility As Social Responsibility

Martin (1992: 461):
Halliday (1984/1988: 43-45; 1985: 76-78) stresses the fact that Subject is a meaning making function in the English clause, alongside the textual functions Theme and New or experiential functions such as Actor and Goal.  The meaning of Subject is glossed in terms of modal responsibility.  This meaning is most transparent in proposals, where regardless of voice, the Subject is the constituent responsible for seeing that goods are exchanged or a service performed.

Blogger Comments:

[1] Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 148n):
… in our systemic-functional account of English, Subject is interpreted metafunctionally as an interpersonal grammatically [sic] category; but like other such categories, e.g. Theme and Actor, Subject is both grammatical and semantic at the same time – the notion of ‘modal responsibility’.
[2] This confuses semogenesis (making meaning) with stratification (wording realising meaning).

[3] New is a functional element of the information unit, not of the clause.

[4] Modal responsibility is the view of Subject 'from above' — from semantics. Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 149):
From above, [the Subject] is that which carries the modal responsibility: that is, responsibility for the validity of what is being predicated (stated, questioned, commanded or offered) in the clause.
[5] The Subject is not "the constituent responsible for seeing that goods are exchanged or a service performed".  This social responsibility between interlocutors is not (semiotic) modal responsibility.  Modal responsibility is responsibility for the validity of the proposal or proposition.  The validity of a proposal is commanded or offered with respect to the Subject; the validity of a proposition is stated or questioned with respect to the Subject; see for example Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 242).