Sunday, 17 April 2016

Inconsistent Claims About Discourse Semantics, Register, Genre And Ideology

Martin (1992: 496):
In this projection [Fig. 7.3 Language and its semiotic environment] metaredundancy (Lemke 1984) is reflected through the metaphor of concentric [sic] circles, with larger circles recontextualising smaller ones; the size of the circles also reflects the fact that the analysis tends to focus on larger units as one moves from phonology to ideology.  Thus the tendency in phonology to focus on syllables and phonemes, at the level of lexicogrammar to focus on the clause, at the level of discourse semantics to focus on the exchange or "paragraph", at the level of register to focus on a stage in a transaction, at the level of genre to focus on whole texts and at the level of ideology to focus on discourses manifested across a range of texts.  More in the spirit of Firth than Hjelmslev, this projection lends itself to a reading whereby meaning is constructed on all levels

Blogger Comments:

[1] In SFL, the tendency in phonology is to focus on the tone group, not on syllables and phonemes, and a tone group can be larger than a clause.

[2] To be clear, the lexicogrammar also affords the study of clause complex relations, and cohesive relations, some of which may obtain throughout an entire text.

[3] The units in Martin's model of discourse semantics (p325) are:
  • exchange and move (interpersonal),
  • participant (textual),
  • message (logical), and
  • message part (experiential)
The message is said (ibid.) to be realised in the lexicogrammar as 'Process (& transitivity rôles)', and the message part is said to be realised in the lexicogrammar as
  • Event (element at group rank),
  • Thing (element at group rank),
  • circumstance (element at clause rank),
  • Epithet (element at group rank) and
  • Manner adverb (element at group rank in Martin, but at clause rank in SFL theory).
That is to say, the focus in discourse semantics is on units that are, for the most part, smaller than the clause, not larger.  On the other hand, Martin's macro-Theme (introductory paragraph) and macro-New (text summary) are construed as functions at the level of text — which is said to be the focus at the level of genre, rather than the focus at the level of discourse semantics.

[4] Leaving aside the facts that, in SFL theory, register is language and context is not, there is the inconvenient truth that not all registers involve staged transactions.

[5] On Martin's own model, this confuses context (genre) with language (text).  In terms of SFL theory, it confuses text type (genre) with the meanings of a text (semantics).

[6] This confuses stratification with instantiation.  In SFL theory, the study of "discourses manifested across a range of texts" is the concern of register (text type, genre).

[7] This continues the confusion between semogenesis (making meaning) and stratification.  The whole point of stratification is to parcel out the complexity of meaning making into different levels of symbolic abstraction, thereby relating meaning to both lower levels of abstraction (wording and sounding) and to higher levels of abstraction (context).