Friday, 29 April 2016

Misrepresenting Purpose And Intention

Martin (1992: 503):
It should be stressed here that bringing telos into contextual theory at this point in no way implies that text is being interpreted as the realisation of speakers' intentions; genres are social processes, and their purpose is being interpreted here in social, not psychological terms. Nor does the model imply that the cultures as a whole are goal-directed, with some over-riding purpose governing the interaction of social processes. Social processes negotiate with each other and evolve, as noted above in the motivation for a level of ideology superordinate to genre and register. The metaphor of intentionality, in other words, is just as inappropriate for explaining why a culture has the social processes it does as for explaining why an individual speaker produces certain kinds of text. With these qualifications in mind, the notion of telos is a useful one for glossing systemic relations between combinations of field, mode and tenor choices at the level of genre.

Blogger Comments:

[1] It is useful here to consider the congruent construals of 'purpose' and 'intention' in the lexicogrammar of English.  Purpose is an enhancing expanding relation between processes (because intention Q so action P), in which a desiderative mental process of intention is the reason for another process.  That is, intention and purpose congruently involve mental processes.  Speakers undergo mental processes, genres do not.  The purposes of genres are the purposes of their speakers, whether viewed linguistically, socially or psychologically.

The functions of genres, on the other hand, are modelled in SFL theory by the contextual features (field, tenor and mode) of the situation type that the particular text type realises.

[2] This confuses orders of experience.  Genres, as processes, are types of semogenic processes; types of logogenesis.  Social processes are of the material order of experience, semogenic processes are of the semiotic order of experience.

[3] Social processes do not "negotiate" with each other.  Speakers negotiate through the interpersonal metafunction of language.  The metaphor is a misleading one.

[4] This continues the misunderstanding of stratal relations as hyponymic.

[5] This is manifestly untrue.  Intentionality — metaphorical or otherwise — can indeed explain 'why an individual produces certain kinds of text'.  For example, the intention of speaker A to learn something from speaker B about grammar explains why speaker A produces texts involving questions about grammar.

[6] The utility of the notion of telos has not been demonstrated. It has merely been asserted without supporting argument.