Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Misunderstanding Orders Of Experience

Martin (1992: 514-6):
it is important to stress that the [mode] distinctions drawn here are semiotic, not material ones.*  It is obviously just as possible to write dialogue (drama) as it is to sit monologuing with a friend; similarly both dialogue and stream of consciousness appear in books, but both types of meaning are radically different from their surrounding semiosis.  The physical channel itself is not the point of mode.  Mode is a semiotic construct and functions in our culture as a resource for constructing interaction.  It is difficult to label mode features without slipping into realism.  The network above is nevertheless a system of meaning, not a classification of modern technologies of communication (which in the model being developed here would be the responsibility of field).
* Endnote #15 (p589):
Hasan (1985/9: 58) distinguishes between medium (semiosis) and channel (substance) to make a closely related point.

Blogger Comments:

[1] To be clear, in SFL theory, mode is a dimension of context, and context is the culture construed as a semiotic system.  The rest of this quote demonstrates that Martin does not understand what it means to construe mode as semiotic, rather than material, as will be explained below.

[2] This is misleading on two counts.  Firstly, Martin's glosses of Hasan's medium vs channel as semiosis vs substance misrepresents Hasan's model.  As dimensions of mode, both are semiotic systems.  Secondly, by claiming (falsely) that Hasan makes a related point to the one Martin is making, Martin gives the false impression that his (mis)understanding is aligned with, and supported by, Hasan's work.

[3] This distinction is presented as if it demonstrates the way in which mode distinctions are semiotic rather than material — presumably because different modes can be associated with the same material setting.  

However, there is an important distinction being neutralised here — between different orders of experience.  "Monologuing" with a friend is first-order experience, whereas a dialogue between characters in a drama is second-order experience with respect to its author and his friend.

[4] The notion of "monologuing with a friend" — rather than dialoguing — suggests either that the friend doesn't get a word in, or that each speaker is talking past the other, creating entirely separate texts.  This is not the first time that Martin has misunderstood the distinction between monologue and dialogue; evidence here.

[5] The distinction between "dialogue and stream of consciousness in books" and "their surrounding semiosis" is between different orders of experience.  "Their surrounding semiosis" is first-order experience, whereas "dialogue and stream of consciousness in books" is second-order experience with respect to "their surrounding semiosis".

[6] Here Martin is purporting to demonstrate that mode is semiotic rather than material.  However, the two examples he provides involve distinctions in orders of experience, and are presented inconsistently.  The first example neutralises the difference between them (see [3] above), whereas the second example acknowledges the difference without recognising the nature of the difference (see [5] above).

[7] More accurately, mode is a dimension of culture as a semiotic system.

[8] More accurately, mode enables both field and tenor (context), just as textual meaning enables both ideational and interpersonal meaning (semantics), and textual wording enables both ideational and interpersonal wording (lexicogrammar).

More broadly, SFL maintains that all experience is construed as meaning.  For there to be meaning, there must be experience available for construal.

[10] The system of mode is a semiotic system, but, in terms of stratification — the levels of symbolic abstraction — it is a system of context (culture), not meaning (semantics).

[11] Field is the ideational dimension of context: the field of activity and the subject matter with which it is concerned — 'what’s going on, and what is it about?' (Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 320).  A classification of modern technologies of communication, on the other hand, is the ideational meaning that realises a field.