Saturday, 27 August 2016

Martin's Reason Why Field, Tenor & Mode Are Insufficient To Classify Genres

Martin (1992: 562):
English Text's suggestion is that in pursuing work of this kind [classifying genres], a very different system of valeur will be established than that developed when looking at field, mode or tenor variables alone (even though very similar oppositions might be used on the levels of register and genre).  The reason for this is that no culture combines field, mode and tenor variables freely — all are selective.  Thus the system of social processes constituting a culture at the level of genre will always differ from the systems of field, mode and tenor options it makes available in one or other contexts of situation.

Blogger Comments:

[1] On Martin's model, register and genre, as strata, are different levels of symbolic abstraction.  On this model, the more abstract features of genre are realised by less abstract register features of field, tenor and mode.  In SFL theory, on the other hand, register and genre are the same phenomenon — a point of variation midway along the cline of instantiation — viewed from opposite poles of the cline.

[2] Translating into SFL theory, the argument here is as follows:
  • a. Field, tenor and mode features are insufficient to classify text types
  • b. not all combinations of field, tenor and mode features occur in a culture
and because of this
  • c. the system of text types will always differ from situational instances of field, tenor and mode features.
This can be examined in stages, first considering the argument from (a) to (b), and then the argument from (b) to (c).

First, (b) does not follow logically from (a).  By definition, only the contextual configurations that do occur specify cultural contexts that are realised by text types.  (In a system network, the available feature combinations are constrained by the (if…then) wiring of the network.)

Second, (c) does not follow logically from (b).  This is because the notion of available contextual configurations is logically independent of the confused notion of differences between genre systems and contextual instances.

Moreover, the confusions in (c) are themselves confused.  On the one hand:
  • the notion of a 'genre system' confuses two distinct points on the cline of instantiation, namely: a midway point sub-potential (genre/text type), and the pole of potential (system);
and on the other:
  • the difference between system and instance, instantiation,
is confused with
  • the difference between genre (language) and field, tenor and mode (context), stratification.

[3] It is curious that Martin uses the SFL notion 'contexts of situation' here, given that his model has replaced this with register.