Thursday, 8 September 2016

Misconstruing One Mode System As Register And Another As Genre

Martin (1992: 571-2):
… and Halliday's second order opposition of medium to rhetorical genre is English Text's opposition between genre and mode.

Blogger Comments:

[1] This misrepresents Halliday's 'rhetorical mode' as 'rhetorical genre'.  For Halliday, rhetorical mode is context, whereas genres are text types — registers viewed from the instance pole — which can be identified, in part, by the rhetorical modes they realise.

[2] Assuming Martin has these in reverse order, the proposal here is to reconstrue
  • Halliday's mode system of medium (spoken vs written etc.) as his registerial system of mode, and
  • Halliday's system of rhetorical mode (expository vs persuasive etc.) as his system of genre.
That is, two systems of potential at the same level of semiotic abstraction — context — are reconstrued as different levels of semiotic abstraction — genre realised by register — which, in SFL theory, are complementary perspectives on sub-potentials of language.  The confusions here are thus along two dimensions simultaneously: stratification and instantiation.

Consequently, on this second tendered piece of evidence, Martin's claim that his model of register and genre avoids additional complications in Halliday's model is the exact opposite of what is true.