Friday, 9 September 2016

Misconstruing First & Second Orders Of Field

Martin (1992: 572):
The distinction between first and second order field is presented as follows:
In a discussion about a game of football, the social action is the discussion and the verbal interaction among the participants is the whole of this interaction.  Here the game constitutes a second order of 'field', one that is brought into being by that of the first order, the discussion … (1978: 144)
English Text would model a context of this kind by treating it as a discussion at the level of genre, and as simultaneously involving two fields at the level of register — one field realised through language in action mode (the discussion), and the other realised reflectively (the subject matter).  Keeping in mind that as far as text structure is concerned genre and field give convergent accounts as texts approach ancillary mode, English Text's approach to this context would amount in practice to treating the genre as discussion and the field as the game discussed.

Blogger Comments:

[1] The inconsistencies here are too complex to analyse without the glossary below:

Martin’s Usage
What Martin Thinks It Means
What Halliday Means By It
register and genre
the semiotic system that has language as its expression plane
context, not language; more abstract than register
language, not context; text type, i.e. register viewed from the instance pole of the cline of instantiation
context, not language; less abstract than genre
language, not context; text type viewed from the system pole of the cline of instantiation
ideational dimension of register
ideational dimension of context, not register

So Martin's approach is to model this situation type
  • as a discussion at his higher level of context (genre), and 
  • as two fields at his lower level of context (register),
  • with first order field realised through ancillary mode, and
  • second order field realised through constitutive mode.
That is, new inconsistencies are introduced at this point:
  • a situation type has two modes simultaneously (two points on the same cline);
  • systems at the same level of abstraction (field and mode) are related by realisation — the relation between different levels of abstraction;
  • ideational features (field) are realised by textual features (mode);
  • different orders of experience (first and second order field) are both realised by the same order (mode, which is second order).

[2] Note that mode of this situation type is constitutive, not ancillary.  Halliday explicitly specifies that 'the verbal interaction among the participants is the whole of this interaction'.

[3] Martin's approach is thus to treat the lower (first) order field as the higher level of semiotic abstraction — genre stratum — and higher (second) order field as the lower level of semiotic abstraction — register stratum — based on an incorrect interpretation of mode (see [2]).  The inconsistencies therefore are in terms of ordering (lower vs higher), relation (realisation vs projection) and mode (ancillary vs constitutive).

Consequently, on this third 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.