The Thought Occurs

The Thought Occurs

Friday, 22 September 2017

Pageviews by Countries Since Blog Relocation

Graph of most popular countries among blog viewers
EntryPageviews
United States
8334
Australia
5510
Russia
2676
France
1406
Germany
1091
China
1037
Indonesia
573
Ukraine
522
United Arab Emirates
399
United Kingdom
389

Saturday, 16 September 2017

An Analysis Of Jim Martin's Argument That Appraisal Theory Is Not A Theory

Martin (2017: 22):
In late 2012 I was approached by a very concerned research student who reported that some people were saying ‘Appraisal Theory’ wasn’t a theory at all, but just a description. To which I replied: “Yes, of course. That’s right. Systemic Functional Linguistics (hereafter SFL) is the theory. APPRAISAL is a description of resources for evaluation in English”.
[Martin (2017) The Discourse Semantics of Attitudinal Relations: Continuing the Study of Lexis, Russian Journal of Linguistics, vol. 21, No 1, 22-47]


Blogger Comments:

A. Martin's argument can be broken down to two exchanges:
An anonymous student's report of anonymous others: 'Appraisal Theory' isn't a theory…
Martin: Systemic Functional Linguistics is the theory. 
An anonymous student's report of anonymous others: 'Appraisal Theory' isn't a theory…
Martin: APPRAISAL is a description of resources for evaluation in English..
Notice firstly that 'cause: reason' is entirely absent, both explicitly and implicitly, from both exchanges.  That is, neither exchange constitutes a reasoned argument.

Notice secondly that there are no explicit logico-semantic relations between Martin's replies and the anonymous claim.  That is, the reader is left to supply the implicit logico-semantic relation in both exchanges.

Notice thirdly that the implicit logico-semantic relation, in both cases, is 'extension: variation: replacive' (not X but Y).  That is, in both exchanges, Martin merely replaces one assertion with another.

In short, Martin has merely pontificated an opinion, unsupported by reasoning, and has disguised the lack of reasoning by leaving the logico-semantic relations implicit.


B. More shortcomings become evident, if it is assumed, for the sake of argument, that the implicit logico-semantic relation in both cases is one of 'cause: reason'.  This can be demonstrated by making the causal relation both explicit and structural:
  1. 'Appraisal Theory' isn't a theory [because] Systemic Functional Linguistics is the theory.
  2. 'Appraisal Theory' isn't a theory [because] APPRAISAL is a description of resources for evaluation in English.
The two reasons attributed to Martin for the exclusion of 'Appraisal Theory' from the set of theories can be considered in turn.

The argument in (1) is that because Systemic Functional Linguistics is the theory, 'Appraisal Theory' is not a theory.  It can be seen that the one does not logically entail the other since, even if Systemic Functional Linguistics is the theory, it does not logically exclude the possibility that 'Appraisal Theory' is a theory.  Such matters depend on how 'theory' is defined, and Martin provides no definition of the term, thereby providing no opportunity for its negotiation.

Incidentally, the strategic use of the here also plays a rôle, given its function; Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 367):
The word the is a specific, determinative Deictic of a peculiar kind: it means ‘the subset in question is identifiable; but this will not tell you how to identify it – the information is somewhere around, where you can recover it’. … Hence the is usually accompanied by some other element that supplies the information required … . If there is no such information supplied, the subset in question will either be obvious from the situation, or else will have been referred to already in the discourse
The argument in (2) is that because APPRAISAL is a description of resources for evaluation in English, 'Appraisal Theory' is not a theory.  Again, it can be seen that the one does not logically entail the other, since even if APPRAISAL is a description of resources for evaluation in English, it does not logically exclude the possibility that 'Appraisal Theory' is also a theory.  Again, such matters depend on how 'theory' is defined, and Martin provides no definition of the term, thereby providing no opportunity for its negotiation.

Two questions that might occur to any discourse analyst capable of critical thinking are:
  1. What is at stake for Martin?
  2. Why would he want his readers to believe that Appraisal Theory is not a theory?

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Intellectual Impostures

Sokal & Bricmont's INTELLECTUAL IMPOSTURES (downloadable pdf file)
"Our aim is, quite simply, to denounce intellectual posturing and dishonesty, from wherever they come." (p14)

Friday, 25 August 2017

The Fourth Type Of Linguist

It used to be said that there are three types of linguist:
  • the ants, who patiently build, build, build;
  • the crows, who just pick, pick, pick;
  • the eagles, who soar on high, seeing further than all others.
But there is a fourth type:
  • the cuckoos, who lay their productions in the nests of another theorist, thereby having them cared for as if legitimate offspring.
In biology, this is termed brood parasitism.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Monday, 31 July 2017

How To Create A "Dialect" Of SFL

Step 1: Misunderstand Halliday's theory.

Step 2: Give the misunderstanding a geographical location.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

International Conferences

International Conferences are institutional devices whereby
those with the greatest capacity to pay (savvy senior academics with expense accounts)
have their international (business class) air travel and accommodation paid for (as plenary speakers)
by those with the least capacity to pay (naïve students and junior academics).

Monday, 17 July 2017

Negotiating Tenor

I am not arguing with you — I am telling you.
 — James Whistler

Sunday, 9 July 2017

A Critical Examination Of Jim Martin's ISFC 2017 Plenary Abstract

James R Martin
University of Sydney
Martin Centre for Appliable Linguistics, Shanghai Jiao Tong University



SFL is well known for its trinocular vision: three language strata (phonology, lexicogrammar, and discourse semantics), three metafunctions (ideational, interpersonal and textual) and three hierarchies (realisation, instantiation and individuation). And each trinity is a complementarity, not a partition – always already there; you can’t do meaning from any one perspective without the other two.

In this paper I will take the trinocularity of metafunction as point of departure, and consider its role in both enabling and disabling the evolution of SFL. I’ll begin with context, and issues arising with respect to modelling register and genre. I then turn to disciplinarity, and problems arising from a purely ideational view of knowledge structure. As a third step I’ll look at identity and the need for an [sic] transfunctional view of communion.

In conclusion I’ll comment on the way in which the centrality of metafunction to our conception of language has shaped the evolving architecture of the theory as a whole, as scholars expand the frontiers of social semiotics from the standpoint of SFL’s dialectic of theory and practice (i.e. appliable linguistics).


Blogger Comments:

[1] The reason Martin is attempting to demonise the metafunctions here, through such negative appraisals as 'tyranny' and 'disabling', is that his model of genre is not differentiated metafunctionally.  That is, this talk is, inter alia, an attempt rebrand one of the defects in his model as a strength.

[2] This is misleading.  The three language strata in SFL are phonology, lexicogrammar and semantics.  The stratum of discourse semantics is Martin's invention only, and it is theorised on multiple misunderstandings of the categories and scales of SFL theory, as demonstrated in great detail here.

[3] This misunderstands realisation.  Realisation is not a hierarchy.  Realisation is the relation between two levels of symbolic abstraction, and it obtains along several different dimensions of SFL theory; e.g. 
  • between axes: syntagmatic structure realises paradigmatic system;
  • between ranks: group/phrase rank syntagms (forms) realise clause rank function structures;
  • between strata: lexicogrammar realises semantics; and
  • within semantics: metaphorical meanings realise congruent meanings — see Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 288) or here.
Note that Martin (1992) understands neither realisation nor instantiation, as demonstrated here (realisation) and here (instantiation).

[4] The reason Martin uses the word 'partition' here, instead of the more appropriate word 'module', is that his own model is theorised on his misunderstanding of SFL as a modular theory.  Martin (1992: 390):
Each of the presentations of linguistic text forming resources considered above adopted a modular perspective. As far as English Text is concerned this has two main dimensions: stratification and, within strata, metafunction.
Martin (1992: 391):
Within discourse semantics, the ways in which systems co-operate in the process of making text is much less well understood. … A more explicit account of this co-operation is clearly an urgent research goal; English Text has been concerned not so much with addressing this goal as with making it addressable by proposing four relatively independent discourse modules to beg the question [sic] … . The point is that integrating meanings deriving from different metafunctions is not a task that can be left to lexicogrammar alone.
Martin (1992: 488):
In this chapter a brief sketch of some of the ways in which discourse semantics interacts with lexicogrammar and phonology has been presented. The problem addressed is a fundamental concern of modular models of semiosis — namely, once modules are distinguished, how do they interface? What is the nature of the conversation among components?
As Halliday & Webster (2009: 231) point out, SFL is a dimensional theory, not a modular theory:
In SFL language is described, or “modelled”, in terms of several dimensions, or parameters, which taken together define the “architecture” of language. These are 
  • (i) the hierarchy of strata (context, semantics, lexicogrammar, phonology, phonetics; related by realisation); 
  • (ii) the hierarchy of rank (e.g. clause, phrase/group, word, morpheme; related by composition); 
  • (iii) the cline of instantiation (system to instance); 
  • (iv) the cline of delicacy (least delicate to most delicate, or grossest to finest); 
  • (v) the opposition of axis (paradigmatic and syntagmatic); 
  • (vi) the organisation by metafunction (ideational (experiential, logical), interpersonal, textual).
[5] This confuses language with linguistics.  We don't "do" meaning from metafunctional perspectives, but we can analyse it from one or all metafunctional perspectives, using a theory that models meaning in terms of metafunctions.

[6] This is misleading.  The context stratum in SFL construes the culture as a semiotic system.  The stratification of context into genre and register — i.e. context–specific varieties of language — is Martin's invention only, and it is theorised on multiple misunderstandings of the categories and scales of SFL theory, as demonstrated in great detail here (context), here (genre) and here (register).

[7] This is misleading. In SFL, knowledge is modelled as meaning, and meaning is modelled in terms of all three metafunctions. Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: x):
… “understanding” something is transforming it into meaning, and to “know” is to have performed that transformation. There is a significant strand in the study of language […] whereby “knowledge” is modelled semiotically: that is, as system–&–process of meaning, in abstract terms which derive from the modelling of grammar.
The notion of a "purely ideational view of knowledge structure" is thus an example of the logical fallacy known as the attacking a strawman:
A straw man is a common form of argument and is an informal fallacy based on giving the impression of refuting an opponent's argument, while refuting an argument that was not advanced by that opponent. One who engages in this fallacy is said to be "attacking a straw man".
This strawman necessarily has its origins in a misunderstanding of SFL theory by Martin himself.  One possibility would be that he has confused knowledge with field, the ideational dimension of the cultural context (misconstrued by Martin as register).  See here for some of the misunderstandings of field in Martin (1992).

[8] The interest in 'communion' here, as with Martin's previous work on affiliation, reflects Martin's true ideological position.  Bertrand Russell, in his History Of Western Philosophy (pp 21-2), identifies this, and explains why it is consistent with Martin's hostility to science, his interest in heroes, like Nelson Mandela (Martin & Rose 2007), his opposition to liberal humanism (Martin 1992: 587-8), and his treatment of students:
Throughout this long development, from 600 BC to the present day, philosophers have been divided into those who wished to tighten social bonds and those who wished to relax them.  With this difference, others have been associated.  The disciplinarians have advocated some system of dogma, either old or new, and have therefore been compelled to be, in greater or lesser degree, hostile to science, since their dogmas could not be proved empirically.  They have almost invariably taught that happiness is not the good, but that ‘nobility’ or ‘heroism’ is to be preferred.  They have had a sympathy with irrational parts of human nature, since they have felt reason to be inimical to social cohesion.  The libertarians, on the other hand, with the exception of the extreme anarchists, have tended to be scientific, utilitarian, rationalistic, hostile to violent passion, and enemies of all the more profound forms of religion.  This conflict existed in Greece before the rise of what we recognise as philosophy, and is already quite explicit in the earliest Greek thought.  In changing forms, it has persisted down to the present day, and no doubt will persist for many ages to come.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Grammatical Analysis Is A Compromise Of Three Stratal Perspectives

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 504):
A stratified semiotic defines three perspectives, which (following the most familiar metaphor) we refer to as ‘from above’, ‘from roundabout’, and ‘from below’: looking at a given stratum from above means treating it as the expression of some content, looking at it from below means treating it as the content of some expression, while looking at it from roundabout means treating it in the context of (i.e. in relation to other features of) its own stratum.
Halliday (2008: 141):
When we are observing and investigating language, or any other semiotic system, our vision is essentially trinocular. We observe the phenomenon we want to explore — say, the lexicogrammar of language — from three points of vantage. We observe it from above, in terms of its function in various contexts. We observe it from below, in terms of its various modes of expression. And thirdly, we observe it from its own level: from within, or from round about, according to whether we are focussing on the whole or some of its parts.
Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 31):
We cannot expect to understand the grammar just by looking at it from its own level; we also look into it ‘from above’ and ‘from below’, taking a trinocular perspective. But since the view from these different angles is often conflicting, the description will inevitably be a form of compromise.
Halliday (2008: 6):
The boundaries of any grammatical category are likely to be fuzzy […] — such indeterminacy is a general property of the grammar. The grammarian attempts to define each category as accurately as possible, looking at it from three different angles: its systemic environment (contrast with other term or terms in the system, and the relationship of that system to other systems); its meaning (proportionality in semantic terms), and its form. In other words, the grammarian adopts a “trinocular” perspective on the stratal hierarchy so that every category is viewed “from round about”, “from above” and “from below”. And since the views from these different angles often conflict, assigning instances to a particular category involves some degree of compromise, where criteria will depend on the purposes of the description.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

What Is The Functional Principle Behind Word Classes?

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 221):
This tripartite interpretation of figures [in terms of process, participant and circumstance] is what lies behind the grammatical distinction of word classes into verbs, nouns and the rest, a pattern that in some form is probably universal among human languages.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

What Are Grammatical Classes?

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 74):
class is a set of items that are in some respect alike. The most familiar, in our traditional grammar, are classes of words: verb, noun, adjective, adverb, pronoun, preposition, conjunction (and sometimes also interjection), in the usual list. But every unit can be classified: there are classes of group and phrase, classes of clause, and, at the other end of the rank scale, classes of morpheme.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

'Knowledge' From The Perspective Of SFL Theory

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: x):
… “understanding” something is transforming it into meaning, and to “know” is to have performed that transformation. There is a significant strand in the study of language […] whereby “knowledge” is modelled semiotically: that is, as system–&–process of meaning, in abstract terms which derive from the modelling of grammar.
Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 3):
Thus “knowledge” and “meaning” are not two distinct phenomena; they are different metaphors for the same phenomenon, approaching it with a different orientation and different assumptions. But in almost all recent work in this area, the cognitive approach has predominated, with language treated as a kind of code in which pre-existing conceptual structures are more or less distortedly expressed. We hope to give value to the alternative viewpoint, in which language is seen as the foundation of human experience, and meaning as the essential mode of higher-order human consciousness. […] What we are doing is mapping back on to language those patterns that were themselves linguistic in their origin.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Lexis, Delicacy And Instantiation

In Systemic Functional Grammatics, delicacy is the scale from the most general (grammatical) features to the most specific (lexical).

The notion of lexis as most delicate grammar is exemplified by Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 198-9) as follows: 
… we can differentiate both processes and participants into finer and finer subcategories, until we reach a degree of differentiation that is associated with the choice of words (lexical items). Note that it is not (usually) the lexical items themselves that figure as terms of the systems in the network. Rather, the systems are systems of features, and the lexical items come in as the synthetic realisation of particular feature combinations. Thus lexis (vocabulary) is part of a unified lexicogrammar; there is no need to postulate a separate “lexicon” as a pre-existing entity on which the grammar is made to operate.

The process of instantiation is the selection of features and the activation of their realisation statements in a system network, from the most general (grammatical) systems to the most delicate (lexical) systems.

The cline of instantiation is the scale from the system, as potential, to the instance — to the features and activated realisation statements of an actual text.

The instantiation of lexis, therefore, is the instantiation of the most delicate systems of the lexicogrammar.  Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 327): 
Instantiation is the relation between the system and the instance. When we shift attention along this scale, we are moving between the potential that is embodied in any stratum and the deployment of that potential in instances of the same stratum … this move can be made at any degree of delicacy.
The notion of lexis as most local context (Fontaine ISFC 2017 Keynote) is, of course, nonsense.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

The Problem With Martin's Notion Of Grammatical Metaphor As 'Stratal Tension'

(a) In terms of discourse semantics, Martin (1992: 199) analyses the logical relation in the following instance as concessive purpose:
Ben can train hard without improving his time.
In terms of lexicogrammar, on the other hand, the logical relation in this instance is not a type of enhancement (purpose), but the type of extension termed addition: adversative — X and conversely Y — as shown by the paratactic agnate Ben can train hard and not improve his time.  See Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 471-6).

There is thus a "tension" between discourse semantics (concessive purpose) and lexicogrammar (adversative addition). However, despite this tension, this does not constitute an instance of grammatical metaphor. The tension, rather, is between an understanding of logico-semantic relations and a misunderstanding of them.

(b) In terms of discourse semantics, Martin (1992: 203) analyses the logical relation in the following instance as manner: comparison: contrast:
Whereas usually we win, this time we lost.
In terms of lexicogrammar, on the other hand, the logical relation in this instance is not a type of enhancement (manner), but, again, the same type of extension as in (a): addition: adversative — X and conversely Y.

There is thus, again, a "tension" between discourse semantics (contrastive comparison) and lexicogrammar (adversative addition).  However, despite this tension, this does not constitute an instance of grammatical metaphor. The tension, again, is between an understanding of logico-semantic relations and a misunderstanding of them.


The notion of grammatical metaphor as 'stratal tension' requires the establishment of discourse semantic systems that are not "in tension" with the lexicogrammar in order to identify those cases that are not metaphorical.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Grammatical Metaphor: Two Levels Of Semantic Abstraction

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 288):
The correspondence that is construed through grammatical metaphor is an elaborating relationship: an identity is set up between two patterns … In this identity, the metaphorical term is the ‘Token’ and the congruent term is the ‘Value’ … The identity holds between the two configurations as a whole; but … the components of the configurations are also mapped one onto another …
The metaphorical relation is thus similar to inter-stratal realisation in that it construes a token–value type of relation. Here, however, the relation is intra-stratal: the identity holds between different meanings, not between meanings and wordings. The metaphor consists in relating different semantic domains of experience …

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Do Ellipsed Subjects Function As Theme?

No — this would be a contradiction.  Ellipsis marks elements as textually non-prominent, whereas Theme marks elements as textually prominent. Therefore, ellipsed elements do not function as Theme.  Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 563):
Ellipsis marks the textual status of continuous information within a certain grammatical structure. At the same time, the non-ellipsed elements of that structure are given the status of being contrastive in the environment of continuous information. Ellipsis thus assigns differential prominence to the elements of a structure: if they are non-prominent (continuous), they are ellipsed; if they are prominent (contrastive), they are present. The absence of elements through ellipsis is an iconic realisation of lack of prominence.