The Thought Occurs

The Thought Occurs

Monday, 20 November 2017

Pageviews by Countries Since Blog Relocation

Graph of most popular countries among blog viewers
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Whistleblower Protection

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Meaning "Beyond" The Clause

Halliday & Hasan (1976: 10):
It will be clear from what has been said above that cohesion is not just another name for discourse structure.  Discourse structure is, as the name implies, a type of structure; the term is used to refer to the structure of some postulated unit higher than the sentence, for example the paragraph, or some larger entity such as an episode or topic unit.

Note that the units postulated by Martin (1992: 325, 385) for discourse semantic structure — move, participant, message, message part — are not 'higher than the sentence', and have no postulated internal structure.

As Halliday & Hasan (1976) theorised, on the SFL model, "meaning beyond the clause" is realised by the systems of cohesion, the non-structural resource of the textual metafunction.

Friday, 27 October 2017

How To Distinguish Circumstance From Qualifier

Diagnostic: Thematicity

Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 270-1):
To differentiate them in analysis, we can apply textual probes: in principle, being an element of the clause, a circumstance is subject to all the different textual statuses brought about by theme, theme predication and theme identification. … In contrast, a Qualifier cannot on its own be given textual status in the clause since it is a constituent of a nominal group, not of the clause; so it can only be thematic together with the rest of the nominal group it is part of.

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.