Friday, 24 March 2017

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Sunday, 19 March 2017

Self-Contradiction: Genre As Both Text Type And Context

 Martin & Rose (2007: 8):
We use the term genre in this book to refer to different types of texts that enact various types of social contexts.

Blogger Comments:

[1] The notion of genre as text type is consistent with SFL theory.  In the architecture of SFL theory, text type is a point of variation on the cline of instantiation; it is register viewed from the instance pole (text) of the cline of instantiation.

However, most importantly, this use of the term 'genre' is not consistent with the model of genre presented throughout this work, as (a level of) context.  Types of text are language, not context.  Types of context are context, not language.

[2] In SFL theory, text types (genres) do not "enact" situation types (types of social context); text types realise situation types.  Text types (language) and situation types (context) are different levels of symbolic abstraction.  It is the use of the term 'enact' that blurs the distinction between these two levels of symbolic abstraction.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Misrepresenting Cohesive Conjunction As A Misunderstanding Of Stratal Relations

Martin & Rose (2007: 6):
As the meaning of the South African flag is more than the sum of its shapes and colours, so too is discourse more than the sum of its wordings, and culture more than the sum of its texts.  For example, here’s part of the story we’ll be working on later. The narrator, Helena, is talking about separating from her first love:
Then one day he said he was going on a 'trip'. 'We won't see each other again.., maybe never ever again.' I was torn to pieces.
The last clause here, I was torn to pieces, tells us how Helena felt; but because of the way meaning unfolds through the discourse phases of ‘meeting’, ‘description and ‘leaving’ it also tells us why she felt upset; there’s an explanation going on which transcends the meaning of the individual clauses. Taken one by one, each clause describes what happened; taken together they explain it.

Blogger Comments:

[1] This misrepresents the relation between strata as the higher stratum being "more than the sum of" elements on the lower stratum.  That is, it misrepresents two different levels of symbolic abstraction as a single level of abstraction organised in terms of composition.  In terms of the fractal types of expansion and projection, this misrepresents elaboration (intensive identity) as extension.

Martin & Rose:
discourse (semantics)
more than the sum of its wordings
Process: relational: attributive

meaning (semantics)
is realised
by wording (lexicogrammar)
Process: relational: identifying

[2] In the story text, there is an implicit conjunctive relation of cause: result between the clause complex 'We won't see each other again.., maybe never ever again' and the following clause I was torn to pieces.  This is a type of cohesion, a non-structural resource of the textual metafunction on the stratum of lexicogrammar.  Martin & Rose miss this implicit grammatical relation of cause, and instead attribute it to 'the way meaning unfolds' through 'discourse phases' — as a way of exemplifying their misinterpretation of stratal relations as "more than the sum of".

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Misunderstanding Encoding

Martin & Rose (2007: 4-5):
Realisation is a kind of re-coding like the mapping of hardware through software to the images and words we see on the screen on our computers. Another way of thinking about this is symbolisation. An example is the flag of the new democratic South Africa…
So we have the colours of the flag symbolising ‘diverse elements within South African society’, and their convergence symbolising ‘the road ahead in unity’. Symbolising is an important aspect of realisation, since grammar both symbolises and encodes discourse, just as discourse both symbolises and encodes social activity. The concept of realisation embodies the meanings of 'symbolising’, ‘encoding’, ‘expressing’, ‘manifesting’ and so on.

Blogger Comments:

[1] Symbolisation is neither 'another way of thinking about' realisation, nor 'an important aspect of realisation'.  Realisation is the relation between two levels of symbolic abstraction.

[2] This misunderstands the relation between symbolising (realising) and encoding.  Symbolising (realising) is the relation between two levels of symbolic abstraction, lower Token and higher Value.  In such a relation, there are two directions of coding, encoding and decoding, not merely encoding.

When the direction of coding is construed as encoding, the identifying relation between the levels encodes the Value by reference to the Token.  In the case of lexicogrammar and semantics, the identity encodes semantic values by reference to lexicogrammatical tokens:

lexicogrammar (wording)
semantics (meaning)
Identifier Token
Process: relational
Identified Value
On the other hand, when the direction of coding is construed as decoding, the identifying relation between the levels decodes the Token by reference to the Value. In the case of lexicogrammar and semantics, the identity decodes lexicogrammatical tokens by reference to semantic values:

lexicogrammar (wording)
semantics (meaning)
Identified Token
Process: relational
Identifier Value

In short, interstratal relations involve decoding just as much as encoding.  Semantics (meaning) is decoded by reference to context (culture) just as much as context (culture) is encoded by reference to semantics (meaning).

[3] 'Manifesting' is not synonymous with 'realising', since it includes the notion of 'showing', and thus belongs to a different sub-type of identifying process, distinct from the 'symbol' subtype to which 'realising' belongs (Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 269).

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Confusing Strata With Their Units

Martin & Rose (2007: 4):
What is the relation between grammar, discourse and social context? Obviously cultures aren’t just a combination of texts, and likewise texts aren’t just a combination of clauses. Social activity, discourse and grammar are different kinds of phenomena, operating at different levels of abstraction: a culture is more abstract than a text, and the meanings that make up a text are in turn more abstract than the wordings that express them. The relation between these strata is described in SFL as realisation; social contexts are realised as texts which are realised as sequences of clauses.
Blogger Comments:

[1] To be clear, this is a rebranding of the SFL stratification hierarchy, with semantics misconstrued as discourse, and context — the culture as semiotic system — as social context, which is, in turn, equated with social activity.

[2] To be clear, in the SFL stratification hierarchy, context is realised by semantics, and semantics is realised by lexicogrammar.  Text is the highest unit on the semantic stratum, and clause is the highest unit on the lexicogrammatical stratum.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Misunderstanding And Misrepresenting Stratification

Martin & Rose (2007: 4, 5):
These two points of view on discourse are illustrated in Figure 1.2. Grammar, discourse and social activity are symbolised as a series of circles, in which discourse nestles within social activity and grammar nestles within discourse, suggesting three complementary perspectives on a single complex phenomenon. This type of diagram is often used in SFL to symbolise its evolving model of language in social context.

Blogger Comments:

[1] The inclusion of a text in the 'discourse' circle in Figure 1.2 confuses an instance (cline of instantiation) with a stratum (hierarchy of stratification).

[2] This is a rebranding of the SFL strata of lexicogrammar, semantics and context.

[3] This misinterprets the figure as a Venn diagram, and so misrepresents the organisational principle of the stratal hierarchy as one of inclusion, rather than realisation.

[4] In SFL, a 'cotangential circles' diagram represents a hierarchy of symbolic abstraction, such that higher strata are realised by lower strata.  This is a distinct dimension from the evolution of the SFL model, or indeed the evolution of language (phylogenesis).

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Misrepresenting The Complementarity Of Grammarian & Discourse Analyst

Martin & Rose (2007: 4):
Grammarians are particularly interested in types of clauses and their elements. But texts are usually bigger than single clauses, so a discourse analyst has more to worry about than a grammarian (expanded horizons). By the same token, cultures manifest themselves through a myriad of texts, and social theorists are more interested in how social contexts are related to one another than in how they are internally organised as texts (global horizons). Discourse analysis employs the tools of grammarians to identify the roles of wordings in passages of text, and employs the tools of social theorists to explain why they make the meanings they do.

Blogger Comments:

[1] This misrepresents grammarians as text linguists whose interests are limited to lexicogrammar, and within the grammar, to clause structure.  This is misleading on several counts.  On the one hand, playing the rôle of a grammarian means being concerned with the system, rather than the instance, and being concerned with both content strata, semantics and lexicogrammar, rather than just the grammar. On the other hand, the grammar also includes the non-structural resources of cohesion, which obtain throughout a given text.

[2] The claim here is that a discourse analyst — in the sense of a text linguist concerned with the stratum of (discourse) semantics — has "more to worry about" ("expanded horizons") than the caricature of a grammarian as a text linguist who is only concerned clause structure.

[3] Again, the culture as a semiotic system is rebranded as the social system.

[4] The claim here is that discourse analysis employs the tools of social theorists to explain why wordings in passages of text make the meanings they do.  If any uses of any social theory appear in Martin & Rose (2007), they will be labelled as such, as a way of identifying the extent to which social theories are employed.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Rebranding Strata And Misrepresenting Stratification

Martin & Rose (2007: 4):
The focus of this book is on the analysis of discourse. In SFL, discourse analysis interfaces with the analysis of grammar and the analysis of social activity, somewhere between the work of grammarians on the one hand and social theorists on the other. This has partly to do with the size of what we’re looking at; texts are bigger than a clause and smaller than a culture.

Blogger Comments:

[1] This rebrands the stratum of semantics as 'discourse'. In SFL, discourse refers to 'the patterned forms of wording that constitute meaningful semiotic contexts' (Halliday & Matthiessen 1999: 512). For Halliday (2008: 78), discourse and text are two angles on the same phenomenon:
“discourse” is text that is being viewed in its sociocultural context, while “text” is discourse that is being viewed as a process of language.
[2] This reduces the stratum of context to 'social activity'. In SFL, context refers to the culture conceived as a semiotic system, as it is realised in language and its attendant semiotic systems.

[3] This misrepresents SFL grammarians as linguists who focus only on the stratum of lexicogrammar and on the instance pole of the cline of instantiation.  For Halliday (2008: 85), 'grammarian' is the rôle played by a linguist when concerned with both semantics and grammar, and with the system pole of the cline of instantiation.

[4] This presents the size of the biggest units of content strata as a principle on which the stratification hierarchy is organised — continuing the misunderstanding in Martin (1992: 496). Strictly, the stratification hierarchy is organised on the basis of symbolic abstraction — an intensive identifying relation — only.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Misrepresenting Social Context As A Stratum Of Language

Martin & Rose (2007: 3-4):
SFL has been described as an ‘extravagant’ theory; its extravagance has evolved to manage the complexity of the phenomenon it describes. But despite the complexity of language in social contexts, the basic principles developed in SFL for managing it are relatively simple. To begin with we will briefly introduce two general perspectives for looking at the phenomena of discourse. These two perspectives are:
  • [relevant] levels of language: as grammar, as discourse, and as social context (known as the strata of language)
  • three general functions of language in social contexts: to enact our relationships, to represent our experience, and to organise discourse as meaningful text (known as metafunctions).

Blogger Comment:

[1] In SFL, as elsewhere, social context is not a stratum of language.  In the first instance, the strata of language are semantics (meaning), lexicogrammar (wording) and phonology (sounding). Context is distinct from language, and constitutes the culture modelled as a semiotic system whose expression plane includes language.  Language realises context.

Significantly, this inclusion of context within language is also inconsistent with the theoretical source of this workbook, English Text (Martin 1992), which nominally distinguishes context and language, despite re-interpreting context as diatypic varieties of language (register and genre); see explanatory critiques here.

[2] In SFL, the term 'discourse' does not refer to a stratum of language.  (For a thorough critique of Martin's model of 'discourse semantics' as a stratum, see here.)  For Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 512), 'discourse' refers to:
… the patterned forms of wording that constitute meaningful semiotic contexts.
And Halliday (2008: 78) further clarifies the distinction between 'discourse' and 'text':
I do make a distinction between these two; but it is a difference in point of view, between different angles of vision on the phenomena, not in the phenomena themselves. So we can use either to define the other: “discourse” is text that is being viewed in its sociocultural context, while “text” is discourse that is being viewed as a process of language.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Misunderstanding And Misrepresenting Instantiation

Martin & Rose (2007: 2):
The relationship between these phenomena is schematised in Figure 1.1, illustrating the scaling in size and complexity from clause to text to culture. Figure 1.1 shows one clause as an instance of the story of ‘Helena’, whose life was caught up in the injustices of apartheid South Africa, as Helena’s story is one instance of the cultural changes that culminated with the release of Nelson Mandela and the overthrow of apartheid.

Blogger Comments:

This misunderstands and misrepresents the theoretical dimension of instantiation:
  • a clause is not an instance of a text — a text is an instance! — and
  • a story is not an instance of cultural change.

Instantiation is the relation between potential and instance:
  • the clause in question is an instance of clause as potential (system),
  • the story in question, as a text, is an instance of language as potential (system), and
  • a situation is an instance of culture as potential (system).

The relation of the clause in question to the text in question is stratal — the two are units at different levels of symbolic abstraction.  Clause is the largest unit at the level of wording: the stratum of lexicogrammar, whereas text is the largest unit at the level of meaning: the stratum of semantics.  The relation between strata is realisation.  Wording realises meaning.

The relation of the text in question to cultural change involves three distinct theoretical dimensions: 
Firstly, the relation between text, as language, and culture, as context, is stratal — language and context are different levels of symbolic abstraction. The relation between them is thus realisation. Language realises context. 
Secondly, text and culture differ in terms of instantiation.  Text is language as instance, whereas culture is context as potential
Thirdly, text and cultural change differ in terms of semogenesis.  The instantiation of the system in the text is logogenesis, whereas the evolution of culture is phylogenesis. Importantly, the logogenesis of the story (language) is not an instance of the phylogenesis of the culture (context). Logogenesis provides the material for ontogenesis, which provides the material for phylogenesis, while phylogenesis provides the environment for ontogenesis, which provides the environment for logogenesis.
One reason for distinguishing the theoretical dimensions of stratification, instantiation and semogenesis is that it makes the complexity of language more manageable; doing so facilitates a systematic approach to further theorising, to text analysis, and to pedagogical practice.  Consequently, not distinguishing such dimensions is more likely to impair further theorising, text analysis and pedagogical practice.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Misunderstanding Semogenic Processes

Martin & Rose (2007: 1-2):
We should emphasise that although we can assign a name to each of these phenomena, a clause, a text or a culture are not ‘things’, but social processes that unfold at different time scales. Culture unfolds through uncountable series of situations, as our lives unfold through these situations as learners, speakers and actors, producing texts that unfold as sequences of meanings.

Blogger Comments:

[1] With regard to the claim that clause, text and culture are social, SFL construes language and culture as social semiotic systems, as opposed to, say, somatic semiotic systems, such as those of visual perception.

[2] With regard to the claim that clause, text and culture are processes, the actual processes that SFL distinguishes are the three semogenic processes of:
  • logogenesis, the instantiation of the system in the text,
  • ontogenesis, the development of the system in the individual, and 
  • phylogenesis, the evolution of the system in the species.

[3] This confuses the relation between culture and situation, instantiation, with the semogenic process of phylogenesis, the evolution of the culture in the species.

[4] This confuses the 'unfolding of a life' with ontogenesis, the development of the system in the individual.  The 'unfolding of a life' occurs at all three semogenic timescales.

[5] This confuses 'sequences of meanings' with logogenesis, the instantiation of the system in the text.